They say that the war on Gaza has finished. How amazing that a war can start in a single meeting and end in another, neglecting all the pain, sorrow, fears and worries left in the souls and minds of those who suffer its woes.
Palestinians in Gaza have witnessed many wars against them by the Israelis. There was the first intifada and the second, the regular invasions and the closure imposed on my people; a closure that doesn’t show any mercy to Palestinians living their lives, a closure that has no regret or consideration for anyone at all. Finally, there was this collosal war against innocent people, children, the elderly, homes and lands - all of them Palestinian.
With every war we witness, there are stories to tell, stories about the brutality and hate of the conqueror. And with every war there is a will to live and to survive in order to tell these stories. I am a third-generation refugee. I have heard the stories of my parents and grandparents - stories of how they fled their homeland and how some people lost their children while others abandoned their children on the roads because they could not take care of them any more. They are frightening stories that shake you to the core, but the narrators of these stories have the will to live, to start a new life, and to raise their children.
The stories we will tell about this particular war will be beyond any human imagination. The stories of flight without knowing where to go; stories of whole families killed without mercy for children or the elderly. The weaponry used against my people will remain for ever etched in our memories.
Today was the first day of the ceasefire, the first day that I, as many others, were able to return to 'normal' life. We left the back room to sit in the salon facing the beach. My kids refused to sleep in their room and in their own beds, asking, "How can you guarantee that there will be no shooting"? I know that it will take them years to forget all the fearful moments they lived. They need time to forget the loud explosions they heard and they need time to forget the times we rushed, fleeing our apartment to seek shelter in a safer place. How can I say the war has ended ?
Salma is still very scared when she hears the sound of the F-16 planes which, of course, still thunder across the sky with arrogance, looking down with pride at the destruction they sowed in our souls and to our properties. How can I tell Salma that the war has ended ?!
Luckily, my children did not witness the killing and death of any of their loved ones, their friends or neighbors. Yet, they still suffer the effects of war in their minds and souls.
Other children whose souls were harvested by the war will never forget the images they saw in front of their eyes. They will never forget the killing of their parents, sisters, their whole family. They may never find any peace either in their minds and souls or throughout their lives, because what they have seen can never be forgotten. The child who witnessed the destruction of his house over his head, the child who was left dying with her family under the rubble, only Allah knowing if anyone survived; the child who looks around at the lifeless bodies of her beloved around her, this child will have these images burned in her mind and soul. This child will be affected forever. How can these children enjoy life after the cease-fire?
The children who lost their lives and their relatives, the children who lost their eyes, their limbs, their homes, those who witnessed the conqueror’s wide appetite, will never forget the pain and the moments of fear they lived through during the 22 days of the Israeli war on Gaza. Their wounds and loss will always remind them. They have only one question on their minds, "We have done nothing, so why have you killed us in this brutal way, without any consideration to our childhood?"
Gaza, January 2009
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.