My mom is the matriarch of our family. She is the family's central bank and the great mother and a grandmother you would want for your own kids. While Israel was waging its war on the civilians in Gaza, my mother Fatema was busy keeping her 30 grandchildren entertained. They have been losing power often -- more often than they are used to -- due to constant shelling and interference by the Israeli army.
"Tonight, I will wear an extra pair of pants, to be ready. In case anything happens to us at night, I will be decent as I am being transported to a local hospital or morgue. I want to look good even if I have left this earth." As I felt a chill up my spine, she went on to tell me about our next door neighbor Essam; the 19-year old was bombed on his motorcycle near our Beit Lahia home. While the Israeli officials are too busy "sending Gaza to the Middle Ages," my own family and so many others are trying to stay alive and sane.
She told me that my cousin Rabah also suffered some injuries from the same attack. Rabah is the kind of Palestinian entrepreneur that Wall Street would love. He came from humble origins and grew up to own one of the largest textile businesses in Gaza. At one point he was even a main business partner with Israel jeans producers. My mom has always liked Rabah because she says he has a good head on his shoulders. She told me that at the crowded hospital he was given a band-aid and told to go home and return once the military assault is over for surgery.
My mother mentioned the other day that the Israeli attacks have brought her closer to her favorite grandson, though she would never admit it. She is very protective of him and every time my family home shakes, she races for Omar and holds him tight. She is not obsessive, but she was the images of recent dead Gaza infants. Little Omar is her new life and she will do everything to keep him safe.
She just called me a few hours ago to let me know that they no longer live at home and that the entire family has moved to my brother's small apartment 15 minutes away. When I saw her number on my caller ID, my heart began racing, expecting the worst. Then I started to calm when I reminded myself I have not read any more names that I know. "I worried that you would call us at home, and get no answer, so I did not want you to worry for us. There are many Israeli shellings in our area, so we evacuated and took the kids." She added that it seem the Israeli military wants to bomb the Abu El Mezza home, right next door to ours. Abu El Mezza is a large family that already lost their 19-year old son Essam on the first day of the attacks.
In most cases, Israelis do attempt to target specific homes, but nobody can predict the damage of those airplane bombs. Take for example, the home of the Abu Alfool family in Beit Lahia. It was first targeted with a warning shot and an hour later the real bombs were dropped. As a result, at least seven homes saw major damage from those bombs. Not only is this collective punishment, but it's also inhuman. Fifteen bystanders walking the streets were taken the hospitals with mild to serious injuries. The home where my family has taken shelter is three blocks away and as a result of the bombs dropped, the indoor glass shattered all over the property. Luckily none of our family members have been hurt, which is something I am incredibly grateful for.
Now my family is crammed in a small apartment trying to convince themselves that they will be safer when they know this to be untrue. During the Israel's Cast Lead Operation in 2008-09 they also moved toward the city center when my cousin Hope was shot in the kitchen as she made mint tea. My mother says that even though it's very cold outside, they have to keep all the windows open because the constant shelling and rocket noises shatter the glass. "This way the windows won't be shattered and do us harm."
People are scared for their lives because certain death is incredibly close. My little sister-in-law Raghad, who is in third grade, has taken up poetry as a mechanisms of coping with the madness and fury the Israeli army has unleashed on Gaza. She read us her latest poem about her hopes for her favorite holiday coming back, for the sake of the children, she said.
Meanwhile, pro-Israel activists in the U.S. have been mocking Palestinian deaths -- even the cold-blooded murder of babies in their cribs. These desensitized feelings are troubling even to observers in Israel. Only people who have never seen a real war can be this naive about true human suffering as a result of these conflicts. Many of these bigoted commentators are confusing popular war games with full blown wars; these are real people, not avatars. For the sake of my family in Gaza and all families in the region, I hope this madness ends soon.