Friday is a special day for every Gazan family since it is the day of the week when everyone meets up with their loved ones. We hug and kiss, make plans for the day, and relax together.
The most recent Friday was even more special than usual because I got to see and embrace my aunt and her daughter, my cousin, for the first time! I have never met them before since they live abroad and can’t easily visit Gaza, for too many reasons (every Palestinian knows what they are). But this time, after an arduous process, they successfully entered our open-air prison, Gaza, for the first time.
I was over the moon with delight. Few Gazans get to experience the joy I felt over the last few days, being united with distant relatives. With an eager heart, I planned to take them on a tour showcasing every beautiful corner in Gaza.
And yes, I intentionally use the word “eager.” Yet a sunny calm day full of joy, happiness, security, and laughter turned upside down on us in a second to become a day full of darkness, sadness, blood, and mourning over murdered loved ones.
That is what happened on August 6, 2022, when we were heading to the beach. We heard an unpredictable, loud, and terrifying explosion that shook the ground under us. Big, intense clouds of smoke surrounded us.
“What in the world is happening?” With a shaking voice, my aunt asked this question.
“An explosion!” I answered.
We hurried back home, since nowhere else was safe for us. We immediately turned on the TV and learned that the cowardly Israeli warplanes had perpetrated an air bombardment, commencing another aggression on the never-healed Palestinian bride, Gaza.
As always when aggression is imposed on Gaza, my dad urged us to pack our essentials. We fit our clothes and other personal pieces of stuff, not to mention the necessary official documents — for instance, our passports and our house’s purchase contracts — into small bags that we could carry. Being packed like this is indispensable so that when anything dangerous happens to us, we can flee within minutes.
Yet, needless to say, there is no place in Gaza safe to flee to. So we also had to take precautions to protect ourselves as best we could at home. For example, opening the windows is important, so they won’t be shattered by the compression blasts that occur with a nearby bombing, scattering shards of glass that could injure people inside the rooms.
For my aunt and her daughter, this was the first time that they had ever witnessed the aggression with their own eyes and experienced it in person. They were shocked to learn how the atmosphere could change from happiness to fright in seconds.
“I wish you weren’t here in Gaza to see these devastating scenes in your second home,” I said to my cousin. I was completely shocked when she responded, “Thanks be to Allah that he has granted me the opportunity to see you and your family before something awful could happen to you!”
I was chatting via text with my overseas friend Jodie about this reunion with my aunt and cousin, and how we Gazan residents dream to see our loved ones living abroad at least once in our lives. But now, I texted my friend, the question is whether any of us survive another aggression, so we could meet each other again. Yes! This constant fear of death and destruction is something that goes beyond any human’s capacity to imagine, something indisputably blood-curdling.
Jodie and I texted some more about the double standards of the outside world and its mainstream media. “We live in an age of Western imperialist domination,” she told me. “So the media tells people only to care about those things that uphold Western imperialist agendas.” We, Palestinians, have been bleeding for more than 70 years. We have been pleading to the whole world to put a stop to this, but to people outside, this is normal, this is what happens to us for only being Palestinian.
We need people in the West to condemn what is happening! And yet condemnation alone will never be sufficient, ever! We need real, applied actions, such as imposing sanctions on apartheid Israel, exactly like what the West has imposed against Russia, so that I don’t have to fear living long enough to see my beloved relatives again.
August 5, 2022