A phone call. A 12 second phone call, to be more precise. A 12 second phone call has put 10 entire families on the street. A 12 second phone call forced grandmothers and grandfathers to abandon their home of 50+ years, the home where they raised their children, and where their children raised their children.
My uncle’s phone rings; we must all immediately evacuate our homes because the occupation forces will shell it in 10 minutes. My uncle’s wife frantically runs around the house, screaming, thinking about her six children’s whereabouts. Her daughter is disabled — who will help her out? Who will she tell first? Who will help her inform the other 60+ residents of the building?
What could she do during these 10 minutes? Get dressed? Inform her children? Gather up 20 years of memories as she leaves her home behind? Ten minutes to escape joining the dead. She hears an airplane hover in the sky, thinking it’s the end, that her 10 minutes are up. But thankfully, the horrid news spread fast. Within minutes, the neighborhood’s youngest child is well-aware that her life is under threat.
My grandfather was born in either 1928 or 1923, according to conflicting reports. He witnessed World War II, Britain’s occupation of Palestine, the Nakbeh, the1967 war, the 1973 war, the invasion of Beirut, the first Intifada, the second Intifada, the Oslo Accords, the Abrahamic Mosque Massacre — he’s basically lived through it all, since this all started.
My grandfather of 84, or 91, years, is displaced yet one more time. He is forced to leave the home he settled in after his first displacement and after years at a refugee camp.
Here he is, witnessing yet another bout of violence and injustice. Here he is, having to leave behind yet another home. He lies there, unable to move. Not because he’s too old to, rather because it’s hard to tell the difference between death and living in a refugee camp, or an UNRWA school yet one more time. How can he abandon the home he literally built up, brick by brick? He finally gets up, brushes his hand against the wall and helplessly walks out. No time to bid his olive trees farewell, no time to bid the floors he swept every morning for the past 60 years, farewell either. No time to admire the home he started from scratch, no time to ponder upon what’s to come. Ten minutes, during which memories rapidly escape us. Ten minutes, during which, if we don’t move fast enough, our lives will also escape us. Ten minutes, and everything will go to ruins.
My metal desk, the metal desk my dad’s worked on for years, the metal desk I’ve studied on for at least a decade, the metal desk all my siblings used while studying. The frame hung up on the wall, proudly displaying my dad’s graduation certificate from Egypt’s Al-Azhar. The dove comfortably nestled in our kitchen’s balcony – it will also escape, not knowing where to find refuge. My sister’s scribbles on the walls, the scribbles that have lasted 30 years, without disappearing or fading away. One strike, and everything will be gone.
Our family has already lost one of its members to the war. But none of us thought it would actually happen. No one fathomed it possible for another to destroy a home of 60 individuals, displacing them all. My aunt prays in despair, “Oh dear God, it’s one burden upon the other, I lost my boy, and now our home?”
Our family’s not the only one being displaced. The entire street is. More than 40 families suddenly turned into refugees; their bags packed, their identification papers nearby in anticipation of this horrid moment.
Ten minutes pass by and the airplane still has not struck, yet no one has the guts to go back in. That 10 minutes have safely passed only means that the shelling has been postponed, not called off. It also means that more sorrow and anticipation await us, as we remain stranded and waiting, unable to touch the walls from our childhood one more time.