It was such a quiet evening; my kids were sleeping after a long day at school, I’d finished my housework and was just thinking it was time to relax. It was almost eight o’clock when I went into the kitchen to prepare a cup of coffee. Suddenly, I heard a huge explosion and the sound of broken glass. I was terrified. I rushed into the kids’ bedroom to see if they were OK. Then I checked the other rooms, looking for the broken glass. I didn’t find any. Later, I learnt that most of the houses near ours had had their windows shattered by the force of the explosion. We were lucky.
After the Dimona suicide bombing, Israel said it would increase military action in Gaza and I knew that the situation would get worse, yet I would never have imagined it would be so close: just a few metres away from my home. Maybe it’s a protective mechanism when we convince ourselves that we’re safe in our homes. I was stunned. The sound of the ambulance sirens brought me straight back to the ugly reality that we live in Gaza, where nowhere is safe and where Israel controls the air, sea and land.
It was such a scary moment. It made me wonder how the Israelis in Sderot feel when a Qassam rocket hits them. Human nature is the same everywhere, no matter who you are: all humans love life. I know, though, that when a missile from an F-16 hits a target near you, everything shakes with the impact and the noise, not only the buildings and the walls, but you yourself are shaken to the core. You realize that there is no place to hide, no place to run, no shelters, nothing.
It’s amazing how we Palestinians in Gaza are able to cope with everything we face each day: the growing fear that we’ll accidentally be the target of an Israeli air strike because we happen to be in the same street as a "wanted person"; the constant electricity cuts; the lack of essential equipment and medication; the border closures that prevent people from leaving Gaza for urgent medical treatment. Living in this way, I honestly wonder if we adults will be able to raise a normal, healthy younger generation. Do we still have the power to have a positive impact on our children, their mentality, and their way of judging events?
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.