Gaza, the stories that come after

palestinians inspect destroyed office
Palestinians inspect the destroyed office building of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya in Gaza City on November 17, 2012 (AFP Photo / Mahmud Hams)

Tears pooled in her eyes as she began to talk. Maysa, one of my closest friends at college, happens to live a few meters away from the Prime Minister’s Office in the Gaza Strip (5-10 meters away). The building was flattened on the fourth day of the latest Israeli attack on Gaza. Gathered around her in one of the university’s rooms, two of my classmates and I listened to Maysa as she, albeit quite reluctantly, narrated what happened on Saturday, the 17th of November.

She said it was dawn, around 5 o’clock in the morning. Maysa’s father and two younger brothers were praying in the mosque across the road from their house. Maysa and her mother were alone at home. She had just finished her wudu/ablution when an Israeli F16 targeted the ministers’ building, knocking her against the floor. Lying next to her was her mother, who also fell on the ground once the place got bombed.

“Then we heard the second airstrike. My mother and I were still on the ground. The third airstrike… the fourth… I had no doubt we were going to die. We both closed our eyes. We started to cry. We hugged each other so tight. Then came the fifth airstrike. It was the last one. They made sure the Prime Minister’s Office was leveled to the ground. Pieces of glass and bricks were still falling on my back, scratching my shirt and slightly cutting into my skin. They didn’t hurt, though. I was numb. Mum tried to cover me. She hugged me again. She hugged me so tight.”

As she went on, I was trying to concentrate on Maysa’s story and take notes as much as I could. Tears started running down her cheeks. The three of us felt like crying. Gaza is so small all people here share the same pain, although probably in different degrees. Maysa was courageous enough to speak of the unspeakable. She was courageous enough to speak of fear, of horror and death.

Throughout history, the typical Zionist occupier has viewed Palestinians as some sort of sub-humans averse to life and yearning for death. Colonizers have tried their best to make the colonized look bizarre, to portray our steadfastness as fearlessness and indifference to imminent danger. They have twisted the concept of martyrdom, depicting it as something we aspire to for no specific reason, not as resistance against their killing machine, not as something we have to live with that they brutally cause.

I was jotting down her words again. As Maysa sipped some water and sighed, my other friend asked her whether they considered leaving their house earlier, since this Prime Minister’s building adjacent to theirs was obviously one of Israel’s targets. As painful as it is, Maysa’s answer was not shocking at all, “Where do they expect us to go? The only place we could go to is my grandparents’ in Rafah, but it wasn’t any safer. They bombed it on the very same day. In my neighborhood, 2 people were injured. In Rafah, 4 people were killed on the same day. 4 people.”      Of course, there was no Hamas headquarter in Rafah. Israel still bombed several places there, including civilian areas and a man on a motorcycle.

It has been over than three weeks now since the ceasefire was announced in Egypt. Maysa still flinches when doors bang aloud, thinking they’re some Israeli bombs falling over her head. She still sleeps in the living room because the furniture in her room is entirely gone. A wall in her parents’ room has been damaged, leaving the room partially exposed to the street. Maysa’s father had this house built only 2 years ago. He has not yet finished paying off the cost of building it, which makes the damage caused by Israel only more dreadful.

Maysa is just one story. And despite the terror she lived for a couple of minutes and continues to live until now, she deems herself relatively ‘privileged’. She is still alive, unlike the 172 people (mostly civilians) Israel killed in 8 days; her house still has a foundation, unlike tens of other houses which were reduced to rubble.

I have seen the Israeli terror. I have seen it in the faces of the elderly mourning the loss of their grandchildren. I have seen it in the smiles of Palestinian kids as they went back to their schools passing by damaged roads, even more determined to learn. I have seen it in the tears of men, sitting on what is left of their houses and concealing their fear of the unknown. I have seen it in the curses of the wounded and the maimed. I have seen it in my traumatized friend, in her tearful eyes and trembling hands.

