I was making pizza in the kitchen when the massive sound of a missile strike targeting nearby houses began. The dust from the explosion came through the window and struck sudden terror into our hearts and limbs. I turned off the oven and ran to put on a long dress and hijab to be ready to evacuate the house as fast as possible.
When my nephew Kinan saw the dust, he shouted, “Shrapnel from the rockets!” He thought that the dust was the rocket shrapnel that tears people apart and kills them.
But his oldest brother Iyad said, “Are you crazy?! Shrapnel is something bigger which is sharp and strong and could break the wall of the kitchen and break the wall of the other room and kill many people and….”
Iyad’s long description to explain to Kinan terrified me and made me afraid to imagine that it could happen. So, I asked Iyad to stop elaborating on this awful image.
We waited until the airstrike was over and the fighter jets were gone before my brothers went out to get the news. We noticed then that we didn’t have to evacuate and could stay home.
Kinan laughed and said, “Look! When any bombing happens, all people here go out to know where the bombs — no one is afraid!”
My little niece started repeating the idea that the Israelis will target our house: “Mama let’s escape — they will target us,” Alaa repeated that many times. Every time we replied, “No, they won’t do that, inshallaah.”
But day and night, the drones never stopped. Fighter jets came and went without ceasing. We followed the news through a mobile application called Zello, which informed us of the areas being targeted. We stayed all together, children included, in the same room listening to the news.
My brother Anas decided to send his sons to their grandparents, thinking that staying with them would be better. I decided to stop following any news and left my brothers when they started talking about further escalations. If the missile strikes didn’t kill us, our terror of being killed could. I distracted myself by making some desserts with my nephews — mabrosha and cakes.
The children liked helping me mix the ingredients into the bowl. While making these things, Iyad asked, “Which is stronger in its destruction and killing, the rocket or the shot of the tank?”
I said, “I don’t know.” Iyad responded, “I think it is the rocket.”
He asked this question and answered it himself at least five more times that day.
The repetition of that question made me mad, so to distract him I said, “Iyad! Please, tell me about your future and what skills and hobbies you like in your life.”
His response accompanied the chatter of his brother, Kinan, who was plaing the online game Pubg. “You want to kill me? I’ll kill you…. Hahaha you are a crazy and stupid Israeli soldier.”
In the early morning, we received a call from my paternal cousin who reported, “Feryal is dead — she went to the pharmacy to get medicine for her mother, and the Israeli fighter jets bombed the street.”
This news shocked us all. But Kinan merely said, “May Allah bless her,” and walked into the other room. I was disturbed that he received the news as if someone’s sudden death from an airstrike were something normal.
Before we started to prepare the lunch, we asked our brothers what they would like to eat. “”It’s not the time for cooking or tasting new cuisine — it is enough to make a sandwich or something like that,” Abdallah said.
“I know we may be targeted or killed at any time, so why not enjoy life and live every moment and say al shahada at the same time?” I laughed, and they laughed too.
Then Kinan said, “Make macaroni!”
While we were eating, the sound of the drones stopped, and the fighter jets stopped too. Iyad asked surprisingly, “Baba, have the Israelis ended the attack on us?”
“Not yet. Eat please and stop thinking about that now,” was his father’s reply.
The children of the refugee camp were playing football. Kinan and Iyad heard them and went to play with them. Abdallah saw his sons playing and saw the street full of rubbish. “Why not collect the papers and trash, then continue your playing?” he asked.
The children laughed and helped each other in cleaning the street. Kinan came and cheerfully asked for a shovel. We are cleaning the street with the other boys!”
I laughed and said, “Great! Take photos.” Then Iyad came smiling and asked to take the broom.
After they finished, they took a shower and asked their father to go on a walk, inviting me too. “Are you crazy?” I replied. “The fighter jets could come any time and target the streets or the house!”
The children laughed and said, “When they come, we will run quicky and fly into the house.” Abdallah was in a good mood and was happy with his sons’ work and wanted to help keep their happy mood. He gathered his children around him and took a selfie, which he posted to Facebook. Then he shouted, “Let’s go!”
Just minutes later they were back — the drones and the fighter jets had appeared again. That night, the explosions came closer and closer, and we heard the news that Israel wouldn’t accept a cease-fire.
We gathered in one room to sleep, the room we thought would be the safest place. “Let’s put our heads on the other side, not under the windows, the children said.
“When the bombing starts, this window could break and that wall too, so in both cases we may die. No need to change our positions,” Abdallah said. We all laughed.
Then we started to suggest how we should escape from the house and what things we should take with us if our neighborhood were targeted in the night.
“Iyad and Kinan,” Abdallah said. “Be careful and wait for me close to the clinic street, and if I don’t come, ask anyone to call me.”
Okay!” the children shouted without fully comprehending the danger and grimness we were facing.
I said a few verses of the Quran, and the children repeated them with me. Then I said al shahada and somehow managed to sleep.