It was Friday, May 21, 2021, the first day of the ceasefire ending the Israeli attack on Gaza. Most people went out in the street wearing new clothes as if it were the first day of Eid al-Fitr. From north to south Gaza was burned, scarred and covered in the rubble of bombed homes and buildings. On both sides of the road, tents had been set up where people could offer condolences for those who were killed.
I was in a car looking out the window, searching for happiness in the children on the street. Their families were looking around with shock and grief. Yet there was a man selling colorful balloons to the children. And there was an ice cream shop overcrowded with people.
I arrived with my brother and our relatives at my aunt’s house. Here too a tent was set up outside for the men to receive condolences. Inside the house women sat, surrounding my aunt, drinking the coffee and eating dates, listening to and reciting the Quran.
My aunt was wearing a long dress and hijab. She had a crutch in her hand and was sitting on a chair looking sad. I kissed her head to express my sympathy and sat beside her, listening to her grieving for her daughter.
Feryal had been 40 years old. She lived alone with only her elderly mother in a small flat. She shared everything with her mother. They slept in the same bedroom. She cooked the meals for both of them. She cleaned the house, washed her mother’s clothes, bathed her mother and brought her mother the support from the Ministry of Social Affairs. Feryal was the youngest child of the family and had four brothers and four sisters. She refused to get married many times so that she could be close to her mother and take care of her.
Two months ago, another man asked for her hand in marriage, and she refused as usual. But her mother wanted to see her as a bride. She wanted to witness Feryal’s wedding and was afraid of dying before seeing that day. “I won’t marry him,” Feryal said. “I would like to be with you. Don’t worry about me. Allah will send me a man better than that one, and I will have a big wedding.”
During this latest attack on Gaza, she had hoped it would end in time to celebrate Eid. She made kaak to serve the guests. On the last day of Ramadan, Feyral woke up early and cleaned the house. “She was full of energy and finished all the housework faster than any other day,” her mother said.
Her nephew had told her, “Be careful to never go out! It is very dangerous! The Israelis target every place randomly”
“Whatever!” Feryal said. “If I die, I will be a martyr.”
She made tea and put out the kaak for her mother and the married brothers and their wives and children. Then she said, “I need to go get mother’s medicine. Wait for me so that we can have tea together.” Her mother refused to let her go because of the horrible situation. “There is no sound of any airstrike now,” Feryal responded. “The pharmacy is nearby and tomorrow is Eid, so they may close the pharmacy. I won’t be long.”
After a few minutes, the sounds of airstrikes shook the neighborhood. The Israeli fighter jets targeted more than four houses and shops at the same time in the Alzaytoun neighborhood. The force of the blast threw Feryal to the ground along with more than thirty other people who were injured or killed.
Feryal lost a leg and the other one was shattered. She also received severe wounds to her stomach and head. Her hands developed gangrene and the doctors were about to amputate them when her sister called us. “We need blood for her — she is bleeding and there is no blood for her in the hospital! We need O positive. Please help me find it.”
But we couldn’t find blood for her. Feryal died on the third day of Eid.
“Her funeral was like a big wedding,” my aunt told me. “So many people came and said takbeer and took her to the grave. Feryal was like a bride on her wedding. Feryal won the martyrdom.”
“The Wedding” published by the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Courtesy the of Palestine Poster Project Archives.