Photo of the Week: A familiar scene of destruction in a Gaza home

Photo credit: Kent Klich
Date taken: March 3, 2009
Location: Tuffah, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine

A home in Gaza City shows signs of damage after a shell launched from an Israeli tank hit the building, killing the owner and injuring two others during Israel’s first major offensive against Gaza in 2008-09. [Read more…]

Photo of the Week: Keep this donkey content

Photo credit: Ali Ali
Date taken: June 26, 2013
Location: Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Palestine

Palestinian children feed and play with their donkey near their family’s tent just outside of the refugee camp in Khan Younis. [Read more…]

Memories of Gaza and the baggage of PTSD

Guest contribution

Saturday mornings in suburbia mean lawnmowers. Rainy season in the South means trucks spraying pesticide to kill the mosquitoes. To me, all of these mean terrifying sounds and moments of paralyzing fear. I survived Operation Protective Edge, a brutal Israeli-led massacre in the Gaza Strip, and it permanently changed my frame of reference.

The buzzing sound of a lawnmower or a truck spraying pesticides — that constant, deep, low-tone buzzing — is eerily similar to that of the unmanned drones that killed so many Palestinians in Gaza and injured many, many others. The sound is like the bass of your car: when it is loud enough and close enough you can feel it vibrate through your body, just like the reverberations from every explosion did. That sound polluted Gaza’s skies nonstop and only changed when the sound intensified as the drones flew lower and in greater number. It took almost a week to get the buzzing out of my ears after I left Gaza even in the quiet serenity of my suburban home, but it doesn’t take much now to send chills down my spine.

The sound of thunder or a door slammed shut can take me from my normal, smiling self into a light-headed, pale-faced, paranoid shadow of myself. The first thunderstorm happened days after we made it back to the United States. It rattled my windows and made me shake like I did in Gaza when the shelling was close by. Once, a storm started during one of my classes and I bolted to the restroom to compose myself and remind myself that I was in a safe place. It is hard to come back to normalcy. It is almost as if normalcy doesn’t exist or cannot exist for people like me, people like those in Gaza who suffered through over 50 days of pure terror. You wonder when it is going to get better and when your mind will finally let you sleep through a thunderstorm.

I often hope and pray that I am not the only one who is struggling to be 100% again, to not have so much baggage anymore. Sadly, I am not alone. I talk to people who were in Gaza during the massacre and were evacuated to the United States too and we all seem to have fuzzy memories. It is almost as if we are beginning to erase all of the pain and the fear. But the details of the most obscure memories have stuck with us.

I remember how smoggy the sky always looked, how it was always quietest before the most intense round of airstrikes, how I was always afraid of looking at the sky, how I never really felt like I was actually there. It wasn’t me. There is a version of myself that existed in Gaza for the seven days that I was there during the massacre and I cannot relate to or identify with that person anymore. I talk about my experience like I am relaying a firsthand account from someone else.

I talk to others in Gaza who have survived and we recount all of the sounds that we hear now that make us jump or look over our shoulders much more than before and it seems almost comical how mundane they are. The worst sound is that of a plane flying overhead. I live in a town with two airports. I hear their engines roar over my head and I anticipate the whistling sound of the missiles that come next with an F-16. This is a far cry from my childhood days of watching air shows and air races.

I wonder to myself, what do the people who lived through the full massacre feel? How are the people still in Gaza coping? How do the people who suffered more personal losses than I did function?

I don’t want to admit that I have trouble falling asleep or that I have lost much of my appetite. I don’t want to feel like the occupiers have won. I don’t want them to break my spirit, so I push through. I have borrowed the resilience of the Palestinians, including my own family’s, and dedicated my time to working on the tangible changes and differences I can make because I refuse to let the occupiers break me.

People ask me how I am and I find myself defaulting to two answers: “I can’t complain” and “I am alive”. Isn’t that funny? I’m alive.

The author, who has requested to remain anonymous, is a graduate student who believes that laughter and life are the ultimate forms of resistance.

Young Chicago Palestine activists need your help

The fourth annual National Students for Justice in Palestine (NSJP) conference will convene at Tufts University in Boston on October 24. This entirely student-run conference is set to bring together student representatives from well over one hundred colleges and universities who will work together to push forward the struggle for Palestinian rights through their grassroots activism and campaigning here in the United States.

