“Ask any child here, they’ll tell you what kind of plane is hovering above, whether it’s a drone or an F-16,” says Rana Shubair in the August 10, 2022, segment of the online show Palestine Deep Dive. “They know all of this war terminology. But as parents, we try to find the right ways to deal with our children’s trauma…. As parents, we’re just always trying to motivate them. I keep telling them things are going to change, inshallah.”
The Deep Dive episode, entitled “Gaza: Israel’s One Million Child Prison,” aired shortly after a three-day aggression by Israel that killed more than 46 Palestinians, including 16 children, and injured more than 250. Topics covered included the extent of trauma experienced by Gazan children, how that trauma is being addressed, and how the conventional label of “post-traumatic stress” does not fully apply in Gaza.
The territory has experienced five major bombardments in the past 15 years. Of the 1 million children in Gaza, 80% are living with depression, grief, and fear, according to a recent report by Save the Children. Many do not feel safe away from their parents – and their parents feel helpless to protect them.
Host of the show was Ahmed Alnaouq, a Palestinian journalist from Gaza whose story was the inspiration behind the formation of WANN. Alnaouq remains affiliated with the organization as a member of its board of directors.
Shubair and the other panelist, Hind Wihaidi, are both WANN writers. Shubair is a teacher and mother of three children. She is also the author of two books, My Lover is a Freedom Fighter, and In Gaza I Dare to Dream. Wihaidi is a 17-year-old Palestinian musician and writer who returned to Gaza after traveling, just before the latest assault.
Also participating in the panel was Yasser Abu Jamei, MD, MSc, a Palestinian clinical neuropsychiatrist living in Gaza. He is the director general of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, a leading mental health provider in Palestine.
“I always just try to reassure myself that by the time they grew up that all of this would just go away, and it couldn’t possibly last for years,” Shubair said. “But here they are. They are Hind’s age now. They’re 17, and they have witnessed every aggression.”
What is very hard to deal with, she noted, is the repeated nature of the attacks and the incredible disruption they incur, even to those who are not injured.
Hind pointed out the silver lining of this ongoing tragedy. “Those aggressions that we survived, they motivated us to actually be that change that we wish to see in the world, to be that change that other children can easily achieve or other people can easily get while on the other hand, we can’t. We want to create that change instead of waiting for someone else to create it.”
Watch a recording of the event, read the transcript, and check out Palestine Chronicle’s write-up on the topic of children’s mental health, which includes a description of the Palestine Deep Dive episode.