What a miracle! Two years elapsed and I am still capable of taking another breath of life! Who ever expected I would be writing this right now in the same Gaza, the very same place that was being entirely knocked down two years ago? Do I have to be grateful? Am I lucky enough to survive such a gruesomely unforgettable war to keep recalling it each year? Or would I be luckier if I was among the dead –definitely not the wounded- in order to be spared the torture of living its horrible memories over and over again? I expected a relieving answer from none.
If I happened to be asked to chronicle its events, I wonder what I would probably have to write about. Would it seem weird if I said I had seen nothing of most what I heard? Yet, I still insist I witnessed it all; every single second I had to suffer. How ironic! Yes I know. We underwent 23-relentless days of intensive punishments and collective genocide; days of heavy bombardment and white-phosphorous shelling; and days of tight restrictions and grave aggression. No electricity. No television. No connection. No contact. Our cries, our screams, our pleas couldn’t be heard in a such abandoned warzone-like area. The whole world seemed to suddenly turn its back on us.
As our cellphones were almost out of power, the only connection to the outside was the transistor radio. The shelling was targeting every living thing but we couldn’t figure out who and what the target was. The radio helped in updating us only with the death-toll, giving the number of the dead bodies. With everything based on anticipations, nothing was certain.
Since the hell had broken loose in Gaza, we were locked in our house, actually crammed only in one room, the smallest and the middle, leaving the largest and avoiding the wall-to-wall rooms which could be of a dangerous exposure to the explosions. Actually, that was my dad’s suggestion, thinking we would be protected this way from any harm and that we could all be altogether, offering support & warm to one another since each one of us, while holding each other’s arms, seemed to be shivering, either out of cold or out of fear. Israeli bombs and shells came from every direction in a frenzy of violence. With each astonishing sound, one would close the eyes and say” God God! Am I the target?” Our ears were functioning very attentively. I wished I were deaf. I couldn’t bear the roaring sounds of helicopters overhead which it seemed it would never leave the sky. I couldn’t stand the constant barrage of explosives which I thought would be the cause of my imminent deafness. Our eyes could peek out of the windows to see the air was full of fire, smoke and debris. We didn’t know what happened there. We heard tens and dozens were killed but we had seen none. We heard people screaming in panic but we could hardly know who the deceased was. We were prisoners in our houses. We couldn’t even run for our lives since every single spot and creature were targeted. No place was safe even at home. With much fear that we would be the next victims, we waited anxiously our turns to finally come in so the effects of such traumas would wear off the moment we died out.
Out of my scattered and shattered memories, one thing I remember very well is that I wasn’t told that the war was over; I just had the feeling it was. I spent the 23-days in total silence which was constantly broken by the sounds of the Apache or F-16. But I myself was completely silent, lost in thoughts, wishing not to be the only survivor among my beloved family. The very thought of it chilled my blood within me.
Whomsoever saw me thought I was resilient and strong enough to bear all of its atrocities with a deafening silence. In fact, I wasn’t. I was coward enough to having wished to be dead as soon as possible so I could rest in peace in my grave if I couldn’t find peace at my home. Twenty-three days and I shed no single drop of tears. This sent my dad into a series of questions. “Is she alright?”, my dad implored my mum, “why doesn’t she look affected?” My mum kindly thought I wasn’t afraid. To their great disappointment, I was. Fear tightened around my chest and it almost killed me. I was frightened by the thought of losing you, mum. I was selfish enough to pray not to be tormented by the loss of my mum and it didn’t cross my mind that she would even be more tormented by my loss. I should have prayed that we should all die together.
When it was over, I could fake my resilience no more. I do remember that two nights after the war, I woke up to find myself crying heavily. That time I hadn’t fought back my tears. I simply couldn’t. I wanted to release all my pent-up emotions so I broke down in tears. I could no longer contain myself. My mum was awakened by my pathetic sobs. So anxious was she that she didn’t know what she had to do. She took me in her warm lap trying to soothe away my fear. Clutching her arm, I bitterly wept. With bated breath she asked “have you waited 23-days to cry?” I didn’t know under what categories I should have classified my tears. Tears of survival? Tears of suppression? Tears of injustice? Tears of negligence? I didn’t care. I became better off since then, however.
As my mum once wondered if I waited 23 days to cry, I am now wondering whether I’ve been waiting 2 years to write. Perhaps I didn’t want to keep the memory of this tragedy alive; I wanted to forget to help me move on, but the world, in order to move on, shouldn’t forget this. Not only does this date mark the genocidal Gaza war but it also debunks the international conspiracy of silence.
Fidaa Abu Assi, 22, is an English Literature graduate from the Islamic University of Gaza. She blogs at http://fidaa.me/. Gaza Two Years Later is a series of posts by Gazan bloggers and writers reflecting on the two-year anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008/09. You can read the entire series here.