Over the last 10 days an estimated 227 people have lost their lives in Gaza while close to 2000 individuals have been seriously injured. Of the 227 deceased 30% are believed to be below the age of 17.
This is a simple and original short story that voices my personal belief that such brutality will only make matters worse. Tragically, the vicious cycle will continue.
A thick blanket of smoke covers the city. It hasn’t lifted for the past ten days. It just gets worse.
He was taught to run and hide every time a siren rings. They live in fear, afraid that the sky might breathe fire again or that the peace of the evening will be shattered and destroyed by the drones that rip through their homes and make rubble of their lives.
The fields that once surrounded his home are ravaged, the green olive trees are charred black and the soil is seeping with chemicals. There’s no place to go, nowhere to hide and more importantly nobody to run to.
But he was prepared for this. His parents had taught him well and his teachers had explained it to him. In Gaza you’re taught to survive, to endure, to bear. But there was no time to luxuriate in rumination now. He needed to get out of the bunker. He needed to find his way to the little shop; to his Hiyam; his sweetheart.
Somewhere in the distance he hears an explosion, the ground reverberates, there’s a shattering of glass. He sees men with red and white scarves trying to escort a group of women to the adjoining street without being seen. The women are hunched over. He knows the sign well; they have infants in the folds of their heavy cloaks.
He chooses his moment, crawls out from behind the rubble and dashes across the road. He’s careful to avoid stepping on the debris. Expertly he zigzags his way down the stretch of land. Glass pieces and severed limbs litter the thoroughfare but his moves are swift and agile. He has done this before. Too many times. He’s already sixteen.
There’s a group of men huddled together on his left. In their arms lies the body of a comrade. He’s covered in scarlet and is attempting to sip the water they offer him. But his breath will stop soon. This is the end. In Gaza you can learn to tell such things!
He runs along.
As he reaches the road he stops for a moment. He stands there bewildered. Did he take a wrong turn along the way? Perhaps he ran too far. And then it hits him, his stomach churns; he screams her name as he runs down the street that’s now been razed to rubble. There are no buildings there. No signs of life. No signs of her.
Someone grabs him by his arm, yells something at him in Arabic and drags him off into a makeshift shelter. His body trembles. His head is spinning. His eyes well up. She was all he had left. He wipes his tears with the back of his sleeve. Growing up in Gaza you’re taught to stay calm and to keep rage locked away inside you.
Growing up in Gaza you learn that your life can be destroyed. Your dreams will be destroyed. You lose the ones you love.
He vows revenge, steels his heart to hate the enemy who did this to him; the Israelis. He’s never met a single one of them but he hates them anyway.
Growing up in Gaza you learn to do that.