It is indeed completely different when you hear a story than being part of it. During the war, we have heard so many stories of people facing or escaping death. The massacre of Al-Shejayea is the biggest example among all. We have seen people running for their lives, or others who couldn’t escape death. It was almost impossible for me to believe that people actually lived that horror. In a way, every person in Gaza thinks he is not a target or so we try to convince ourselves. We try to think of a million reasons why we would survive this. This slight chance of survival we are holding on to exists in every single person. Personally, I started counting how far Israeli tanks were away from my home. I try to imagine our district map and all the streets that exist between me and the closest tank. I even googled how far can an artillery bomb reach. Ironically, the next day an artillery bomb hit my neighbor’s house and so I guess the answer would be “far enough to reach you”. Other times, I would give up on finding reasons to live, so I just try to imagine all bad scenarios, and the worst among them is death. I try to comfort myself that death doesn’t hurt, it’s just a glance of an eye and everything would be over. My mind is always occupied with these thoughts.
Almost 30 days of continuously living in the “unknown”. Every day at 8:00 pm when the night starts falling, we start thinking of how the night would be. We take a look at the sky so we can guess how many warplanes are flying. We listen carefully to the sound of them so we can guess how close they are. The more and the louder they are, the more terrifying the night would be. There are times when an Israeli F16 would fly at a very low altitude to hit its target, that’s the time when our hearts skip a beat. We follow the light coming out of the rocket, and we pray to God that it doesn’t hit our house. Sometimes, we can hear the far sound of the rocket coming close and we close our eyes until we hear the blast. Hearing the blast means you’re still alive. We have gone through very difficult nights that I know I won’t ever forget. One was on the second day of Eid. Four families, who escaped their houses close to the artillery shelling, took our house as a shelter. We were almost 50 people gathered in one room, awake and terrified. That night we were able to hear all kinds of shelling, we all fell traumatized and not able to speak a word. The only thing we were hoping for is sunlight; because somehow it is less scary during daylight. It’s the period between 8:00 pm till 5:00 am where every second feels like ages.
Time, in days like these, is very critical. It is sometimes all about time. My little brother keeps asking when this war will end, sometimes he asks father about an exact hour. A warning airstrike hits a house in my area in order for the neighborhood to evacuate before leveling the targeted house, two elderly man and woman couldn’t survive because after three minutes they bombed the house as these two were trying their best to walk as fast as they could away from the house. Three minutes wasn’t enough. A 2 hour ceasefire was given to the Red Cross to evacuate injured people after the Al-Shejayea massacre, two hours weren’t enough to pull them all from under the rubble, and time wasn’t enough to save some souls. These 29 days of war felt like 29 years.
4th of August, 3:30 am was a time to remember. My sister and I were sleeping on the second floor of our house in one bed as we managed to do since the beginning of the war. My father, mother, sister and brother were sleeping on the first floor. I remember there was artillery shelling that I tried not to pay attention to and get some sleep, but that didn’t last for long. We suddenly woke up to the sound of a very close airstrike that we thought was in our house followed by screaming and crying of some men calling for help. A million ideas came to my mind; I didn’t know what to do. We rushed to the balcony to see what that airstrike was, but all we could hear is a man running in the street crying and screaming in agony. Two of my neighbors also got out to see what was happening, my mother and father rushed to the door as well. Seconds passed as we were standing there before a second airstrike passed in front of our eyes and fell in front of our neighbor’s house. All I thought about that moment was my father and mother who were standing at the door. All those who were screaming became silent. There was no sound. My sisters and I shouted “FATHER” in one voice. I don’t know how we got downstairs, but once we saw my father and mother still alive, we fell to the floor not able to breathe or speak. We simply were shocked. The airstrike targeted the crying man in the street. The man died, 3 of my neighbors were injured and blood was all over the street. It was the first time for me to witness the death of someone in front of my eye. He was just shouting and asking for help a minute ago. There was a possibility that I would see my parents lying on the floor injured or maybe dead. The idea of that made me unable to breathe. For a moment, everything felt like a dream. I was crying for the idea of losing someone, but then the idea of the mother of this martyr not aware of what happened to her son hit me. If it wasn’t my family who died, it’s the family of someone else who lost someone they love. Tears were pouring out of my eyes for his mother.