Glimpses of Life and Death

Guest contribution by Amira Sakalla

In Gaza, we count the hours. We keep up with the days. Every eight hours. Off in the evening today. We do our best, as much as we can, at creating a system out of chaos. This is an affirmation of our humanity. Yes, even monitoring power cuts — this is resistance. We do our best to follow this pattern so we can plan our day. So that when the power’s off at home, we might be away.

What beautiful moments in Gaza we make for ourselves, which even in the United States, honestly, are hard to replace. We do not have much, but we enjoy these things. Trips to the market. Tea on the roof. Evenings at a cafe. Fridays on the beach. I deeply cherish these moments with my family, which taught me much of what I now know about life.

We have no control though, not in any sense. Despite our efforts, disorder will commence. I am not talking about shelling or drones, not this time. There are many different ways to commit a crime. Because following each of these beautiful times we have together, the moment to return must always come. This starts out, innocently, as a drive back in the car. Singing, laughing, and watching the Gaza scenery speed by. The air is filled with joy and our hearts are light — until we pull up to the house. The power is off tonight. Despite our calculations, extra hours of darkness await us.

I do not know how to summarize the Palestinian struggle other than calling it a strategically organized chaos. We have found a pattern in the way that glimpses of life and glimpses of death come, and yet the uncertainty within this progression is enough to drive one mad. The power is off and the laughter is gone. Where joy filled the air moments earlier, the heavy presence of death lingers. This darkness brings to our minds again the fact that we, slowly, are being killed.

I have wanted to articulate this experience to the world for several years now but the right words never came. I wish there was a better way I could explain.

Here I am, though, scribbling words on this page, and what finally brought me here is my brother, 16 years was his age. His name is Mohammed Abu Khdeir. He is the son of all of Palestine. I remember when he was kidnapped and burned alive, one year ago. I remember how he was captured on his way to go pray. I recall all of this, but I must admit that I had no clue that this one year had passed already.

I spent the evening catching up with one of my dear friends. We laughed, joked, reminisced about the past, and shared our hopes for the future. Our hearts were light. The air filled with joy.

Only after I came home tonight did I open social media to find pictures of our brother Muhammad on my newsfeed, just as they appeared one year ago. I was not prepared for this. It even further amplifies the memory of our shock one year ago, how unexpected this had all been. The darkness has returned again.

How many times have I gone through quite an ordinary day, only to come home and find that yet another has been killed. Yet another kidnapped. Yet another UN report. Yet another humanitarian crisis. Yet another “operation.” Yet another settlement. Yet another negotiation. Yet another failure.

Our lives are strategically organized glimpses of death and glimpses of life. Our lives consist of constantly forgetting about all of the brokenness in our hearts and yet being unable to escape all of the reminders.

All of this comes back as we sit in the car. We sit silently, reluctant to return inside.

My cousin turns toward me.

“We have no power.”

Amira Sakalla

Amira Sakalla studies Supply Chain Management and is founder of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Tennessee. Her family has lived in Gaza City since 1948.

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