Have you ever lived knowing this moment might be your last? Have you ever lived wondering if you will see another sunrise or the faces of your children again? Have you ever chosen not to remember the first word your child says because you know it could be her last and all you will have is the pain of that memory? Have you ever lived wondering what your son will grow up to be and what he will look like, knowing you might not have the chance to see for yourself?
Each day in Gaza, we live with these thoughts and with this reality.
Have you ever lived knowing you could wake up to find yourself alone, without your loved ones by your side for no other reason than because they are Palestinian? I’m preparing for the worst – for the possibility that I might lose my children and my husband or that they might lose me. The TV images are evidence that there’s no respect for humanity or for the innocence of childhood. There’s no room left for forgiveness or tolerance. All that remains is anger, enormous bitterness and a growing desire to take revenge.
With the bombings of the last days, my life has completely changed. In the mornings, I prepare my children to go to school with the dreadful thought in my mind that I might never see them again. I don’t know if they will return home safely or if this will be the last time I’ll see their bright, innocent faces.
Do you think I have a heart of stone when I say I’m preparing my children for the possibility that they might lose me or their father at any minute? It’s true that we might go to work and never come back, so I tell them to love each other, to stay close and to promise that they will never forget their parents.
Yesterday I was preparing lunch for my children when I realized I was shaking - my hands were trembling and I couldn’t focus my mind on anything. It took all my effort to control myself, not to let my kids see me in that state. It was as if all my senses were alert to the slightest sound, listening for any strange whistle that might be an Israeli strike, knowing that there would be no guarantee for me or my children that we would stay safe. This is how we’re living in Gaza today. What kind of life is this for our children?
Gaza, March 2008
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.