Open your eyes – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

10 June 2024

Open Your Eyes, Open Your Heart

Open your eyes, open your heart, and question your humanity. Yes, we all need, from time to time, to question our humanitarian principles.

The 120 Israelis kidnapped, captured, and imprisoned by Hamas must go back home, must be with their families. Yes, they must! I really want to see them among their families and their beloved ones as much as I want the same for the more than 13,000 Palestinians kidnapped, captured, and imprisoned by the Israelis. I want to see these thousands at home with their families, with their beloved ones. 

Before 7th October, Israel had kidnapped and imprisoned more than 4000 Palestinians. Since 7th October, Israel has kidnapped more than 9000 Palestinians. Thousands are exposed to severe torture; many have died from torture. Yet, no one questions Israel about them, as they are not considered human beings! Open your eyes, open your heart.

In Gaza, street dogs are dying of hunger. They used to live by the leftovers from people; now people have no leftovers, people are starving. Some dogs survive on the Palestinian bodies left in the streets, killed by the Israelis and left in the streets for days and weeks. Some dogs find them a meal. This is not fiction, this is happening in Gaza! Open your eyes, open your heart.

A man who lost a leg stumbles along, leaning on his daughter’s shoulder, and says to her, “I am exhausting you my dear.” 

A mother carries the dead bodies of her 2 children, weeping, “Why have you left me? I can’t bury you. I can’t, it was you who should bury me when you grew up!”

Open your eyes, open your heart. 

A young man wearing a jacket in the hot weather, trying to hide his amputated arm.

A man from Gaza sent a message to those who are not in Gaza, a message of envy:

  • I envy you for not being forced to lose weight!
  • I envy you for not sleeping and waking up with drones, bombing and shelling sounds 24 hours for 8 months and more!
  • I envy you for not hearing the screams of help from people under the rubble, dying and you are unable to help them!
  • I envy you that your children do not live day and night in fear and panic!
  • I envy you that you can afford a piece of chocolate for your children when they ask for it!
  • I envy you for having washing machines and not being obliged to clean your clothes with a quantity of 1, or maximum 2, litres of water!
  • I envy you for not being obliged to eat canned food and drink unsafe water for months and months until you become emaciated!
  • I envy you that you do not have to build a fire every day for 9 months with bits of wood, papers, plastic and whatever flammables you can find to heat some food for your family, burning your hands and your chest with toxic smoke!
  • I envy you that you that you don’t have this feeling of being a burden on others when some relatives or friends take you into their home or their tent!
  • I envy you for not worrying about the privacy of your wife and daughter in a non-protective tent or a public latrine!
  • I envy you but I don’t want you to be in my place, not for a single day, not for a single minute.

Open your eyes, open your heart, and question your humanity! 

There is no shame, we all need to question our humanitarian principles from time to time. 

Just open up…

46 minutes – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

9 June 2024

46 Minutes 

How to avoid watching the news? There is no way. It is Saturday, and we are at home, the TV is on Al Jazeera. They are showing a huge bombing, targeting Deir Al Balah, nearby the Al Aqsa hospital. The reporter is at the scene trying to explain what is happening, while around him people are running everywhere! Cars, ambulances, donkey carts arrive carrying dozens of dead and injured people, children, men, women, all ages! Blood fills the screen. Fear fills the screen, and the reporter doesn’t know what is happening. “Why are people suddenly running everywhere?” he asks. Someone approaches him, saying: “The Israeli army are calling to evacuate the hospital, they want to bomb a nearby tent!” The man said this and kept running. Messages come from Basel and other friends on WhatsApp. They are burning the middle area, the bombing is everywhere, Deir Al Balah, Maghazi, Bureij and Nuseirat!

The news becomes clearer; a huge military bombardment at Nuseirat, in the market, and the nearby Al Awda hospital, with dozens of dead. No one is able to reach them to evacuate them, no means of transportation to move them. Hell is in Nuseirat.

Abeer is watching the TV and also watching groups of activists on FB, who share videos and news. Suddenly she screams! “My brother! Oh God, my brother! This is him. I know my brother!” She showed me a fast video of some killed and injured people, among them the dead body of a young man with a beard. She kept screaming, “My brother! Why? Why? We have nothing to do with this dirty war. Why my brother?” The man on the ground really looked like her brother, but I said, “No, it is not him.” I kept arguing with Abeer that it was not him; “Everybody has a beard in Gaza, everyone in Gaza looks alike, they all have beards. They don’t have time to shave. They don’t have water to wash. They barely find water to drink. They all look alike!”

