The road was dreary. It was the second day after the ceasefire was announced, and people started to leave their houses to see what had happened to the other places. I was in a taxi going to my work in Gaza, and the whole way there I was trying to prepare myself for what I was going to see, the destruction of houses, lands, roads and everything. It seems that I was humble in my expectations, everything was different. Starting from Natzarim junction along to Gaza city stretched out a scene of destroyed houses, offices, streets, buildings, play grounds, even worship places, the mosques where we found peace and security.
I was shocked. Though I had seen many reports on the news about the destruction of Gaza, in reality, with my own eyes, it was different, more painful, and more frustrating to witness this destruction.
All the way to the office I was trying to recognize what these places had been, a house, a farm, a school. Maybe; nothing for sure. Everything was upside down as if the earth shook with anger, and erased everything. However this time it is not the earth to blame, but the violent work of man; guided by a politics of power, fear, hate and brutality.
With each meter of the road there is a story, a story told by the faces of the residents of this place, which was their home, their shelter, and their life. On each pile of rubble stand children, women without any feelings, any reactions. There is only silence as each tries to grab what is left from their lives, from their memories, from their hard work of past years years, but all they find are some ragged cloths, nothing else.
Today I had the chance to meet with families who lost their houses, the stories told by the women in general, and the children in particular reveal more about the war and it's cruelty. One question is on everyone’s minds, why us? It was not our war, we were unarmed civilians, we were families in our homes. Why did we have to leave under the fire, and the shelling, with the screams of our terrified children, hoping for one thing; to stay alive or to die together.
Today I saw the tears shed by the mothers who went through this experience, the experience of losing the safe shelter of home. They are now unable to give more to their children as if drained from any feelings, from any love, any security. They are distracted by their painful memories that, as one mother told me, may take an age to be healed and forgotten.
The children’s simple wishes of finding their toys, their books, their favorite things, were very hard for me to listen to. Their innocent eyes and their shaky hands when recalling horrific events make it difficult to believe in peace.
A question is left there in their small heads, and tiny hearts; what is the point of teaching us human rights while we can not experience any of these rights? Why am I as a child unable to live in a safe house? Why am I not treated as a human being while many others who are no different from me, in other places in the world, practice these rights.
While the Israelis seek a better life for their children, at the same time they destroy our simple houses, our lives, our dreams, leaving us nothing but a toll of painful memories and a bitterness. This will remain, consuming us from the inside, until finally it takes its revenge.
How can they ask us to be normal, logical, and life loving people, while they teach us how to hate? How can peace ever come if it comes at the cost of our lives and the lives of our children?
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.