“Let it go for God’s sake,” one would suggest. “Two years passed; just move on.” Though quite infuriated by how simple it can be thought of, I can somehow see their point. We, people of Gaza, seem to be still whining over the losses of the war. Objectively speaking, it is pretty justified to find it weird for Gazans to be blaming, probably cursing, Israel for the last war till the moment. Why can’t we “move on”? why is it hard for us to “forgive” or to even “forget”?!
In Gaza, when slightly open, a door makes a terrible sound as it keeps moving backward and forward. The sound can be provoking and greatly irritating that you would sacrifice some of your precious sleeping time to go close the door. In Gaza, the most miserable moments are never planned. Reaching the home’s entrance wanting to do nothing but shutting the door, you unintentionally take a peek through it. “Shh.. this can get really interesting,” you whisper to your little sister, trying to listen to a seemingly-interesting conversation in the hallway of the building. “Good heaven! My quiet neighbor is having a true normal talk with the chummy janitor?” you think.
To your surprise, the chat turns out to be anything save a delightful conversation. Having heard your neighbor say he was visiting his son’s grave, you start cursing the moment you left your bed to close the damn door. The old man starts narrating how his son was shot to death in the last war on the Gaza Strip. This day when he went to the cemetery happens to be the second anniversary of his young boy’s death. The janitor, the time at which he is supposed to offer the greybeard some consolation, secretly wipes his own tears. And as a gesture of tactfulness, he invites the man over for some tea. Too feeble to help, you calmly shut the door and go back to bed. You, too, drop a tear.
In Gaza, the unique Gaza, you can weep as much as you can. You can complain as much as you can. You can say whatever you want. No one can ever send you to jail for this. This is relieving, by the way. But, all of the fuss you are capable of causing doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be heard or responded to if supposedly heard. Speak out about the war (the “offensive”, some prefer to call it), nag all the time, cry, shriek, yet don’t expect too much.
Speaking of the names, many say that what occurred in Gaza was an “offensive” rather than a “war”. For a war has to be between two armed nations, and for Gazans didn’t have real defense weapons, it is usually preferred to call it “the offensive”. That is, completely-armed soldiers attacking and invading the land of unarmed citizens and barely-armed young fighters. I don’t really care about names; I am no journalist. Call it whatever you like. As long as you mean the 21 days I have in mind, we are cool!
In Gaza, you spare no effort to “forget”, if only for a second, about the war. Everything around tells you to do the exact opposite, however. The wreckage of your university lying on your way, the uprooted lands, the erect tents you pass by, the homeless kids all staring at you, the roof of your house being totally sabotaged, the echo of your neighbor’s voice telling his story to the janitor, the people stuffed in oddly-long queues waiting to get some coupons, they all urge you to moan, to scream, and to never “forget”. Otherwise, you will be entirely detached from your reality—from your Gaza.
I am sick of attempting to be objective. I don’t want to be “objective” anymore. I want to be Palestinian. I want to be a mere Gazan. That’s who I actually am, and that’s what I would have liked to be had I been something else. I want to keep talking about the war. I don’t want to “let it go” because it still hurts. It will always.
In Gaza, though it can technically “end”, war is never over.
Sarah Ali, 19, is a second-year student of English literature at the Islamic University, Gaza. Gaza Two Years Later is a series of posts by Gazan bloggers and writers reflecting on the two-year anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008/09. You can read the entire series here.