The air is very heavy in Gaza, full of all the anger, grief and sadness that encompasses human understanding. The sound of the Israeli warplanes and the vibrations of its missiles make the air even heavier. On a single day, over 280 people are killed, many more injured and more yet are still missing. This is Gaza on the first day of the Israeli air assault.
It is funny how things in Gaza change so quickly and how the destiny of my people depends on a dirty political game. Suffering from a blockade for the past 18 months, scores of injured will not receive adequate medical treatment due to the lack of the most basic supplies. They will lose their lives, unneccesarily. This, it seems, is not enough to stop the game and to start treating us like humans.
Before Israel started this most brutal operation in Gaza, I was watching TV with my children. They refused to go to sleep as they hadn’t had a chance to watch TV due to long periods of electricity cuts. We were watching “The Sound of Music”, set in the Austrian Alps near Salzburg. Ahmed, with his honest comments, said, "I wish I could break the glass of the TV and join these kids in their lives. They seem to enjoy everything." He asks his brother Mustafa, "do you think that they have electricity cuts?"; a childish but honest question that tells volumes.
The following day was the first day of their mid-term exams and the first day of the Israeli operation in Gaza. I was home with my baby and my one-year-old daughter, Salma. Ahmed had just come home from school when the bombing started. It was so sudden and so continuous. Every thing was shaking: the windows, the walls, everything, even my children. Salma collapsed crying and asking for her father, while Ahmed sat on the floor and started to scream, asking for his brother Mustafa who was still at school. Even my baby, four-month-old Mohammed, broke into a crying fit. I felt helpless. I could not do anything and was wondering what was going on. “Is this the Day of Judgment? Are we going to die?”
The electricity cut off; there were no phones, no Jawwal networks, nothing. I tried to call my husband, to call the school, but there is no way. Then the news announced that Israel was bombing all the military compounds, that there were hundreds of casualties - total destruction.
Words cannot describe what happened. I am not talking about my personal feelings only, but about the feelings of other mothers, families under Israeli fire. Again we are targeted, in an inhuman, evil way. Again Israel is defending itself against our evil.
I cannot sleep. We are terrified. My children refuse to sleep in our flat which is on the fourth floor because they say it shakes whenever there is an Israeli bombing raid. I took them to their grandfather’s house. My little daughter is clinging to me; she doesn’t want me to leave her. She screams and cries whenever she hears a loud voice and, as she describes it in her simple words, "I get scared. The plane is dumb, it goes boom.” What can I say, what can I do?
The electricity came back on at ten o‘clock and finally I can see the news, the terrifying images of dead bodies lying on the ground, one, two, ten, twenty. I cannot continue counting, hundreds. Oh God, what is going on ? Are we so cheap that nobody cares?!
I am writing this now as the sound of the Israeli planes makes me so nervous that I lose my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking of my children, my family, my friends and my neighbors and wonder whose name will be added to the list of the dead. No one knows.
Gaza, December 2008
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. Thes