Gaza through the eyes of someone far from home

Guest contribution by Deena Kishawi

As the days of summer pass, I have tried hard to ignore the news. Not because I don’t want to know the goings-on in the world but because I know that if I see or hear something that strikes a nerve, my heart will shatter just as forcefully.

Since Israel’s aggressive operation on the people of the Gaza Strip began on July 8, I’ve shielded my eyes from the images of bleeding children, emotional mothers, and demolished houses. I’m afraid that I might see something I recognize from my visits to Gaza or someone I met — perhaps a relative or a friend. I’m afraid that my memories of Gaza will be tarnished with destruction and not the gleaming sun-lit beauty I remember from my time there exactly one year ago.

Today, I look back at my journeys to Gaza and desperately wish that I had stayed so that I could be there to help or provide some kind of support to the victims of the invasion — all 1.8 million of them. But not everyone gets to stay.

It is hard to stomach the news, but it is hard to stay away from it as well. When I finally gave in and searched for news on the latest in Gaza, I came across a photograph taken by journalist Ayman Mohyeldin that shows a the raw emotion and heartbreak of a mother after learning that her son had been killed with his cousins on the beach. The Israeli Navy fired two shells one after the other at the boys who had earlier been chasing each other on the wet sand. Four died.

The mother’s strained eyes are a window to her heart. But even then, I couldn’t even fathom the pain she must have felt. Her son, one of the four young cousins of the Bakr family,  aged 9-11, killed.

I scrolled past the image, not sure if I could take it any longer. The next photograph was similarly jarring, showing the aftermath of an Israeli air strike in the Sheikh Ridwan neighborhood of Gaza City. The place stands out vividly to me. It is always mentioned when I recount my many stories from Gaza. It is always imaged when I trace back my steps through the territory’s smoggy roads. It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood, one in which I would have liked to live, maybe. To see the scattered clothes amid the rubble and the metal rods of a home that once used to stand upright shook me inside.

Imagine what they were doing moments before their entire house was demolished. What if they were going about daily household chores and had just seconds to leave their lives behind to protect themselves?

Last year while I was in Gaza, my family members told me that in moments like these, where attacks are imminent, they attend to their daily household activities fully dressed. Those who wear the hijab keep it on. Shoes are worn inside the house. In the winter, jackets are zippered up. If they are in danger and have to flee, they would be prepared to leave right away. The flight of the Palestinian. My heart is heavy just thinking about how they live in constant fear of what might happen next. They stopped caring about what to eat for iftar, the breaking of the Ramadan fast, and turned their attention to the doors, the windows, and the walls. Doors make for good escape routes. Stay clear of shattering windows. Walls can collapse at any moment.

These images and the many more headlines and photographs that followed them constantly replay in my head. I live in a major city, and when the occasional firework cracks the still night air, I jump almost like the way I jumped in Gaza during an air strike. I live on a main street near a hospital and the wailing sirens remind me of the chaotic rush to Al-Shifa Hospital after Israel is content with the number of missiles it fired at Gaza overnight. These noises make us feel uncomfortable; they can distract us from our daily lives and sometimes serve as an annoyance. But to others, these noises define their day to day life, except that it’s infinitely more visceral than a mere pop in the sky or a flash of red and blue. For the people of Gaza, resilience is the most effective coping mechanism. They have made living life in these strangulating circumstances seem like an easy feat when it is anything but.

Deena Kishawi

Deena Kishawi is an undergraduate student at DePaul University who aspires to practice medicine in the Gaza Strip.

There are 44 comments

  1. amiermrashed

    Great article. Hopefully this will all end soon to at least give the Palestinians a break. I’m a med student myself and I just wrote an article about what’s going in Gaza. If you’re interested you can find it on my blog mycircleofwillis.wordpress.com (:

  2. wakingofthebear

    It is heart breaking to think that there are groups of people who hate each other with such intensity. Of course, this hatred has been going on for centuries, and it seems that no matter who tries to intervene, the people just can’t stop hating. This is not limited to Israel and the Palestinians, it even includes people within the United States. Hatred is the result of fear, which is the result of ignorance. Where will it end? Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    1. ontogram

      This has not been going on for centuries! This is one of the most common misunderstandings of the conflict. The antagonism between Jews and Arabs started because of ZIONISM, the ideology that the whole of Palestine belongs to the Jewish people (even though they were absent for a mere 2000 years!). ZIONISM requires the theft of the land and the displacement of the native people, exactly what has happened in the recent past and continues today. There is no basis for Jewish/Arab “hatred” at all, not historically. The conflict is barely 80-90 years old. Israel wants Palestinians to give up their claims and accept the misery they plan for them in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel (supported by the Jewish people worldwide) pursues Zionism by imprisoning, torturing, and killing Palestinians as much as possible. The current fight is just another excuse to kill Palestinians because Palestinians want recognition of their claim to the homes they were chased from, the torment meted out over decades by the Zionists, etc.

  3. ninerahma

    I just jealous to you… at least you had some moment to be with them, to feel their pain and some action to help them.. May God bless you and Palestine people.. I couldn’t do anything…

  4. findmyarrow

    I read everything you worte. I feel so bad for the gaza people. I am from Israel. I know what it’s like to live in a war. In Israel it’s not better. I finshed high school and this was about to be my best summer ever.But I almost never live the house couse rokets from gaza keep falling all the time. I know soldiers who went to gaza to help the gaza women and kids and got attaced by the hammas. I know Israelis who die because of the hammas in gaza. It’s a war. And i ask you from my heart that you will rmember that a war is a bad thing for everyone. And this war is so bad for gaza and for israeli people.

