In 2008, my brother, Raje, decided that he could not tolerate living in a place that has never afforded him the basic life necessities due to the difficult circumstances. He made a plan to emigrate to Europe, despite the fact that settling there deprives one of any potential for getting back to Gaza, even just to visit family, due to political and security concerns. Thus, it’s literally leaving everything behind.
Yet Gaza was not a good place where Raje could prosper and achieve his dreams. Yes, I agree that he to some extent was irresponsible and careless; yet I felt the burn in him for an independent, good life.
I woke up to Raje getting ready in the bathroom, putting his favorite perfume on and brushing his long black hair. I looked at him with an innocent, scared look in my eyes. The TV was broadcasting the news of the day: “Destruction of Rafah border, and thousands of Gazans are fleeing.”
“Why are you getting ready this early?” my mom asked him in a worried tone. He smiled and said, “I’m leaving, emigrating.” We thought Raje was joking and did not expect that we would never see him again. A few hours later he left. And he disappeared. We didn’t hear anything from him or about him.
After panicking for several days, we finally heard from my brother. He called to reassure us that he managed to arrive in Egypt.
My relationship with Raje was like daughter and father. It wasn’t easy to not be able to say goodbye to the one who had always taken care of me.
One of my core memories of him was when he used to stay out late and I would fall asleep in his bed waiting for him to come home. I loved the feeling of reassurance I felt whenever he arrived back home.
After Raje left, I missed him always. I experienced the feeling of alienation in different aspects of my life.
And then four years later, in 2012, my second brother Oday left. He emigrated for the same reasons that forced Raje to leave, since the circumstances in the Gaza Strip hadn’t gotten any better.
Over the years, I experienced this feeling of alienation not just with my family, but also with a lot of my close friends.
Even though I thought I coped with the repeated abandonment through emotional numbness, I could not shake off the feeling of severe sadness. I’m sure that each one of us has somehow experienced a similar abandonment. However, the kind I suffered is really tough, since when both my brothers left, it came with no preamble. They just left forever.
Gaza never ceases to let its people down in different ways, due to the tough circumstances imposed on it. Living in this open-air prison makes everyday tasks challenging and considerably difficult. Therefore, I hope that all Gazan people who have been suffering from experiences like I have will have the chance to be reunited with their loved ones soon. I’m truly hopeful that one day I will reunite with Raje and Oday. I hope that they will get to read this to see how much I miss a hug from them.
This essay was developed in a project with Youth Vision Society, a civil nonprofit association with the vision of helping youth find their own effective role in contributing to Palestinian society on the bases of justice, democracy and equality.