At the beginning of May, we Palestinians start living through a wave of tension because of the terrifying political conditions that peak in in this month of every year.
I hate May. They made us hate it.
For us, May has come to be “the month of war.” Indeed, our ongoing Nakba began during the month of May: the 15th, 1948. Many of us are still traumatized from May 2021’s devastating assault on Gaza, as it was the cruellest.
On May 9, suddenly, at 02:00 a.m. I heard a soft explosion. I didn’t really pay attention, since we are used to such sounds every day and night. I looked at my phone and was surprised to see the news.
A picture of inflamed red Israeli rockets were spread across the Gazan sky. “Israeli air strikes targeted, heavily bombed and assassinated a number of Palestinian resistance leaders in Gaza,” a post said.
This could not happen in any other place in the world, except Gaza. One moment, alive. In the blink of an eye: dead, homeless, injured, or without a family.
“The party started,” my sister said, in Gazan slang, describing the horrible bustling of the bombing sound. How ironic!
Jihad, seven years old (or, in Gazan time: one war old) rushed to open the windows, a trick we Gazan residents have learned, to prevent the glass from shattering under bombardment.
A photo of Ali Ezz Alden was circulating all over social media. Jihad curiously asked why his best friend was leading the news…
In the deadly living room, my family, Jihad — my young cousin — and I huddled together, gazing at Ali’s picture on the TV with sealed mouths and heavy tears rolling down our cheeks. Jihad’s mother rushed to shut off the news.
The booming of the bombing grew closer. The faces of Jihad and his younger siblings turned yellow. What are we expecting from a seven-year-old child? To not fear or to not feel?
Israel killed three entire families in this nightmare of a night. Only five hours prior, Jihad was preparing himself for a school trip. He packed in his bag two of all the snacks he and Ali loved.
We were all awake. How to tell this young boy about the death of his friend? How to convey that Ali was killed for no reason? How to help a child understand that we, too, could face the same destiny as Ali without even imagining before that our lives, plans, and wishes will end this way?
“Ali is not coming for tomorrow’s trip; he’s gone with his beloved sister, Mayar, and his father, Tariq, on a special trip to live immortal in heaven,” Jihad’s mother said in a trembling voice.
Jihad responded sadly, “It won’t be as fun without him, but I’m going to tell him about everything tomorrow.” But, for Ali, there will not be a “tomorrow.”
Jihad is not a sociable child at all.He prefers to spend time with older people rather than children his age. Ali was ostensibly his only friend. Whenever he arrived home from school, Jihad would always tell us how they — Ali and he — spent their school day. Living in Gaza is harsh; a child cannot simply make and keep a friend, naturally. Jihad won’t understand this loss; he’s still waiting to see his buddy at school.
May 10, 2023. on the news. He wept at once. “Who forgot to shut off the TV?” his mother shouted. “Mama, Ali is dead,” cried Jihad.
How to make him stop crying? How to make him stop thinking or feeling? Thinking and feeling are inseparable from the human experience, except in Gaza. Nothing goes the natural way. You might go to sleep and never wake up. You can’t know what is going to happen after a second or a word. We are alive by chance!
As I write these words, they are bombing us. I hope this story finds its way.