Resuming life after such frequent attacks is never an easy task. Coming back to school right after the offensive was sheer torture, at least for me. The pale faces. The stories friends tell. The faint smiles and the exhausted beings. It is through the resiliently renewed attempts to live, nonetheless, that I realize how strong my people are. It is through Maysa’s coming back to school, talking literature and simultaneously dreaming of a free Palestine that I believe in our just cause more fiercely than ever.

Minutes after she told us about her experience, my friend Maysa was eager to discuss Percy Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’, a poem we’re studying this semester. As she began reciting the poem to me, she couldn’t but refer to the light rain nowadays in Gaza, hoping it will wash away the pain Israel continues to inflict on us and praying that it will help those who have lost beloved ones, to survive, resist, and rise all over again.

About Sarah Ali

Sarah Ali, 20, is a student of English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. Read her blog here and you can follow her on twitter @Saritah_91.
Posted in Gaza, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government, Nakba, Occupation, On the ground reports | Tagged

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

  1. Looks like the handiwork of the most moral army in the world.

  2. i love the way you write sarah.

    It is through the resiliently renewed attempts to live, nonetheless, that I realize how strong my people are.

    and the entire third to last paragraph .. so clear, so pure.

  3. “she couldn’t but refer to the light rain nowadays in Gaza, hoping it will wash away the pain Israel continues to inflict on us and praying that it will help those who have lost beloved ones, to survive, resist, and rise all over again.”

  4. Beautifully eloquent, Sarah, and very moving. What does Israel think it has achieved, showing off its massive destructive power? So it can destroy government buildings, terrify people and earn their undying hatred, posture and pose on Israeli news stations about the damage they inflicted, as if it was a glorious victory? Sarah’s words are to me infinitely more powerful, and will gain far more sympathy and support than the vindictive reflexes of a bully who rants and raves whilst achieving nothing.

  5. Citizen says:

    Now the Palestinians are the defenders of Western Civilization’s Enlightenment. Yet America says it’s the Jewish Israel state. US and Israel are going backward in terms of progressive humanity.

  6. The beauty of the Palestinian soul is reflected in this robust yet sublime writing of Sarah Ali. The writer blurs her own experience in the background as she portrays what every Palestinian in Gaza experienced through the account of her friend Maysa. Maysa’s story is awe-inspiring yet it drenches our soul as we wonder when the criminal regime of Israel would be brought to justice! As you read this story you would admire the resilience, will and determination of Palestinian people which no bomb can ever destroy.

    To the writer: Please continue your writing. Because the power of truth is far greater than white phosphorus, F-16s and drones. Because much of the Western world is morally bankrupt and the East is still sleeping. Because we will die and decay but the account of truth would remain to guide the generations that are yet to come. Thank you for your work.

    • i have said many (over and over) times truth is palestinians greatest weapon. thank you for saying it much better than i ever could. it’s true, the beauty of the Palestinian soul is reflected thru sarah. bigtime.

  7. kalithea says:

    I wish we’d hear more stories of the pain this vicious assault by Israel caused so many families in Gaza. Many people lost family members and dozens of Gaza’s children were again slaughtered by Israel with U.S.-made bombs. So many children in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza have been murdered in 2012 with U.S. bombs. These are children who’s names we’ll never learn, who’s stories we’ll never hear about in the media 24/7. But these children matter just as much as American children and Israeli children! How can Americans sleep at night knowing that their government funds billions in weapons to Israel to murder Palestinians and Palestinian children? How can Americans be so blind to the crimes the U.S. government enables with its weapons and bombs.

    Please continue bringing us the victims stories so that Americans are made aware that Palestinian children are human just like American children and they’re dying because of the brutal occupation and America’s senseless support for Zionists committing this crime.

    • seafoid says:

      $467 million worth of US ordinance was dropped on Gaza in less than 2 weeks.

      Too many tragedies like this over the last few years and each time I hear the news I try to react not as a President but as a parent. And that was especially true today. I know there is not a parent in the Arab world who does not feel the overwhelming grief that I do today. The majority of those who died today were children . Beautiful Palestinian children between the ages of 5 and 10.

      Long pause

      They had their entire lives ahead of them. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Our hearts are broken today.