“No, I know my brother. I know his jeans!”

“For God’s sake, look at the people. They are all in miserable shape with beards and old jeans!”

I will call! I began calling Abeer’s brother, sisters, father, the wife of Abeer’s brother. 46 minutes trying to reach someone, without success! And meantime, the news continues. 40 killed in an operation in Nuseirat. I keep trying to call, and the number of dead is increasing, 82 killed. Salma was sitting there unable to move or to talk. She was crying with silent tears. Her body shakes, and a stream of tears rolls down her cheeks. Abeer keeps screaming and calling God, with all the names possible, to protect her family. 46 minutes and the number goes up: 130 killed, more than 150 injured, complete city blocks destroyed.

“My brother is in the market,” Abeer screamed, “They target the market, Oh God, why? Why?”

Whatever I say, whatever I do, cannot help Abeer to calm down.

46 minutes trying to call until finally, my brother-in-law answers! “Mohammed, how are you? How is the family, how is everybody?”

I bombarded him with questions, he was panting because he was running as we spoke. “We are ok, we are all alive. I brought my wife, and my daughters out, and moved them to a school!”

– “What about Abeer’s brother?”

– “He is ok.”

– “Are you sure!?”

– “Yes, I met him, he went home to check on his family.”

Abeer did not believe him. “Please don’t lie to me, please tell me what happened to my brother! Please!” Mohammed kept assuring her that he is ok

– “Can you reach him, please I need to hear his voice!”

– “I will do, give me some time.”

I said, Ok, I will call you in 30 minutes.

Abeer stopped screaming, but kept crying, crying from fear and anger, crying from panic and helplessness. 

Salma suddenly said, “I don’t feel my cheeks, I can’t feel my face!” I panicked. I did not know what to do! Salma was still crying silently, with tears. Abeer asked me to bring some ice and put it in a handkerchief for Salma to put on her face. I did that.

The toll increased to 210 dead and 400 injured. 

I called my brother-in-law. Finally, Abeer’s brother is there, she talked to him crying, thanking God and asking him to take care.

I could not stand what was happening anymore. I hugged my wife and hugged my daughter Salma and went to turn off the TV.

My brother and his family are also in Nuseirat, and I could not reach them, I don’t know if they are alive or….

I later learned that my brother and family are alive and uninjured.

Here and there – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

5 June 2024

Here and There, Between Cairo and Gaza

And here I am, sitting in a fancy cafeteria, in a fancy mall in Cairo, with a big delicious molten cake, a very good cup of coffee, and a full pack of cigarettes. Teasing my friend, Basel who is still in Gaza, with his last post on his FB page, which says: “I don’t remember when I smoked my last cigarette, I don’t know when I will smoke my next cigarette, but for sure I will not buy a one cigarette for 35 $US, simply because I can’t afford it!” 

“Here I am smoking cigarette after cigarette, one for me and one for you my friend. I can’t stop smoking. I consider one for you and one for me!” I said this to Basel, and he replied, “Death is around us at all times, yet I feel it is not my turn yet. I feel there is a long line before me. So, hopefully we will meet before it is my turn to die.”

My brother Sofian, who is still in Gaza City with his family, refused to leave. He is in real starvation with his wife and 5 children. Finally, I had indirect contact with him; a colleague of mine who is still in Gaza succeeded in reaching him. I asked my colleague to give him some money. My brother recorded a voice massage for me, which I received via my colleague’s WhatsApp. He said, “My beloved brother, we are still alive. My children and my wife send you their greetings and love, me too. I hope you are doing well with Abeer and Salma. Take care of yourself and your wife and daughter. Don’t worry for us. We love you. We are ok. Thank you for the money.”

My God, my brother, who is starving with his children, and who is under bombardment is ok!! And he is worried for me and wants me to take care of myself and my family!! 

Another friend sent me a photo of the road his tent is on. On one side there is a row of tents and on the other side a row of palm trees in a remote area in Deir Al Balah, in middle Gaza. He said, “This is the road to my tent. It is beautiful. There are no destroyed homes as there are in all other areas of the Gaza Strip.”

A journalist wrote on his FB page, “For whomever has lost a child: there is a dead body of a 6-year-old child at Al Aqsa hospital. He is wearing blue pajamas. Paramedics brought him to the hospital along with 60 other dead people.”   

