Ghadeer (36): My son asks if we are going to die today

Name: Ghadeer al Omari (36)
Location: Gaza City
Profession: Media officer
Languages: English, Arabic

Ghadeer is the mother of two small boys, and works as a media officer for a human rights organisation in Gaza City. Hikmat (8) is now living through his third offensive on Gaza. Ahmad (6) was born shortly after ‘Operation Cast Lead’. In conversation with Voices of Gaza this morning, Ghadeer expressed deep anxiety about the ongoing attacks, saying “Things are getting worse and worse here. Last night was the worst ever. Wallah, I’m speechless.” Below, she describes the impact of the situation on her children.

My son asks if we are going to die today

Inside our weary bodies and souls, something will stay broken

“I’m a mother of two little boys, Hikmat (8) and Ahmad (6). Like any normal mother in this world, all I want is to keep my boys safe and happy but, unfortunately, it seems that this wish is just impossible. Why? Simply and briefly, because I’m a Palestinian and I live in Gaza.

To be a Palestinian from Gaza means that you can be under attack from Israel at any time. It means that you are just a postponed target, and all you can do is wait to face your destiny. This is how we live in Gaza, both with and without war. I have experienced three wars in the last six years. During the first war on Gaza, in 2008/2009, my apartment was destroyed when the Israeli occupation forces targeted the Palestinian government complex. At the time, I was seven months pregnant, and I had been decorating my baby’s room! In the second war, which took place in November 2012, I learned exactly what being homeless really means. Israel targeted the building where my family was living and in which I was staying. We evacuated the building and went to stay at my sister’s house.

During war, the days are too long. Every single hour that passes feels like a whole year. Since the beginning of this war, I’m living the worst days and nights ever, as the peaceful moments are so few. As we are fasting, every day we have our morning and evening meals, listening to the bombing outside and asking God to keep us and the people of Gaza safe. Israeli airplanes are shelling houses. Many houses have been destroyed over the heads of children and women. These children and women are human beings. They have names, dreams, and beloved ones. The photographs of those victims are heartbreaking, and I can’t stop my mind from drawing awful pictures of me and my family with our house over our heads just like them.

Our bodies shake and our hearts sink with every single airstrike. I try not to freak out so my two little boys won’t either but sometimes I’m just a big failure! During daylight hours, all of us gather together in the same place, a room, or a corner, listening to the shelling, trying to figure out which are the targeted areas, and following the news second by second. I keep the boys inside the house all the time. I can’t even let them go out into the backyard or to the rooftop. I’m doing my best to keep them away from this insanity, but how can I when it’s everywhere?! I wish I could cover their ears so they wouldn’t hear the sound of bombing. I feel like I’m dying, as I see the fear in their eyes.

At night, things are much harder. I spend every night moving my boys from one room to another, looking for safety. I’m too frightened to sleep, not only because of the loud noises caused by the continuous bombing, but also because I think I need to be awake, monitoring the situation around in order to decide, according to the sounds of the shelling, whether to keep my boys in this room, or to move them to another one. We have had no electricity for three days now and I guess you can imagine how it feels without electricity in circumstances like those we are facing in Gaza during this war.

The Israeli crimes committed against civilians in Gaza undermine my faith in international law and international bodies. It seems like these bodies were created to defend Israel and cover up its crimes against the innocent people of Palestine. A massacre was committed last night in Al-Shejaiya neighbourhood, in the east of Gaza. The reality here is so bloody and what is happening is so much more than any human can bear. Hundreds of artillery shells are falling on houses even at this very moment. The photographs of the victims are more than horrendous. People are running out of their houses, dead bodies are in the streets, and ambulances can’t reach those who have been murdered. Every single picture reminds me of Al Nakba.

I guess that we Palestinians should only believe in the law of power. We face death every moment of every day, and the whole world is silent. When they speak, they tell us about Israel’s right to self defence! Why? I need someone wise to tell me why. We are under occupation and Israel is the occupying force. These are not two equal sides.

This morning, Hikmat and Ahmad woke up to the sound of a huge explosion. I hugged their shaking bodies, asking them not to be afraid. Hikmat, who is 8, said, “I hate Israel. I hate all the Israeli people.” I asked him, “Why, sweetheart?” He answered, “Don’t you know why, Mum? Don’t you see what they are trying to do? They want to kill us.”

The Israelis claim that we teach our kids hate, but we don’t. This is how Palestinian children start to feel hatred towards Israel. After 13 days of war, my two boys are able to know the difference between F16s and Apache helicopters, and they play guessing games together, distinguishing between tank shelling and airstrikes. This is how our kids spend their summer!

Ahmad, my younger boy, asks me every morning, “Mum, we are not going to die today, are we?” Hikmat answers, saying, “Don’t worry, Ahmad. Mum and Dad will protect us.” This sentence makes me speechless. I don’t know what to say or what to tell them. I would die for my kids but I’m afraid because I know that I am helpless. There is no way to protect my boys and, except God, no one knows what will happen in the next second. The war is still taking place over the Gaza Strip. There will be an end, but inside our weary bodies and souls something will stay broken.”

Hikmat -Ahmad

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