One has to exert an unbelievable amount of effort to maintain her mental balance in Gaza.
Israeli wars on the besieged Strip is like a compulsory tax that we must all pay to continue living in our own homeland. This should not be accepted as normal.
History is repeating itself, for the third year in a row. Yet another Israeli war. Such deadly wars bring darkness. The only color that can still be seen is red, the blood of innocent people spilled in our homes and streets.
I am writing this on the third day of the most recent Israeli aggression on the tiny Gaza Strip. I am doing everything I can to prevent myself from filling my head with ever more tragic images of massacres, martyrs, and demolished houses.
I am prohibiting myself from watching the news. All I care about is when this torture will end.
It is 3 a.m. – my preferred time to write during wartime. Now that my mother is asleep, I can finally take off the mask I wear in front of her to keep her strong during these hard times.
Writing has become my mind’s safe haven whenever we are forced to evacuate from our homes at the start of the war.
This is the third article I have written this year. I only write things that are related to Gaza. The deep bond I feel with this place is the strongest catalyst of the writer’s spirit inside me.
But this time, I will not write about my own experience. Instead, I will shed light on the traumas of the people around me who lack the privilege of being writers.
Speeding car phobia
After relocating permanently to Gaza with her family in 2018, my best friend Farah has witnessed three wars, including the latest one. She has, or so I thought, been handling this situation impressively. I was wrong. No one can go through this and remain unaffected.
Farah texted me yesterday in the middle of the night to tell me that she discovered a new kind of phobia: whenever she hears a speeding car, she panics at the thought that it is the sound of another rocket.
I thought: If this is what an adult thinks, what is going on in the minds of children? How do they deal with the sound of actual rockets? Unfortunately, the answer to my question came only a few hours after Farah’s message.
Tamim Daoud, a five-year-old boy from Gaza, died from no other cause than sheer terror. He left everything behind and escaped this unjust world because his small heart could not bear so much fear.
In times of war, people tend to find a sense of peace and reassurance in hearing a neighbor’s voice, knowing that they are not alone in their misery.
However, this was not the case with my friend Alaa. It was our third time checking on each other when he initially began to open up to me about the effects the previous war had on him.
“In the last war, all our neighbors knew that we should evacuate from the house, as it was located next to a possible target for the (Israeli) missiles. However, my family and I did not know about it,” he told me.
He continued, “I went to the balcony to check what all the commotion in the neighborhood was about. A neighbor shouted that we should leave the house immediately, but at first, my father refused to do so. Eventually, we decided to leave, not realizing that it was almost too late.
“We were at the building’s entry when the first rocket hit Hanady Tower,” Alaa said. “We stepped back for fear of getting hit by the flying shrapnel. We thought that this was it. But somehow we survived.”
Alaa was a Tawjihi (final year in high school) student that year. Despite the hardships he went through, he managed not just to finish school, but also to pass the final exam with an average of 94.4%.
I guess it is something about Gazans: once they put their mind to something, they never give up no matter what.
“Since that day, I rush to the balcony as soon as I hear a commotion in the neighborhood,” Alaa told me.
“I think I will never recover from this trauma.”
Most people like fireworks, but it is different for people in Gaza: they have come to hate any explosive device producing a loud noise.
Today, I was told a story about a young lady from Gaza.
She once visited Dubai, a place well-known for its massive fireworks displays. On one such occasion, large crowds were impressed by a very colorful and loud display of fireworks. The young Palestinians and other fellow Gazans were not. They were in utter fear; some of them were even emotional as if the seemingly happy display generated horrific memories. For my friend, the show had awakened the ghosts of previous episodes of brutal Israeli bombardment she had experienced.
I am afraid to admit that even when we no longer live in war, war continues to live in us. Many stories of unresolved traumas we experienced in Gaza are still untold. As a writer, I believe it is my duty to relate some of these stories.
This story was co-published with Palestine Chronicle.