Gaza one year ago: ‘I prayed to my god to be the first in my family to die’

A Palestinian boy stands in front of a destroyed building in Gaza City on December 27, 2008. (Photo: AFP)

Khulood Ghanem, 27, kept a Gaza diary a year ago. Its full text (as adapted by Edward Mast in the U.S.) is here. What follows is Ghanem’s entry from the first day of the war, Dec. 27, 2008. (And yes, Huffpo extracted the diary too. Our thanks to Linda Frank.)

I finished my work in Khan Younis at 10 o’clock, and rode a car to Gaza City. I reached there at 11. I decided to drink some coffee with my friend who was working in a company beside the legislative council and the academy for police. I stayed there till 11:30, I decided to leave, my friend told me to stay, it’s early, I stayed for 15 minutes.

At 11:45 I was on my way walking in the street. I heard the first rocket, the second and the third, many quick attacks, one after one, at this moment I could see nothing, all I remember was the biggest explosion I have ever seen. I started to run away, but to where? I saw the military planes in the sky at a very low level. I was scared and started to lose consciousness. All I was thinking was how to reach a safe place. The sound of bombs and explosions was horrible, the ground was moving up and down, I said, it is not a joke, it is a real, the war has started.

I stopped beside a building looking at the sky, watching the military planes. At that moment I lost my ability to move or even to think. People, girls and children, all were shouting, running every where, it was the time for students to leave their school, I thought that if they started to attack haphazardly they will make a catastrophe. I walked a lot till I felt sick, the attacks increased and all streets started to be empty from people except the emergency and ambulance cars. I was worried about my family, sisters, brothers, friends, I tried to phone every one I knew to assure that all are safe but the attacks destroyed the telecommunication net.

My journey to Khan Younis took 3 hours. It was more safe to avoid the main street because most of the police stations that have been attacked were located at the main street. Finally I reached home. All my family were sitting glaring at the screen of the TV, shocked, pale, yellow and horrible faces, sitting like idols. I took a place beside them. The first scene was the police academy. The number of martyrs was big, about 180 in one place, the scene was horrible, really can’t be described, blood in every place, severed parts, heads, hands, legs and arms, couldn’t be described. I spent my whole day sitting on a chair in front of the TV. I did not expect one day that I will face such catastrophe, hour after hour, number of martyrs increased and increased.

At 8:30 this night I had a call from my sister who lived in Gaza city. She was walking beside the fence of that school, she saw the heads of young children, bags colored with their blood. One child with his blue shirt, she taught him once before, he was thrown on the ground, bleeding from all parts with no legs, he was shouting and raising his hands, but no one could help. She started to scream, what should we do? I kept silence and started to cry loudly, the vision was so hard to imagine. She started to lose her breath. I told her that is enough, please stop talking, I can’t tolerate. I closed my mobile and took my diary and sat in the living room

That night was the longest I’ve ever seen, the sound of attacks, rockets from sky, the borders and the sea. That night we decided to sleep in one room, so we chose our room in a far corner in the house. How silly we were, when I remember that I laugh because rockets did not make a choice.

So we prepared the place. We were 5: me, my sis, my brother, and my parents, so I arranged the situation to sleep with my mother on my small bed, my father will sleep on another bed, Mona my sis will stay on her bed, and finally my brother took a place on the ground.

The first night was dark cause they attacked the electricity station by 4 rockets. And we used to stay in the dark before, so the situation was not new; the new thing was how to close your eyes under the horrible sound of the army planes in the sky, under the bombs every minute and attacks. I started to pray to god. The sound of bombing increased and got nearer and nearer. My father told us that we have one god and it is one death either by rocket, by car, by gun, there is no difference and you have to die with your dignity and get rid of your fear.

The night was so cold, but we opened all doors and windows to avoid damage from them if we were attacked. I slept that night with a coat beside a cold wall, and did not sleep till dawn. I was afraid but not from death. I was afraid to lose all my family and to be saved from death. So I prayed to my god to be the first not the last. In the late night, I felt that I should go to the toilet but I was so afraid to reach the toilet and thought that maybe in the moment I will be there, they will attack the house, so I decided not to go.

I suffered a lot in my bed. In addition to my discomfort, I was next to my mother and didn’t move left or right cause the space wasn’t wide enough for 2 persons. I waited and waited listening to the small radio all that night. The number of deaths was increasing. I called my dad but he was sleepy. I called him again, he answered me: "what is wrong?" I told him "stay awake with me, don’t sleep, I can’t close my eyes." He told me "don’t say that, god is greater and stronger than Israel so you have to sleep and calm down." But I didn’t, I waited till I saw the light from the window. I started to feel better cause night is full of fear.

At 6 o’clock, I went to the toilet., We prayed our usual prayers, my mother went to her room, left the bed for me. I decided to sleep 2 hours, I was so tired. I slept half hour and then waked up again when I heard a strong attack in Khan Younis. It was the good morning greeting.

