Out of Reach – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

3 May 2024

Out of reach 

Do you know how is it to live in a home which is not yours? In Gaza, I was lucky to be hosted in homes and not obliged to be in a tent. Living in a tent is another story.

I left our home on October 13th when the Israeli army began bombing Gaza City heavily and randomly, and when they warned all Gazans to leave to the south or to face death. 

We went to Sawarha / Nuseirat in the middle area of the Gaza Strip to my parents-in-law’s home. We were warmly welcomed, never made to feel strangers or intruders. It was the same at Abu Khaled Abelal’s home in Rafah a month and a half later. 

Yet, it was not home. Do you understand me? At home I can move from room to room, to the kitchen, to the toilet without thinking that I need to have permission or to consider that there might be someone not properly dressed. At home I can sing loudly, and no one will see that I am odd. At home I don’t need to wash my underwear in the sink and hang it to dry in an unseen place. At home I choose what TV channel I want to watch. At home I can kiss my wife and give her a hug any moment, anywhere without feeling watched. At home I can open the radio and listen to music without being judged even in a time of war. At home I can choose what to eat and what not to eat. At home I can lie down wherever I want, and at home I can go to my kitchen and make coffee or tea at any time. 

What can’t one do at home?! I can do all of that and much more without thinking if it is right or wrong or if it is welcomed by others or judged. 

Home, in other words, is freedom. 

Yes, I was welcomed in Nuseirat and Rafah, but I was not free. I was not at home!

Stress in the back of my neck, strange feelings in my stomach; not pain, but something is wrong. My hands are checking my body, my eyes itch, and a hot tear drops out on my cheeks and burns.  My legs are light, my feet itch, looking for a place to sit or lay down. My heartbeat speeds, my head is almost exploding with pain. This is what I feel physically when I realize that I can’t go home, that my home is out of reach. 

I found the words to explain how it feels physically, but no words can explain how it feels in me.