Messages from Gaza Now October 2023 – Third day of the war plus messages from Salma

Note: these Messages From Gaza Now were edited and corrected by Ruth Lass and Jonathan Chadwick after Hossam in Gaza, Salma in Beirut and Shouq in Gaza sent them to us. They were read in two events at P21 Gallery London on Tuesday 24th October 2023 and on Tuesday 7th November 2023.  They were read by the following artists: Ruth Lass, Laura Percival, Laila Alj, Iante Roach, Harriet Walter, Giovanni Bienne, Nadia Nadif, Hilary Dawson, Waleed Elgadi, Maysoon Pachachi, Joe Rizzo Naudi, Lara Salwalha, Zainab Hasan, Charles Furness, Zia Ahmed, Enyi Okoronkwo, Saeed Taji Farouky, Sofia Aser.

Hossam Madhoun in Gaza

Third day of the war 

2.22 am 

Trying to sleep

Don’t know how, bombing all the time, sounds of bombing mixed, sounds of bombing far away, sounds even further away, sounds not far away but not nearby, sounds nearby but no impact on the building, sounds very nearby and the building is shaking, the windows want to move out, but something, I don’t know what, is holding them in place. Maybe with the next bombing they won’t hold in place and blow broken all at once, but so far, not yet.

After three days with the same horrifying atmosphere, no sleep, my eyes are falling closed. Yet my head is shaking me to keep awake, never knowing what will happen, never knowing if the next bombing will get us, or force us to evacuate like thousands who have already evacuated their homes. 

We’ve prepared an ‘escape’ bag, but the scenario of evacuating is a nightmare. With my disabled 83 year old mother in a wheel chair, my terrified dog, but of course with my strong wife.

But we haven’t prepared yet where to evacuate to. Where to go? Choices are zero. Any movement toward any other family members in other cities is already a suicide attempt. Nearby, friends are already hosting many of their family members. Maybe staying inside the car would be an option? We really don’t know. 

Yes, I started with trying to get to sleep. Ok, again trying to sleep at 2.22 am. 

I think I succeeded. At 4:37am my wife Abeer was calling my name, I heard my name as if it came from a far distance, again Abeer is calling my name. ‘What?’ I said, still keeping my eyes closed.  

‘There is knocking at the door’. I open my eyes, I see nothing, complete darkness. No electricity, no stand-by generator, no slight light from the street. Dark. 

I said : ‘There is no knocking’. She said: ‘Listen’. I listened. There was soft knocking at the door. Took my mobile, opened the torch option and moved toward the front door. The soft knocking continued. 

  • ‘Who is it?’ 
  • ‘Saleh’s mother’ (our neighbour from the fifth floor) 
  • (Without opening the door) ‘What’s up Om Saleh?’
  • ‘It is Salma your daughter in Lebanon, she was trying to reach you for hours, and when she could not, she called my niece in Jordan who called me, asking to reach you, she is so panicked as you do not reply’. 
  • ‘Thanks, Om Saleh’

Trying to call Salma, it is impossible, no internet, no mobiles since 11 pm last night when the Israeli air force bombed the telecommunication company.

Salma, our sole daughter, who is away from us for the first time in her life, in Lebanon since a month ago, for her Masters degree. I get very frustrated, I must find a way to contact her, to cool her, I know she will collapse if she doesn’t hear from us, she has already thought about leaving her Masters and coming back to be with us. 

Bombing continues while this is happening, the dog sticks to me out of fear, my mother wakes up asking to go to the rest room. And I am trying to think what to do? 

Trying to call Salma by mobile, all calls failed. 

I went down to the basement of the building where at least six families from the upper storeys of the building took refuge. 

I asked if there is any alternative way for internet or communication, they say, ‘no we all lost this privilege’. 

The building guard said: ‘If you go out of the building you might get a signal.’ 

Going out?? in this dark?  In the street? While there’s bombing every single second and no one knows where it’s happening and what the targets are? 

It took me zero time though. I moved out away from the building in the direction the guard told me to go, trying to call, failed, moving further and trying again, failed, moving and trying again, after at least 17 times, the mobile rang at the other end. Salma, yes, finally. She said nothing. She fell into deep crying, I understood, I could imagine what she went through during these hours without reaching us. I let her cry, I wanted very much to cry, I could not, I should not. 

‘What’s up Salma, we are ok, we are alive, you know communication is interrupted’. 

 I really don’t know what I said until she calmed down. 

Then she went to her University, and I went back, to think through with Abeer: if we had to evacuate, where to go????

It is 9:45 am. I’ve finished writing this post. 


Messages from Salma Madhoun in Beirut to Jonathan Chadwick in London

My family hasn’t had internet since yesterday, so we decided they would send me a text message every two hours to reassure me that they’re fine.  

Until I get the message, I’ll be vomiting up my organs out of terror. May Allah protect them and keep them safe.

Then later:

I feel guilty that I’m safe!

Then later:

I am thinking that the pigeons flying by my window are missiles that are about to murder me.

Then she wrote: 

There is no media coverage, more than seven journalists have been killed, there is no electricity, internet, helplines, or water, and all aid is forbidden from entering the Gaza Strip. Today, Gaza is more than just an open-air prison; it is also a locked area of genocide.

This aggression is not excluding anyone, not even children. I wonder how they are threatening such an aggressive occupation presence. Innocent people, civilians, women, and children are being killed in the worst ways possible. They’re seeing their families, and their beloved ones dying in front of them.

Healthcare workers see their family members’ dead bodies among the victims that they are attempting to help. Numerous hospitals in the Gaza Strip have completely stopped working due to bombing the actual hospitals, and even the ambulances have been targeted. This hostile occupation does not want the injured to be treated; their explicit purpose is to vanish the city and the civilians living in it. The Civil Defense and the Red Cross are unable to reach the massacres and are unable to help the amount of people who are exposed to this aggression. People are crying and asking for help under the rubble without any assistance.

Where is the international community that is seeking to implement the International Humanitarian Law? Why are the boot-lickers still scared, covering their eyes and keeping their mouths shut? What should move countries and the general will other than a wholesale slaughter??

I left Gaza a month ago to study for a Masters in Lebanon. This decision was difficult to make because anything can happen to anyone at any time in Gaza, but my parents backed me and I travelled to pursue a better education at an outstanding college.

And now I’m 300 kilometres away from my parents, but it feels like millions since returning to Gaza is nearly impossible. The distance heightens my sense of powerlessness, as I yearn to be with my family.