Posted in Gaza

{ 22 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Taxi says:

    I love you and your family and your people, Khulood Ghanem.

    I wish you peace and safety and assure you that you are not forgotten by some of us here in the USA. We may not be many, but we are growing in numbers all the time.

  2. My father told us that we have one god and it is one death either by rocket, by car, by gun, there is no difference and you have to die with your dignity and get rid of your fear.

    God bless you, your family, and your heroic people.

  3. aparisian says:

    Thanks you are a brave people.
    The cowards wll fall!!!!

  4. Brewer says:

    In civilized societies, punishment is meted out after due process of law. Collective punishment is expressly forbidden.

    Such principles pertain even in times of War.

    To be a Palestinian in the occupied territories is to live under a regime where a mere functionary of the occupying power can issue an order to have you or your family killed, destroy your home or imprison you on suspicion of criminality.

    The presumption of innocence is the foundation of civil society. Every act of violence committed by Israel that is not a response to an immediate and deadly threat offends this most basic principle. It is not a defense to claim that the victims of such acts were criminal. One is not a criminal until convicted by a court of one’s peers.

    This shit has to end.

  5. Shmuel says:

    My solidarity and hope, Khulood. Thank you for sharing these painful memories, on this painful anniversary.

  6. Citizen says:

    Thanks for sharing with us, Khulood. Keep on writing; you are a witness for humanity. You and yours will have the rain in its time. We will do our best to spread the word, lift
    the blanket, so our fellow Americans can see.

    • “Keep on writing; you are a witness for humanity.”


      Even as you write and as we write these comments supporting you, the “official” writers of our world, reporters with claimed expertise in your neighborhood, have been granted the extraordinary privilege of one hour before a microphone with international reach — at the table at C-Span Washington Journal.

      Barbara Slavin and Jonathan Broder are following the prompts of the moderator to explain the “highpoints” of the decade and the year.

      Their first response was to point to the horrible repression that is taking place in Iran; to excoriate the leaders of repressive regimes who distort their Islamic faith; who teach hatred of Western values. One caller even strenuously advocated that those who teach hate within the “Muslim and even Buddhist and Hindu religions” be killed.

      But the worthy writers and callers, not a one of them, mentioned the hateful policies enacted by Knesset and carried out by IDF; no one amplified the writing of Khulood Ghanem; the reporters spoke at length and frequently of the year’s actions in Iran, but failed to recognize that this is the anniversary of Israel’s invasion and destruction of Gaza.

      Barbara is just now reciting how the people of Iran are taking advantage of the anniversary of the killing of Imam Hussein to oppose their repressive government.

      But no mention of Israel, Gaza, Palestine.

      Liveblogging: Caller at 8:38 am:

      “the Jews have suffered enough…al Qaeda’s deal was not 9/11; al Qaeda took our money, our sons, the government should do something about it…Obama should do something about it instead of sitting on his hands…Obama should do something, not say I’m sorry…what are we supposed to do to make Iran listen…what have we got? A president who is ruining our military, ruining the United States.”

      response: “Iran, from the evidence, appears they are determined to develop the capability to develop a nuclear weapons. very difficult to get the world to come together for sanctions against iran. other option is military, if can’t convince them to stop nuclear then military, and that is not availsable… I would not be so harsh on Obama. The governments on the other end are not going to respond as fulsomely …”

      Caller: “Your guests are shills….”
      Moderator cut her off.

      I recall the words of Izzeldin Abu Laish when an Israeli woman shouted at him that his home was fired upon and his daughters killed because they were firing on IDF. Izzeldin wept into his hands: “They don’t want to know the truth.”


      There is writing and there is truth telling. Khulood Ghanem’s writing is both.

      May the Blessed Virgin Mary enfold you with the mantle of her love and care.

      • Citizen says:

        I watched what you did on C-SPAN–I agree; I was waiting for them to bring up the I-P scenario… That caller at 8:38 AM was grieving the loss of her GI son in Iraq–somehow she had connected to the dots to Iran as the country responsible. What’s
        worse than a mother who lost her son and blames a country that had nothing to do with it? Kudos to our hasbara 4th Estate.

        • agree with the concept, Citizen: Rumsfeld insisted that the World Trade Center was destroyed by Iraqis…blaming the wrong country etc. and the hasbara/propaganda/marketing team/Luntzians make one more check mark on their effectiveness analysis.

          however, my understanding was that the woman caller’s son was not killed but injured, in an F 14, in exercises BEFORE 9/11. Which REALLY makes her one seriously confused person.

          Interesting question: Is a person like that grieving mother, in fact, are ALL Americans/citizens/voters, called upon to verify the accuracy of the information upon which they base their opinions and votes? In the final analysis, isn’t each individual required to validate the truth value of information that motivates our individual actions? If not, then who is responsible for making that assessment?

          Based on that argument, C-Span really needs to be called to account for allowing its microphone to be used to disseminate false information. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

  7. Rehmat says:

    Pity – there wouldn’t be many Khulood Ghanem known to Americans once the Israel Lobby is through with Americans.

