(Photo: Mohammed Zanooun)
My mom is the matriarch of our family, she is the family’s central bank, a great mother, and a grandmother you would want for your own kids. While Gaza was waging its war on the civilians in Gaza, my mother, Fatima, kept busy keeping her 30 grandchildren entertained. Power was often cut–more often than usual due to the constant shelling by Israel.
She just called me few hours ago. When I saw her number on my caller ID, my heart began racing expecting the worst. She called to let me know that they no longer live at home and that the entire family has moved to my brother’s small apartment nearby. “I worried that you would call us at home, and get no answer, so I did not want you to worry for us” she said. “At the moment, there are many Israeli bombs falling in our area so we evacuated and took the kids”. She added that it seems the Israelis are targeting the Abu El Mezza home right next door. Abu El Mezza is large family that lost their son Essam in the first day of the attacks. I felt a chill in my spine, as she went on to tell me about Essam—a 19-year-old who was hit by a bomb while riding his motorcycle near our home in Beit Lahia. Now the family is crammed in a small apartment trying to convince themselves that they will be safer when they know this isn’t true. My family was forced to move during the Cast Lead Operation in 2008-09 after my cousin Hope was shot in her kitchen as she made mint tea.
Even though its cold outside, they keep all the windows open because the concussion from exploding shells will shatter the glass. “This way the windows won’t be shattered and do us harm.”
She has also told me my cousin Rabah was injured in the same attack. Rabah is the kind of entrepreneurial Palestinian that Wall Street would love. Born in humble circumstances, he grew up to own one of the biggest textile businesses in Gaza. He eventually became a major business partner with an Israeli producer of jeans. My mom has always liked Rabah because he had a good head on his shoulders. At the crowded hospital he was given a Band-Aid and told to go home and return once the military assault is over for surgery, my mom told me.
“Tonight, I will wear an extra pair of pants, to be ready, in case anything happens to us, I will be decent as I am transported to a local hospital or morgue” she told me. “I want to look good even when I leave this earth.”
My mother admitted that the Israeli bombardment has drawn her closer to her favorite grandson. She is very protective of him and every time my family home is shaken by falling bombs, she races for Omar and holds him tight. She is not obsessive, but unlike the rest of the world she was shaken when she saw an eleven month old boy buried after an Israeli airstrike, and ten month old baby suffered the same fate. Omar is her reason to live and she will do anything to keep him safe.
My photojournalist friend who has never expressed any political inclinations, shared some of his most graphic taken today of the 10 month old Haneen Tafish being taken from the hospital morgue to her family’s home for funeral and burial. The images of the parents carrying their little girl who died while sleeping in her crib will haunt me for as long as I live. Meanwhile, Israel activists have been mocking Palestinians deaths–even the cold blooded murder of babies in their cribs. This decentered feeling is troubling even to observers in Israel. Only people who have never seen a real war can be this naive about the true human suffering as a result of those conflicts. Many of those commentators are confusing popular war games with a full blown war with real people not avatar. For the sake of my family in Gaza and all families in the region, I hope this madness ends soon.