    1. thenotsohappylebanese

      Its a war that your gouvernement has made against children and women. Its the perfect right for hammas to defend themselves. I’m lebanese and I know exactly how Israel throw wars just to invade others, The irony is the israeli attack only kill civilians but in reverse only israeli soldiers are killed and almost no israeli civilian is dead. Not to mention those in prison, because they were fighting tanks with wood and rocks. This massacre will witness the end of Israeli existence, u people ar worse than nazis, and u will fail just like u failed in 2006 in Lebanon! Every kid that your country killed in a brutal way just because he was playing football, or was on its way to school, he is looking from above next to God.. If Arabs are too afraid are have sold their conscience to money, well There’s the lord from above watching u next to the victims of this massacre. And as the holy qora’an says : “he gives time but he never ignores actions”.

      1. findmyarrow

        I wish you know what you say. I wish you know how wrong you are. Israel didnt start the opretion, hammas did. The Israeli army deefence both the israeli people and the gaza people. If you had a little knowledge about what heppend with the nazhis you would have never said those things. This oppertion will help to free the plastinien people in gaza from the hammas.

      2. thenotsohappylebanese

        And what u wrote would be the most ever non sense I’ve ever read
        Please I am lebanese, I know exactly what’s going on. Trying to hide ur country’s massacre woth some non sense lies.

      3. findmyarrow

        I tried to explain but you really are not willing to listen. I am going to serve the army and i know what is going on. For your own knowledge check for what is really heppening. Who is bad and who try to help. There is bombs falling here will i write now. I am proud of my army. And i truly love my country.

    2. virtuallyventing

      I am from Palestine and I know what’s going on. I know that Israelis think it’s normal to dominate and occupy people in the 21st century. A military Zionist entity that lives on brainwashing their people based on fear and paranoia making the conflict an extension of the holocaust. NO SIR ITS NOT. The problem with us is not the Jewish people but the 60+ brutal occupation. The root of the problem is not Hamas and their rockets, the root of the problem is ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Blaming the resistance for firing rockets is like blaming a woman for punching her rapist.

  5. Nida S.

    I am so glad that you brought this out on a massive platform such as wordpress. I wondered every day why no one was speaking forth. And fortunately after being Freshly Pressed, a wide span of readers will understand the Israeli cruelty. May God put an end to this brutality. Because the so-called superpowers surely aren’t doing anything.

  6. Ana. K

    I pray for it to stop, but I also pray for change, for the world to stand up and denounce this prolonged torture. These last two weeks I’ve been wondering if we truly live in the 21st century for such things to occur.

  7. Rambling Rose

    Yesterday … yesterday’s news was horrid. The scenes of the little children from the UN camp – shell shocked, wracked with pain as doctors tried to remove shrapnel from their young bodies without anaesthesia … there were so many to be treated. And others … little children … lying in pools of their own blood. Parents and family in sheer anguish. It tore our hearts a million miles away. Can the world stand watching …………………….

  8. musthafacpdr

    I am not an Arab. But, we live in Middle East. Every single person I meet here, hate what Israel is doing in Gaza.
    Only psychopaths and concerned politicians enjoy the situation.
    We can only disturbed and empathise for those victims.
    As usual, whoever commits these crimes will get away with their power. I wish Arabs were stronger politically.

  9. ravi1101

    An article with no mention of religion but only fear of war.. coz rockets sees no religion..coz bullets don’t follow any rules.. War is blindfolded and humanity is killed..

  10. monthofsundays94

    Yes, the suffering of innocent Gazans is a travesty. But, most of the deaths that have occurred have been because Hamas does not adequately protect its own people from the rockets that Hamas is forcing Israel to launch. Hamas uses its own citizens as human shields, and hides weapons in schools, hospitals, and homes. But the deaths of Gazans are beneficial to Hamas, because the more Gazans die, the more Hamas is seen as the victim instead of the aggressor. Israel is not to blame here, the terrorist government of Gaza is.

  11. Carl Åhslund

    Excellent article, felt very intimate. Hopefully more people around the world will wake up and take a stand against this oppression and brutilization of innocents that has been going on for so many decades.Thanks for sharing!

  12. valephar

    Such a poignant read. I look forward to the day this genocide comes to an end and those guilty of war crimes against Palestine come to justice.

  13. joanjohn26

    You cannot supress a People by Land Sea and Air and not expect The Direst of Consequences. Time To Wake Up Israel You are rapidly losing any respect You have in the Civilised World…….John Foley

    1. ontogram

      Don’t say “heart breaking”. This is the latest code word used by the US administration in discussing Gaza and not doing anything. It used to be that, for example, settlements were “not helpful.” Now, the situation in Gaza is “heart breaking”. They must send memos to their spokespeople.

  14. J Roycroft

    Why am I not surprised you haven’t the guts to post my previous comment or any comments from any reader that opposes the cowards of Hamas. That explains why you have less than 40 comments on a FP post.

    1. Sami Kishawi

      Because your initial comment was racist and because it called for death, we were kind enough to drop it into the trash. Next racist and death-wishing comment gets you formally banned from posting.

      1. J Roycroft

        Racist? Words have meaning and you display your ignorance by using that word which you do not know thr definition of. You toss around that word because its the how ignorant people like you use it against anyone that disagrees with you politically. In the future, perhaps it would do you some good to actually know the true definition of a word before you use it. Now go look in the mirror and see what an anti-Semite looks like.

  15. Siddharth Muzumdar

    It is indeed sad what is happening in the world today. You’ve captured the essence on Gaza really well. I hope things turn out to be more peaceful and for the better soon.

  16. joanjohn26

    The U.N. must make Israel compensate every person in Gaza who lost a Loved one and full Compensation for their barbarian destruction of Property and personal items belonging to the Citizens of Gaza which is now the Largest Concentration Camp in The World……So much for Democracy ?!!!….John Foley

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