    Al-Manar TV haunts warmongers
    link to

  8. Chaos4700 says:

    What was done to your people was monstrous, plain and simple, Mr. Ghanem. Rest assured, the world is not ignoring this and will not forget these crimes — and sooner or later, there will be justice, and the warped death cult that is Zionism will find its way into the dust bin of history where it can rot, along with feudalism, human sacrifice and Nazism.

  9. potsherd says:

    It looks like another round is going to start soon. This is not a good time to be trying to get into Gaza.

    link to

    The Shalit deal is certainly off after the latest round of intifada and assassination in the WB. The IDF, which has never been asked to renounce violence, is very likely to launch a commando raid into Gaza to snatch him back – in which he will very likely be killed. Hamas has been blathering about being ready to inflict another defeat on the occupiers. We’re going to see another Cast Lead, probably more deadly, while Robot Obama utters platitudes.

    • VR says:

      What? Don’t you know this is how you guarantee the release of Shalit? By bombing the shit out of the place and wantoning killing as many civilians as possible potsherd? Or by starving them to death? I thought this would be a surefire way, didn’t you?

      • Chaos4700 says:

        And of course, the absolute surest way of ensuring the survival of one of their own would be to bomb every building in Gaza where Hamas might possibly likely be holding him — police stations, prisons, government buildings, hospitals, and the like.

        The fact is, Israel would rather see Schalit dead. He’s much more useful to them that way.

        • potsherd says:

          That’s the IDF’s Hannibal protocol – Israel would rather have its troops dead than captive.

          In fact, it is likely that Regev and Goldwasser, the troops taken captive at the border by Hezbollah in 2006, starting the war ostensibly to retrieve them, were deliberately killed by the pursuing force, which was itself then killed in combat. But then Israel had to give up Samir Kuntar for their bodies.

        • Chaos4700 says:

          For the want of the horseshoe, huh?

  10. VR says:

    I promise that this is already starting here and will be coming right to your floor. It has already started in other countries like the UK, you thought I was joking but I am not:


    I don’t care how much power you think you have, this whole thing will fall like a house of cards as people of conscience begin to stir. You better decide whether you are a member in good standing in the world community or not.

    Our support for Israel, especially its attack on Gaza in 2008-09, is creating ruptures in the wider Jewish community in Britain and placing institutions such as ours under unbearable pressure. The fact that the Board of Deputies’ support for Israel is couched in relatively anodyne terms and in a superficially impartial context no longer works. The wider Jewish community, and the general public at large, are beginning to see through this.

    For the first time in my memory, we are being pressed by British Jews to answer questions that have always been in the backs of our minds but which we can no longer brush aside. Are we British or are we Israelis? If we are British, then is it not incumbent upon us to question, as the wider British public is questioning, the policies and behaviour of the State of Israel without harbouring any feelings of disloyalty – because our loyalty is to the UK and not to Israel?

    Israel purports to speak on behalf of us as Jews. Many in our community are telling us that we therefore have a special responsibility – more so than Britons of other faiths or those of no faith – to condemn Israel’s violations of human rights and common decency when dealing with the Palestinians. Many others are saying that we should say explicitly and unequivocally – both as individuals and through our community institutions – that our loyalty is to Britain first, second, third and fourth ad infinitum, that we have no special loyalty or allegiance to Israel and that, for us, Israel is just another country, like France, Italy or Spain.

    They say that we should distance ourselves from Israel and be the first to condemn its policies and actions towards the Palestinian people. A small but growing minority – a minority that is growing exponentially, I hasten to add – tell us that we should go further and take the lead in calling for the boycott of Israel until it implements all United Nations resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, and until it begins to behave as a civilized and responsible member of the international community.”

  11. MHughes976 says:

    I’ve commented on another thread on this interesting piece of news, VR, for which thanks again.
    It is difficult to see how Israel can really behave as a a responsible member of the international community while it rejects the right of return or how Israel can continue to exist if that right is conceded.

    • VR says:

      MHughes976, it is not a question of can Israel exist, it is a question of should it exist keeping the same course? A “Jewish state” (which is a lie) is an oxymoron while calling itself a democracy at the same time. So it can exist, it just cannot continue to exist in its current form, committing its daily atrocities on the Palestinians or its neighbors. “Majority” demographic is not the criteria for statehood (just like there is not a majority necessary for the USA to exist as a democracy), it is an excuse for tyranny.

  12. MHughes976 says:

    I fully agree, VR. There is no possible combination of ‘required majority’ with constitutional government or the rule of law – one of the reasons why the UN partitition resolutions of 1948 were immoral. So if we are to have justice and responsibility there must be a right of return. If there is a right of return there might be a country called Israel but there will not be Jewish State. But these points are not accepted in the Western world. I suspect that most of the UK people, Jewish and other, who are trying to find an alternative to all-out support of Israel are deluding themselves with comfortable ‘two-state’ fantasies. I went through a similar phase myself.