  8. Bumblebye says:

    More than 20 Palestinians killed in Yarmouk refugee camp after Syrian F-16′s open fire. As heard on bbc bulletin.
    It simply isn’t safe to be Palestinian anywhere.

  9. IL1948 says:

    Sarah, notably absent from your writings is any outrage or condemnation of the 25 Palestinians who were killed by the Syrian regime. For an educated person, you seem perfectly content to allow your people to continue to be used as pawns devoid of any intrinsic value for the larger goal of nothing short of the destruction of the state of Israel. Of course, I doubt you or anyone else in this echo chamber will have the courage to post these remarks and allow a full and full debate of this undeniable truth. If you and others were half as interested in Palestinian statehood as you were in Palestinian victimhood there may actually be some attainable resolution to this conflict. Of course, given the fact that the Palestinians are the only refugees whose status as such is perpetuated, not alleviated by those ostensibly operating in their best interests demonstrates that this is not the case

    • @ IL1948: Did you really read the article carefully? In your attempt to defend the terrorist regime of Israel you failed to notice that this article was published in the author’s blog on 14th of December and here on Mondoweiss on 15th December. The news of Palestinian deaths in the Syrian refugee camp came on 16th December. How the writer is supposed to know about the future? May be you have such super powers, sadly we don’t.

      This simple fact kills are your biased and unjust accusation against the author. But I don’t want to stop here. If I be so bold to ask how come the Palestinians ended up in the refugee camps of Syria in the first place? It is because of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians which is still on going at the moment. “Educated” Zionists like you never acknowledge the fact. So don’t ashame us by pretending that you actually care for what happened to those who died in Syria or else where. Furthermore, all the Israeli newspapers acknowledge the fact of Israeli involvement in the crisis in Syria. Indeed Israel is still occupying the Golan Heights of Syria. So pardon me, but Israeli sympathizers doesn’t have the moral stance to discuss what’s going on Syria.

      The nature of all Occupier is to discredit those who dares to resist the occupation. Your pathetic attempt is another testament for that. So yes you didn’t pay attention to a single line of what the author said rather you implicated that somehow it is their fault that Israel killed 172 innocent souls, maimed another thousand and further destroyed already war torn Gaza. Try to sell your arguments somewhere else because this “echo chamber” have people who are well aware of the hypocrisy of you Zionists.

    • Sarahmali says:

      Quite funny how Zionist trolls expect us to be as cowardly as they are. Dude, I openly support the Syrian revolution. I condemn the horrendous crimes of the Syrian regime and the murder of innocent people in Syria (Palestinians and Syrians alike). I’m not entitled, however, to write on behalf of the Syrian people or Palestinians living in Syria simply because I don’t live there & I don’t know how the terror of the Syrian regime feels like (I only experienced the Israeli terror, you know).
      Interestingly, that the Syrian regime is continually committing crimes against its people doesn’t change the fact that Israel is a criminal state terrorizing Palestinians day and night. Nice try, though.

      P.S: next time you speak about ‘Palestinian victimhood’, try to remember that it is Israel that kills hundreds of civilians then plays the victim and cries ‘KHAMAAAAAS!’

    • Cliff says:

      Excellent posts Mohammed and Sarah.

    • ILL1948, an Israeli accusing others of wallowing in victimhood – now that made me laugh. When it comes to victimhood and destroying other’s states, look in the mirror, dude. And try some basic understanding of the article, you might learn something.

  10. yourstruly says:

    with that last chain now broken?

    finally, free at last -

    “fear, horror & death” & “portraying our steadfastness as fearlessness & indifference to imminent danger”

    (our, as in my country right or wrong?)

    + i’m more worthy than you

    + my way or the highway

    but a people never portrayed as ” something they have to live with that they cause.”

    despite the risk of experiencing a sudden violent death ?

    + “it is through the resiliently renewed attempt to live”

    172 people, (mostly civilians)

    the cost of keeping hope alive?

    of survival

    meanwhile, the 40% of jewish israelis who are thinking of emigrating signify what?”

    goodbye zionist entity israel

    its people?

    blessed are they