Another friend said, “One of the most beautiful images is when you look out of your window in the early morning and see children with school uniforms and their school bags on their backs walking toward their schools. The girls with their hair braids and the boys racing to see who is faster. An image that gives you hope. Today, there is no window to look out from. You look out from the cave that is your cold tent, and what do you see? Boys and girls, not well-dressed, carrying jerry cans full of water or empty going to search for some water. Boys and girls of all ages, standing in a row at the last bakery operating in the town, hoping to get some bread after 2, 3 or even 5 hours of waiting. Or a line of people of all ages at the only toilet serving 5000 people, to take a leak or to do what nature asks them to do.” 

I am writing while it is very hot here in Cairo. Although there is an air conditioner, I don’t know why I don’t put it on! I am absolutely masochistic.

I am away from war. I am in Cairo, not in Gaza. I will keep writing. 

 

Missing Hope – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

2 June 2024

Missing Hope 

“No, we don’t believe in it, in fact we don’t want to believe in it. Holding no hope is easier than holding fake hope.” This is what a friend from Gaza told me about his reaction to the announcement of the possible ceasefire deal.

He continues, “Look what happened last time! When Hamas agreed on the deal, we all went out celebrating, dancing in the streets. And what happened? The Israelis invaded Rafah, forced a million people to be displaced again, and bombed everywhere. People were burned alive in their tents. It is better to have no hope, my friend. No hope, no thinking of tomorrow, just try to survive the now, the moment, and what will come will come. We are helpless, we are objects, in fact we are nothing!”

Another friend said to me, “My dear Hossam, don’t worry so much, we are in Gaza, and Gaza is the highway to heaven. This should not be a bad thing.”

My dearest friend, Basel, the artist, keeps saying: “They will not prevent us from living. Don’t get used to the image. Keep fighting! They will not de-humanise us! I must keep myself a sensitive and an awake human being. The war will not steal my humanity!”

Another friend said: “We don’t have the luxury of being defeated. There is no choice between slavery, occupation, and freedom. This is human instinct.”

My sister, my beloved sister, who is caring for her 82-year-old mother-in-law, and her kidney-failure patient husband, and 4 children, and my bedridden mother, told me that she has no more space in her heart for more pain. 

A colleague told me, “It is not easy to work with children here, when every day you realise that one or more of them are not there anymore, when you realise that the smiling child from yesterday is dead, and he will not smile any more.

Why is the world so quiet? Why is the world silent? We should keep quiet and silent when children sleep, not when children are killed! Every child is an entire universe for someone.”

 

When is it enough – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

28 May 2024

When is it enough?

It is amazing that the last massacre in Rafah finally moved some politicians; even Netanyahu was calling it a catastrophic mistake. Killing 35 people in tents in western Rafah, setting them on fire, decapitating children. Where were they during the last 8 months? Did they not see 36,000 people killed in the same way and even worse? 

They did not see that among these fatalities 15,239 were children and 10,093, women. They did not see that 31 children have died of starvation. They did not see that 493 medical staff have been killed. They did not see the 80,200 injured; thousands of them lost legs, hands, eyes, ears! They did not see that 71 % of these injured are children and women, they did not see that 17,000 children lost one or both of their parents. They did not see the 11,000 patients in need of health treatment which no longer exists in Gaza. They did not see the 10,000 cancer patients facing death without any kind of treatment. They did not see that 1,095,000 people have been infected with water-borne diseases due to unsafe water and lack of hygiene. They did not see… 

They did not see the hundreds killed and buried in hidden collective graves in hospitals. They did not see the 200,000 homes destroyed. They did not see the more than 130 journalists targeted and killed. They did not see 172 humanitarian workers targeted and killed. They did not see the 20,000 people infected with hepatitis. They did not see the 60,000 pregnant women facing danger due to lack of health services. They did not see the 5000 people arrested and facing the most horrifying torture.

They did not see the 2 million people exposed to forced displacement many times in extremely inhuman conditions. They did not see the 421 schools and universities completely or severely damaged. They did not see the 8004 mosques completely or severely damaged. They did not see the 87,000 homes completely destroyed. They did not see the 297,000 housing units severely damaged. They did not see the 3 churches destroyed. 

They did not see the 35 hospitals the Israeli army destroyed and took out of service. They did not see the 55 primary health care units the Israeli army destroyed and took out of service. They did not see the 160 health institutions targeted. They did not see 130 ambulances targeted and destroyed. They did not see 206 architecturally historic sites destroyed. 

They did not see the 77,000 tons of explosions which have and continue to hit Gaza, the 8 months of fear and horror, 8 months of death and blood, 8 months of famine and starvation, 8 months of pain and crying. 8 months! 8 months! 230 days, 5520 hours, 331,200 minutes, 19,872,000 seconds, and believe me every second is counted by the people of Gaza!

