Sitting in our living room, we’re gathered together—my parents, two older brothers and younger sister—each one of us looking at our mobiles, following the news and the devouring the rumors on social media. Trying to reassure us, my oldest brother said, “Hey, it is only exercises for the Ministry of Internal Affairs! No need to panic, all the infected people are inside the quarantine zone.”
We responded with silence, continuously scrolling through news reports, looking for the bad news we felt sure would come. The four people who tested positive for COVID-19 (and had not just travelled in from another country) are from one family who live in al-Maghazi refugee camp, and our home is just outside. My mother is a teacher at a school there, and one of the children from the infected family attends eight grade there. The illness that has terrified the world now seems so close! (Update: We were right and my brother was wrong. Two people unrelated to the al-Maghazi family tested positive in al-Shifa Hospital, forcing the entire facility to be evauated.)
The last time we gathered like this in a single room, following the news and talking, was during Israel’s 2014 war on Gaza. We have dealt with dramatic scenarios and curfews before, during war. So much so we have grown used to it. We know what to expect. But this time is different! I am afraid. Everyone I know is afraid. The virus is new and unknown. My heart is telling me something bad will happen, given how small and over-populated Gaza is. We don’t know what is coming and the news from other countries—which have much stronger health systems than ours—is frightening
While when it comes to the fear, though, it feels the same. The pain in your heart, the sorrow, the worry is familiar. Every child in Gaza knows how to shelter in their homes, because they done the drill before. I am 24 years old and I’ve already dealt many times with curfews. In fact, I made a list of things to do when I am stuck indoors for days, especially wiith only a few hours of electricity per day, like now: meditation, books to read, movies to watch. (I have saved up my money so I can start a small library in my room, and I've downloaded movies onto both my phone and laptop, so I'm prepared when the power goes off. On my list right now: Freedom Writers, Emperor's Club and Brooklyn.) Today, I listen to music to calm myself and defeat my fear.
But what if I become ill? Or a family member? In Gaza, there were shortages of medical supplies even before COVID. Imagine the situation will if COVID-19 keeps spreading? Especially with the worsening electricity shortage: Israel is punishing us once again by banning the import of fuel, and we are lucky if we get four hours of power a day.
Please, my people, for God’s sake calm yourselves and stay at home. Defeat your fear by doing something you love—inside.