Regional Programs > Israel & Palestine > Next Story

 Questions from Gaza
 Lama Hourani, Palestine
 December 4, 2006

“Mummy, why did you go to Beit Hanoun? Don’t you know that half of the people were killed there?” I replied, “No, half of the people did not die there”. “Do you mean that all the people die there? Don’t you know that you could’ve been killed when you went there?”

This was my conversation with Luai when he knew that I went to Beit Hanoun.

I don’t know why but since the last invasion of Beit Hanoun I have been deeply depressed or, one might say, even lost. I don’t know why it took so long to make me feel like this, why my despair was postponed. It should have happened long ago.

I have not wanted to write but I have been witnessing so many events that I think I should write about.

The invasion of Beit Hanoun was as horrible and savage as the Israeli invasions usually are, but this time it was bigger, longer and with many more victims, including women and children. Going to Beit Hanoun was so difficult, meeting the families who lost their beloved ones while holding them in their arms. A mother described for me how the bomb separated her child from her hand when she was trying to escape the bombing. Her son was pushed to the wall and when she reached him his belly was open and she tried to put everything back in its place. He died and then she had to go to others, his cousins, uncles, grandmother, everyone who was lying, injured or dead, in the small alley. His 11 year old cousin died while he was looking for his glasses. He fell while he was running, lost his glasses and a bomb killed him.

His other cousin was awakened in the early morning by the sound of the bombs hitting their house. While he was trying to call somebody with his mobile for help he was hit by a bomb, amputating the hand which was holding the mobile. He had his mobile with him and while he was trying to call an ambulance for help he was hit by a bomb and his hand was amputated and never reached his ear. The question beats in my head, ”For how long?”

A few days later we learned that Maha, a colleague in the office who lives in Beit Lahia, was being held hostage in her own house, with her husband, four children and her mother in law. The Israeli army occupied her house in the middle of the night and nobody could contact them. For several days we were in great worry about them until the army left and we saw Maha and heard the entire story.

Again, we asked ourselves the same question, “For how long?”

Every day we wake up to hear the number of people killed and the number injured. We constantly hear the shelling, bombing, shooting, the F16s, the apaches and the surveillance planes. This goes on day and night. It is annoying, it is affecting my nerves. I cannot stand it any more.

Again and again the same question, “For how long?”

Then, suddenly, a grandmother commits a suicide bomb attack against the soldiers. I read the comments in the internet and feel so sorry for her. She must have been so desperate and have suffered so much before she took such a decision but it is still very alarming to see how violent our society has become. The culture of killing, blood and violence is leading us to accept that a grandmother who, under normal circumstances, would be telling stories to her grandchildren, not only classic fairy tales, but also the story of Palestine, has preferred to kill herself in an attempt to kill soldiers who are the age of her grandsons.

Another question comes “Where are we heading? What is happening to us? Who is to blame?”

Yes, these are big questions that need to be answered. Many of us think that they have the answer. It is the natural development from the cycle of violence we are living in. Of course, the paramount violence is that of the Israeli occupation, resulting in the Islamic fundamentalism which is now in control of our society; these factors are to be blamed for the trend in our community. Is it really that easy to analyze and to know the answer? Another question hammers in my head.

Then, a wedding of a dear friend who had to make it simple and limit the guests to her family and her closest friends, which is unusual in our community, because two relatives of the groom were killed and the third is in the Intensive Care Unit. The wedding took place the same day that seven people were killed. Still the bride was beaming, we enjoyed ourselves, we danced and sang. We needed to be reminded that we are still alive and life goes on, no matter what .

Another question: Am I really happy? Isn’t something broken inside?

The last straw. Close friends are leaving for good. The dearest friends who, like we did, chose to live in Gaza, who gave a lot to Gaza and took a lot, too, friends whose home was one of the oases in Gaza where we could meet all types of people, artists, writers, journalists, doctors, engineers, NGO professionals, Palestinians and foreigners from all over the world. Their home was a place where I could feel at home and be myself, I could dance, play, be happy and also be sad and cry. Maria and Rasheed chose to come to Gaza over all of the places that they were able to live in and now they are obliged and forced to leave. The questions: Is Gaza pushing us away? Is Gaza not able to have people like us any more? Will I be obliged to leave, too?

Do I have answers for all these questions? No, and that’s why I feel lost, disoriented. I don’t know what to do, desperate and depressed. Maybe one of the things that cheers me up sometimes and gives me hope is hearing about the solidarity activities that take place in different places in the world.

Lama Hourani is coordinator of the Palestinian Working Women’s Society for Development.