When is it enough? 

 

Gaza in and out – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – June 2024

Gaza in and out. 

Almost two weeks since the last time I wrote about Gaza. But what to write and how to write while I am out of Gaza? It would be a kind of hypocrisy. 

While I was in Gaza, I was not following the news; first there was no TV, and second, I was part of the news! Today, I lay on a sofa watching TV, something that did not happen for 6 months in Gaza. I try to avoid the news, but how can I? 

I did not change that much, but too much has changed me. I forgot how to live. My smile is missing, and I seek feelings of joy but can’t find them. And how can I find them when my mother is somewhere in a tent in Deir Al Balah, and I know what it is to be in a tent installed on the sandy ground away from any means of life, surrounded by thousands of tents, with no toilets, no water, only heat, insects, reptiles and other visitors?

 How can I live while my brothers and sisters with their families are stuck in Gaza City and have no access to food but have access to all types of fear, panic and agony?

 A friend of mine wrote from Gaza: ‘Time in Gaza passes very slowly, like an annoying nightmare, with hopes of waking up so this nightmare will end, hearing shouts of appeals, but no one is answering. Women complain with tears, children cry from fear, and men swallow their helplessness with sadness and despair. Night in Gaza is like a dark cave full of horror and torture, expecting the worst with no horizon of any hope.’ 

I am afraid to call my family in Gaza. I am afraid of the news, but mostly I feel embarrassed. I feel that I deceived them by leaving Gaza and leaving them alone to face the daily terror of bombardment and displacement, and the daily suffering from the search for food and water. And I feel embarrassed to call anyone from outside as well, and when friends from outside call, I avoid answering them. I feel it would be another betrayal of my people in Gaza. What logic! It is nonsense, but this is what I feel here in Cairo!

Do I have the right to write about the people in Gaza anymore? I feel I don’t have this right anymore and this is killing me.

 

Divine intervention – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

13 May 2024

Divine intervention

There are no earthly solutions for the Palestinian people in Gaza, only divine intervention might help. 

Like many thousands of families, that of my friend, Basel Al Marquosi had to leave Rafah to go back to the middle area. He built a tent of plastic sheets and some wood in Rafah last January when he had to leave Khan Younis. It was not movable; it would have had to be cut into pieces and ruined. So, Basel left it and took his poor belongings on a donkey cart to Deir El Balah, arriving at sunset to nowhere. he did not have an address or a place to go to. He and his family spent 3 days and nights in the street near garbage containers. He did not choose to be there; he had no other place. On the third day, he managed to find some plastic sheets and to build, again, a poor tent. 

I look for words to explain how they feel, what they went through, how humiliated they must be. Why should anyone pay such price? And for what?  

Conversation with Basel and friends on WhatsApp:

  • We are tired of everything! This is not weakness, it is from being let down by everyone, by all the world.
  • Where are you now Basel? 
  • At Deir El Balah, the ones who have no tents sleep in the street. 
  • Where in Deir El Balah? In the Al Bassa area?
  • No, near Al Aqsa hospital.
  • Don’t stay near hospitals! It is not safe, hospitals are targeted, go West.
  • There are no places there, it is completely full, also movement is almost impossible. Transportation would cost 3000 Shekels (850 $). Anyway, I am near, but not too close, to the hospital.
  • If you need anything just ask, I have friends there.
  • Thanks, Rami was with me step by step.
  • Do you have your daughter and her children with you?
  • No, she is with her husband, still in Rafah, planning to come tomorrow. Her husband Taha became responsible for all the family after his father passed away a few days ago.
  • What? Rafat died, he was young, he was not 60 yet!
  • Yes, he died. You know he was a fisherman, and the last thing he asked for was to eat fish, but he died before he could. 
  • May he rest in peace.
  • Well, he is resting now… There are hundreds of thousands who are living death. Believe me, this is so very painful!
  • May God help, keep up your strength my friend!
  • Don’t worry, I am good as long as I have friends like you. 
  • It is so horrible to be unable to help, while we are here outside in Europe and you are left alone there.
  • There is no space for more pain in our hearts 

Waiting for God to intervene…

pastedGraphic.png

pastedGraphic_1.png

What does Gaza feel – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May2024

11 May 2024

What does Gaza feel? What does Gaza not feel?

What the people of Gaza have not felt during the last 7 months: happiness, smiling, laughing, joy, fun, pleasure, delight, enjoyment, comfort, relaxation, sleepy, not worried, laid back, loose, gladness, rejoicing, delighted, cheerful, delectation, festive, secure, safe, unconcerned, full of energy, lazy, careless, hilarious, alive!

