Life in Gaza - A Genocide in Real-Time
Trigger warning: this blog contains distressing content
In every one of Israel's wars of aggression, I've felt terrorised, increasingly anxious and extremely uncertain about anything. I've lived through too many wars but somehow survived. This time, however, I feel closer to death. This time, it truly feels that Israel's gloves are not just off but thrown in the bin and long forgotten. This feels like a genocide in real time.
Israel's bombing is constant. It invades and occupies every sense. Even when there is a brief pause, the sound still reverberates in my mind in anticipation of the next explosion. There is no escape from this terror.
I hear massive explosions all day and night, far and near. Sometimes, Israel warns people to leave - often, those places are also bombed. Is it a sick game that the commanders and politicians are playing with us? Most of the time, though, they just bomb the whole building over the heads of the owners and the people who sought refuge in it, claiming the lives of dozens in one hit. I don't know how my house is still standing. You are reading this because I am lucky. My house has been shaken so many times from the constant bombing. The doors swing open violently, and the windows have been pretty much blown out. I can lose my walls, but I fear losing my photos, thoughts, books, and memories.
My heart jumps, and sometimes I feel I don't know how to breathe as if I'm drowning under an invisible ocean of grief. I thought I was having a heart attack so many times. And if I did, where would I go? Israel has bombed the hospitals and clinics. Who has a defibrillator? Israel is murdering our dear medics.
Screams make up the soundtrack of our lives. Just recently, my neighbour's wife received the news of the martyrdom of her husband, Jamil. Jamil, the Arabic for beautiful, was a teacher in a public school and acknowledged by his community for his nobility, decency, and excellence in bringing up his children. He'd been shopping for his children in Jabalia Refugee Camp's crowded market. Israel hit a building there that killed Jamil and about 50 other people. The actual number of the dead remains unknown until now. There was no proper mourning. Jamil did not have the chance to say goodbye. Neither did his loved ones. There is no closure. We can't live our days as if they are always the last day. Can you imagine what that does to a child?
As this nightmare turned into weeks, then into months, my family were displaced into the South of Gaza through Salah Al-Din Street - the mockingly titled 'safe route'. I was worried sick for them and felt lonely and vulnerable. I hated to be detached from them as I remained in Gaza City with my family-in-law. My mind and heart were busy thinking and praying for their safe arrival. I felt a great relief when my family finally called and told me they had built a tent of their own, but they were shocked at the inhumane conditions of their new surroundings.
My birthday, plus the birthdays of two of my sisters, my father, my brother, and my niece, were marked during this onslaught. We could not celebrate. How could we, with so much death surrounding us? In the more 'normal' times, when we are blockaded but not bombed by the apartheid regime, we gather, exchange gifts and remind each other of how grateful we are to have each other and that we will stand by each other always and forever. This year, our birthdays went by in fear and melancholia.
Right now, everything is difficult. We constantly worry about water, bread, food, staying clean, charging our phones, gas, everything. Luckily, I had a neighbour who had solar energy. Hence, I could charge my phone and send out this wretched message to you.
Now, it is a new year, but our days have become the same, and nights have become stale and painfully long. Our life is frozen in a forced curfew and state of emergency. Too many places are shut. No schools, no universities, no jobs...nothing.
I long for work days where I can practise my passion as an English language teacher and interact with students who will shape our future. I miss the long stairs of my workplace that my colleagues and I used to complain about. When this madness ends, how long will it take for schools to be places where children can play and be joyful? I fear I'll never hear their laughter again.
*Since writing this piece, Aya has been displaced to Southern Gaza. Her father in law’s property has been badly damaged in Israel’s bombing campaigns but she doesn't know if her apartment sustained any damage. She presumes it was also damaged as it is in the same building.
Photo of Aya Al-Ghazzawi in occupied Gaza
Aya Al-Ghazzawi received her bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from al-Aqsa University in Gaza. She is an English language teacher in the Palestinian Ministry of Education. She is also a BDS activist, a writer for We Are Not Numbers and a number of websites, and a member of One Democratic State Campaign. Aya served as the 2021 Gaza mentee at Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.
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