Dear Future Me,
I hope by the time you read this letter you are still in a good health, and death hasn’t yet found
its way to you. It's said that things change when you get older. I hope it is true.
Hold on! I can hardly concentrate with all of these distractions: the noisy TV program my sister watches daily and the loud voices of my father and brother, arguing politics. I better close the door to my bedroom.
Now tell me, how is life? Remember when your family celebrated your 20th birthday? You said something surprising: "Why should I celebrate getting older?" That's a bit weird, huh? Yet I know what you meant: You were afraid of wasting your life without having done something worthwhile. That's why I decided to write to you, to find out whether you managed to beat the odds.
Let me first tell you that I have one year left at university. Now that you, my dear future self, have already graduated, I hope you never forget your friends. I can picture you sinking into memory. You miss the moments when you used to hang out with your friends at the beach, right? And feeding those little cats that took shelter at the university? Are you still crazy about cats?
There are moments I bet you'd love to live again. Remember the stormy day that one February?
The wind was whistling, lifting grains of sand off the ground into swirls. You were in a bad state, your clothes flying in all directions as if your body was trying to escape, while your legs dragged you heavily forward. Despite the terrible weather, you insisted you would go to the beach. And you did. You were not alone, though. Two of your friends decided to accompany you on your crazy adventure. Remember? The smell of salt and sand penetrated your nose. The waves smashed roughly against the shore. You all ran crazily along the beach, taking photos and yelling, "I’m here…, I wanna travel…, I love the sea!" Remember how Do'aa was unexpectedly attacked by a wave while taking a snapshot? She looked hilarious, running after her purse as it retreated with the waves. You almost laughed to death. You looked happier than you'd ever been before.
Future me, have you seen life outside Gaza? I hope you have. It was your desperate dream. I know you often say some foolish things when you feel frustrated, about leaving and never coming back. But I am sure you don’t really want to leave Gaza forever. You just want to discover new cultures, that's all. It is soul-killing when you cannot travel freely except within the claustrophobic confines of Gaza.
Tell me how does it feel to be outside Gaza? Free? Peaceful? More alive?
Remember when you went with your brother to Rafah Crossing, so he could try to cross into Egypt? You were 13 years old then. It seemed like only two or three steps separated you from freedom, from the world. But you could not any further. That huge demonic gate stood firmly in your way. The place was packed with hundreds of hopeful travelers, all waiting for their names to be called. In a sharp, high-pitched voice, the police officer announced who would be allowed to pass through. Twenty names were called, none of them your brother's. Standing motionlessly, with your eyes fixed forward, your heart banged as fast as a runaway rabbit. This is the essence of oppression: the power to decide who can leave and who must stay. Staring at that border, which disconnects life in Gaza from the other, just yards away, a cool breeze suddenly touched the warmth of your cheeks. You closed your eyes, inhaling, wishing you could fill your lungs with the air coming from the undiscovered world beyond that damned line. That day, your brother finally made it to the other side. But you could not.
Wherever you are now, whatever you do, I hope you have finally discovered who you are. You had ambitions. Have you achieved all your dreams? Hopefully, you made it to UK, or America or Australia, where you dreamt of earning your master's degree in 20th-century literature. And what about that book you wanted to write? Remember “The Diary of a Young Girl”? You were so overwhelmed by the book that you wanted to write a Palestinian diary similar to Anne Frank's.
Oops…My bedroom just went dark. The television in the next room has gone silent, and all I can see now are my words to you, glowing on the screen of my laptop. It is only 8 p.m., which means we should have had two more hours to enjoy the blessing of electricity before it shut off like it always does. Thank God I have charged my laptop's battery.
I can hear our neighbor, Abu Mansour, yelling from the street, cursing Israel for our intolerable situation. Poor man! Without the electricity, he is obliged to climb seven flights of stairs to get home.
You see how hard life continues to be here! We don’t have a generator at home. We have only a small battery, providing us with some dim light and an internet connection. At least we have that. Most people here don’t! Tell me, how many hours of electricity do you enjoy where you are? I know that in other countries, they have it all the time. I cannot imagine!
Sorry, my dear self, if I am troubling you, but I need to get these tormenting thoughts out of me; otherwise, I will not sleep relieved. Do you remember that summer night in 2014 when Israel bombed our only power plant? Warplanes and drones buzzed the sky, and I was afraid we would be doused in darkness for a very long time. Then all of a sudden, the sky glowed red and orange. At first I thought the electricity had returned. But it hadn't. It was the orange flares Israel fired to light up Gaza. They looked like glowing lanterns. They were beautiful and frightening at the same time. I wished a harmless version of those “lanterns" could be used to give light back to Gaza.
I know I have written a lot here, and you may have more important things to do than read my never-ending letter. One last thing, though. What is new with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Is it too much to dream that the strife has come to an end? That both sides are living in peace? I am so tired of heartbreaking news that tells of Palestinians either killed or detained by Israel in the West Bank. They are so young. And they have dreams.
There is one thing I cannot say to anyone but you: I am not sure that what is happening in the West Bank, what some call the Third Intifada, is the right thing. What if it leads to more pain, death and fear? What is most important now is to liberate ourselves from the corruption and dissension that divides us. I hope by the time you read this letter Palestinians are standing together, putting aside their differences. What matters now is our homeland. If we want liberation, we have to be together as one hand.
Damn…My laptop's battery is dying. This means we've come to the end of our conversation. Please, try to write to your past self—I mean me— since I'd love to know about the changes you have made in your life. Give me some good news, some reason to hope! I need it.
Israa, at age 20
Mentor: Nick Fuller Googins
Posted May 27, 2016