Shijaiyeh Neighborhood District

Family running away in Gaza

“Good morning, viewers from all over the nation! I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

“Before I start today’s show, I would like to take some time to go over the score and probe into how the havoc wreaked last night has taken its toll on us, in order to allow what makes us feel like going to pieces as we collect the dismembered corpses of our loved ones to henceforth rest in the past.

“First, we will dig a mass grave, a grave that we won’t be able to dig big enough to hold them all. We’ll bury them, pray, and chant. But our loved ones won’t stay buried for long. Instead, they’ll want to stick around and will stalk us, baying for blood.

“Coming to work this morning, out of respect for the deceased, I had to toe walk in order to avoid treading on a patch of pavement where the body of a child might have been scooped up a moment before. I lowered my head and tried to avoid meeting the carnage with my eyes. Those were Mariam’s fingers on top of that gray pile of broken bricks; that is Warad’s puppet, now riddled with bullets and unable to recover the wool meant to constitute its intestines.

“As I was striding toward the office, minding the blood puddles here and there, I found Nahla’s bracelets, which I remembered hearing rattle at night, when the wind picked up while everyone lay asleep. Further down the street, I sighted Jalila’s composition books and pencil case. Another family pic torn to shreds. I also spotted Rama’s golden lamp, which she had bought to celebrate Ramadan. I picked it up. The scent of the everyday family life that had gotten trapped in the rubble of the houses still lingered. The houses themselves had been razed to the ground.

“I faltered and stumbled. My legs wouldn’t carry me any longer. When I finally found my feet again, I decided to sprint back home. However, I kept tripping over wreckages. I then stumbled across Nizar Street in the Shijaiyeh neighborhood district. People were leaving the neighborhood in droves. The scene called the Nakba to mind. Cameras had chased after all flesh walking barefoot back then. In stark contrast, today, questions were left pending in the air regardless of their weight. Where were these people going?

“From behind me, I heard someone shout with the voice of wisdom gained from hindsight, ‘Return to your houses, for there is no such thing as a safe place in Gaza. Schools have been targeted, hospitals have been bombed, even mosques have been destroyed. Pious people, martyrs, return to your houses now and fight tomorrow, for you have an appointment with your Lord, who awaits you in a spring garden. Heaven lies in wait for you!’

“The person behind me dropped his voice and silence reigned. All one could hear was the drumming of flip-flops. Everyone was bolting up and down the streets for there was only half an hour left before the truce expired.

“I sat down next to the debris of a house and covered my head with my hands to keep it from exploding. With my pilgrimage through devastation, I had worked up a raging thirst. It was the same as the thirst that kicks in during Ramadan when everyone is gathered around the table where the last meal of the day is about to be served before the coming dawn.

“Back then, our shadows had scrambled over the walls. We had only one candle lighting up the house. Rama was delivering a shadow play with her hands. She would bend her small fingers, get closer to the candle, and say in a sharp voice, ‘See this? It’s a butterfly. See how it flies. Jalila, she is going to perch on your head.’ We would fall about laughing out of sheer amusement.

“Once, my mother had asked her, ‘Are you going to fast tomorrow?’

“Rama had replied, ‘Since, come rain or shine, we are going to fear that we won’t have anything left to eat the day after tomorrow, what is there to deter us from fasting in order to go to paradise?’

“A bomb being dropped over our house answered that.

“I haven’t slept or eaten for days. Bombs continue to blast outside. I always hear one last explosion before I nod off, and it echoes in my dreams, where I’m always on my way back home. After waking up on this particular morning, I’m miles away as I stare at the glass of water I had intended to drink before leaving the house.

“‘Another explosion and everything will be blown to pieces,’ said Reem Iyad before rescuing the beautiful little girl who had to be taken by ambulance to the district hospital. Nobody knew what had happened to her family. She had been at the neighbor’s and had thus averted the tragedy that befell her loved ones. Days later, the enemy feigned retreat by stating on TV that their intentions were to make their peace with us.”


Written by Meriem Belguidoum.

Choose your own adventure

We have to bury our past, but we have

a) neither the physical nor mental space to do so.

b) no future to look to.