Can anyone imagine that 2.3 million people have not felt or experienced any of these feelings for more than 7 months and still do not!?

What the people of Gaza have been feeling during the last 7 months: torment, agony, aches, pain, suffering, soreness, tribulation, suffering, wrenching, misery, anguish, lesion, harm, torture, stricken, distress, trauma, hardship, injury, sadness, sorrow, grief, melancholy, wistful, unhappy, sorry, constriction, worried, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, letdown, anticlimax, crying, weeping, wailing, maudlin, weakness, impairment, disabled, failure, shortcoming, deficiency, anxious, feebleness, fragility, frailty, rustiness, atonality, littleness, despair, despondency, droop, dismay, heartless, giving up, giving up the ghost, bereavement, dispossession, careworn, concerned, spoiled, pillaged, robbed, looted, lack, deprivation, forfeit, damage, loss, wastage, absence, forfeiture, seepage, fear, trepidation, panic, scared, frightened, browbeaten, dread, dismay, terrorised, struck, punished, crushed, ruined, destroyed, broken, death.

Can anyone imagine that 2.3 million people are going through all these feelings, and only those feelings for seven continuous months and still do… 

A city on the run – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

9 April 2024

A city on the run 

Rafah

This city, a city that was barely able to host its 300,000 residents and is now hosting a million people, a city that no-one ever heard about, and now a city all world knows about; this poor city, surrounded by fences, observation towers and guns ready to shoot, lying with the coast of the Mediterranean to its west.

A poor city with sad streets, dark buildings, only the breeze of the sea makes it tolerable.  Accidentally, this city has a border crossing to the outside world. Yet this crossing is very limited, very expensive, unreachable for the majority of the residents of Rafah and all of Gaza.

This city is chased now by guns and tanks and airstrikes, by bombing and shelling and killing and the displacement of its people. Invaded by fully armed soldiers, but who are mainly full of hate. 

For three days the city got shaken up, turned upside down, one million people running everywhere, nowhere, looking for nonexistent safety. And suddenly half the city became a ghost city, receiving bombs silently, losing its buildings with grief, forcibly abandoned, and left alone. 

One million people again displaced, on the run again, for the third time, for the fourth time, for the fifth time, and while running they lose parts of themselves, they lose properties, they lose one or more of their beloved ones, they lose their resilience and their ability to continue, they lose their dignity and humanity, they become broken, weak, sad, despairing. 

During the last three days, I have received many appeals asking for tents, for mattresses, for food, for a place to stay or to take refuge, for assistance materiel, for reassurance, for words of encouragement, for hugs. And who am I? What can I offer? What do I have? What can I offer!? 

I am helpless… 

Left Gaza but Gaza did not leave me (2) – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

Left Gaza, but Gaza did not leave me (2) 

Children: 

  • A group of children standing on a line at a charity cooking point to get some free food, each one is carrying a cooking pan, a photographer arrived to take some photos, all children raised the pans to cover their faces. Dears, it is not you who should be ashamed, it the unjust world who should be ashamed 
  • Why I can’t see? I used to see, why did they bomb us, why did they take my eyesight? I want to see. 
  • A teenager girl carrying a big bag on her back, walking crying, her younger brother behind her pushing an older injured brother in a wheel chair on a devastated, damaged road. 
  • Asking a child from Gaza, what would you like to be when you grow up. He answers: I want to grow up. 
  • I want my leg back, why did they cut my leg off? How can I walk without my leg?
  • A child in the street nearby a shelter/school, 3 years old maximum, without trousers, without underwear, without shoes, crying: Mum! Mum! Where is Mum? 

I called my dear friend Basel who is still in Rafah, how are you, my friend? 

  • Yes. 

This is what he answered, yes, with sad voice, a broken voice. For some moments I did not know what to say. I surely do not expect him to say I am good, or I am ok, but he said the word ‘yes’ and nothing else. 

I tried to find something to talk about, anything, so I turned the talk to be about another friend, Rami, who is also in Rafah and who suddenly decided to cut off from everyone, not to answer anyone, to leave all online groups of friends.  It worked, Basel this great friend immediately started talking about Rami, and how he went to visit him and he spent a few hours with him. Rami was very depressed, (normal) as well as Basel, as well as 2.3 million people in Gaza including my mother, brothers, sisters, friends. 

Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving, but I know I can’t do much anyway if I was there. I was able to secure some food parcels for some friends and family members. I still do this remotely, but I know for them being around is very different. Also for me.