The importance of this conference cannot be understated. It is the one time in the year when students from all parts of the country are able to meet, to share their successes and struggles face to face, to coordinate future activities in person, and to physically build this student movement in ways that can’t be done through Twitter or text. For three days, these young activists will be able to centralize their efforts, network with new faces and old faces, and develop a plan for the upcoming year that will put pressure on institutions and organizations that support Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights. [Read more…]

What Home Means to Us

Guest contribution by Rana Nazzal

I have been told since I was a child that death from sadness runs in my blood. It is the phenomenon of a grief so unbearable that its victim stops communicating, stops eating, loses control of their senses, and then one night, s/he simply stops breathing altogether. This plagued my father’s side of the family but he wouldn’t speak of it, so it was from my mother that I gathered the stories.

My father is a refugee. The rest of our family, my mother, my brothers, and I, reclaimed Palestinian citizenship from exile about eight years ago. We have traveled back and forth from the homeland while he has remained in Canada. He has not seen Palestine since he was refugeed as a young boy in 1948 –– but for a day in the sixties when he explored Nablus for a few hours before being promptly deported. [Read more…]

Photo of the Week: Eid clowns in Jerusalem

Photo credit: Unknown
Date taken: October 4, 2014
Location: Jerusalem, West Bank, Palestine

A man dressed as a clown performs for Palestinians at the Aqsa Compound in occupied Jerusalem on the morning of Eid Al-Adha. It is one of two festivals celebrated by Muslims each year. Eid Al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s sacrificial killing of a lamb. The practice is repeated by Muslims all over the world, with the meat from the lamb being distributed to family, friends, and the needy. [Read more…]

Photo of the Week: Carpooling sheep for Eid

Photo credit: Tanya Habjouqa
Date taken: August 7, 2013
Location: Qalandiya, West Bank, Palestine

A Palestinian man enjoys a cigarette in his car as he waits for traffic to clear at the Qalandiya checkpoint on the last evening of Ramadan. He is bringing a sheep home that will be consumed during the following day’s Eid Al-Fitr celebrations. [Read more…]

Photo of the Week: Strikes in Jordan

Photo credit: Khalil Mazraawi
Date taken: March 23, 2004
Location: Baqa’a Refugee Camp, Jordan

An elderly Palestinian man sits in front of his closed shop at the Baqa’a Refugee Camp’s marketplace during a strike to protest the assassination of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas. Yassin was killed the day before by an Israeli air strike while he was on his way to a local mosque in the Gaza Strip for morning prayers. Demonstrations were held throughout all of Jordan’s Palestinian refugee camps as well as in parts of the country’s capital city to pressure the Jordanian government into ending its 1994 peace treaty with Israel. [Read more…]

Gaza’s rectangular views

The rectangle is a very satisfying shape. The angles are precise. There is symmetry. Certain rectangles have even been scientifically shown to be visually pleasing. Calming, if you will.

But in the Gaza Strip, where Israel’s latest invasion took with it the lives of over 2,100 Palestinians and left behind scenes of devastation marked by total destruction, rectangles are open wounds. They provide raw panoramas of all that Gaza must rebuild. Or, if seen from the other side, they show what fifty days of bombardment can do to a person’s emotional and physical well-being.

Here are just some of Gaza’s most rectangular views.

A landscape of destruction is seen from the bathroom of a Palestinian apartment in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, August 18, 2014. Beit Hanoun was one of the hardest hit areas during Israel’s 50-day assault on Gaza. Photo credit: Thomas Coex

A Palestinian worker looks out of the damaged remains of Al-Awdah food factory which was shelled and then torched by the Israeli army, August 14, 2014. Just as the Israeli military had done during its ground incursion into the Gaza Strip in 2008-09, soldiers frequently targeted or set fire to buildings that were crucial for the sustenance of the territory’s population. Aside from civilian homes and warehouses, Israel also targeted a number of sewage treatment facilities as well as Gaza’s only power plant, leaving the territory’s 1.8 million people entirely reliant on power from electrical generators for at least the next year. Photo credit: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians attend a sermon at a United Nations-run school in Gaza City on Monday, July 28, 2014. It is the morning of Eid Al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that caps the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Normally, they would be praying at their local mosques. But because Israel had destroyed nearly two dozen mosques by this point in the invasion, the worshippers felt safer in the school. Photo credit: Lefteris Pitarakis [Read more…]

Photo of the Week: The streets clear in Palestine’s Sunset City

Photo credit: Dan Kitwood
Date taken: August 14, 2014
Location: Shuja’iyya, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine

Palestinians who had chosen not to flee from their Shuja’iyya neighborhood despite frequent Israeli shelling in the immediate vicinity begin to head home as the sun sets. [Read more…]


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