Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

One year later: Trying not to remember

Hossam Madhoun | 20-07-2015

Digital art by Basel Almaqusi

In these days, yes in these days,
all that I am trying to do is not remember the war.
At home:
What days; my God I hope we never repeat them, wife says.
Yes. Amen, I say.
Do you remember?
Can I forget?!!!

It’s so terrible, everybody posting photos
  of dead children on their Facebook profiles.
Don’t open Facebook then…
All the TV channels are showing reports from the war.
Shut off the TV...
And the radio?!!!
You don’t need to listen to the radio …
I tried to sleep as much as I could last summer, to escape from my fear, daughter says.
It is normal to be panicked in war; we were all panicked, my dear …
When Mom went to the hospital, I was praying until I saw her back again.
Your mother is very brave…
Do you remember the night when they bombed Shijaia neighborhood?
I am trying to forget it!
It was one of the scariest nights!
Yes, it was.
How many people took refuge in our building?
Many …
Around 200 men, women and children, all arrived with nothing.
But the neighbors were very kind and generous.
How could the basement absorb all of them?
Some were hosted in their relatives’ apartments.
And the food; it was Ramadan, but we succeeded in feeding
  every one them for 47 days.
Yes… . . . Are we going to spend the evening talking about the war only?
Do you have something else to talk about??
I am going out . . .

Photo by We Are Not Numbers photographer Hamza Abu El Amrain

Walking on the Gaza beach, the sky is so clear, with millions of stars. Some are shining more brightly than the others. I remember when my little brother Mazen died 35 years ago. My grandmother told me he went to the sky, and he would be shining up there. He was one year old and I was 9. I believed her. I used to go to the roof of our house, looking at the sky, choosing the shiniest star and talking to it as if it was Mazen. In the dark nights when I could not see stars I cried, believing Mazen was upset with me. My grandmother would tell me no, he is surely not upset with you; he is away playing with the other children, that's all; he will come back tomorrow or after tomorrow. I believed her …

Looking at the sky, I try to count all those children who lost their lives during the last war. There are many more than 540 shiny stars; surely it is the souls of the children who died in 2014 – 2012 – 2008 – 2006 – 2000 – 1987 – 1982 – 1973 – 1967 – 1956 – 1948 …… Oh my God, how many children must die in order to light our nights? We could save their souls and light candles instead. My feet sink in beach sand with every step.

After 15 minutes of walking on the beach I feel tired and I sit down. In the silence, no one is nearby me; it’s just me and the sea and the shining children in the sky. Very calm, relaxed, able to hear my heartbeats. But not for long. A family arrives and sit some meters away from me, talking. I try to ignore them; it’s not easy, and they are loud … … “We were 11 last year; my God bless their souls”... A woman says, “Ahmad would be in the eighth grade now.”

They are talking about another star; shall I tell this mother that her son is lighting our dark night? For a moment this naïve idea passes through my mind.

… “Mariam just wanted a drink, but the kitchen was bombed and all of us hid in the bedroom. Half of the house was destroyed, and Ahmad was in his mother's lap, bleeding. We were not able to do anything… Yes, I remember … … Three days stuck in the bedroom, the bombing around us, some very close, some not, and we were all praying and waiting for the shell that would end our lives … On the second day, when the sun set, Ahmad stopped breathing. His mother refused to put him aside; she kept holding him in her lap. She wasn’t crying; none of us cried. I believe we lost the ability to cry at that time…”

“Do you want some tea?” they ask me… “Tea?!! … Yes …please…” 

Posted: July 19, 2015

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