Messages from Gaza: a father and daughter speak about their experiences

Message from Hossam Madhoun, co-director of Theatre for Everybody, the company in Gaza that Az Theatre has collaborated with since 2009:

Third day of the war 

2.22 am 

Trying to sleep

Don’t know how, bombing all the time, the sound of the bombings mixed, sounds of bombing far away, sounds almost farther away, sounds, not far but not nearby, sound 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 next bombing it won’t hold in place and blow broken, all at once.  So far not yet.

After three days with the same horrifying atmosphere, no sleeping, my eyes are falling closed. Yet my head is shaking me to keep a wake, never knowing what would happen, never knowing if the next bombing will hit us, or force us to evacuate like thousands whom already evacuated their homes. 

We prepare a ‘run away’ bag, but the scenario of evacuating is already a nightmare. With my disabled 83 year old mother in a wheel chair, my terrified dog, and of course with my strong wife.

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

Yes, I started with trying to sleep, ok again, trying to sleep at 2.22 am, I think I succeeded to sleep. At 4:37 am my wife, Abeer, was calling my name, I heard my name as it comes from 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, not the slightest light from the street. Dark. 

I said: there is no knocking. She said: listen. I listened. There is a soft knocking at the door. I took my mobile, opened the light option and moved toward the front door. The soft knocking continues 

Who is it? 

Saleh’s mother (our neighbour from the fifth flour) 

(Without opening the door) : Whats up, Om Saleh?

It is Salma your daughter in Lebanon, she has been trying to reach you for hours, and when she could not, she called my niece who is living in Jordan who called me asking to reach you. She is so panicked because 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 only daughter who is away from us for the first time in her life, in Lebanon since a month ago, for her Master’s degree. I got 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 of leaving her Master’s to come back to be with us. 

Bombing continues while this is happening, the dog sticks to me in 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 fail. 

I went down to the basement of the building where at least 6 families from the higher storeys of the building took refuge. 

I asked if there is any other alternative way of internet or communication, they said, no we all lost this privilege. 

The building guard said: if you go out of the building you might get signal for the mobile, 

Going out?? in this dark?  In the street? With bombing every single second and no one knowing where it will happen and what are the targets? 

It took me zero time though, I moved out away from the building to the direction the guard asked 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 side, Salma, yes, finally. She said nothing, she fall in 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 was interrupted. 

I really don’t know what I said until she calmed down. She went to her University, and I went back to think things through with Abeer, if we had to evacuate, where to go????. 

It is 9:45 am I am finishing writing this post.


Message from Salma, Hossam’s daughter.  She is in Beirut having arrived a month ago.  She is studying for a Master’s in International Law. Because for a while she was cut off from her parents – as you can read in Hossam’s account – she sent these messages through social media:

My family hasn’t had internet since yesterday, so we decided to 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 7 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.
Today is the fifth day for the brutal aggression on Gaza and there’s more than 1000 martyrs and around 5000 injuries. More than a 1000 buildings were destroyed and damaged meaning that 10x are now homeless. And more than 664,000 civilians have been displaced to schools. The schools that more than 664,000 people displaced to are also not safe in which a lot of them was bombed on the heads of its residents.
This aggression is not excluding anyone, not even children where 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 among the Gaza Strip fully stopped working due to bombing the hospitals itself, 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 this amount of people who are exposed to this aggression, people be 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 be moving countries and general well other than a wholesale slaughter??

I left Gaza a month ago to study Masters in Lebanon. This decision was difficult to make because anything may 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.
My heart is heavy during these terrible times since I am away from Gaza for the first time while there is an attack on it, all my thoughts are with my family in Gaza, I can’t do anything other than following up with the news and pray for my family and my beloved ones.
The reality of being far away while facing the brutality of hostility is extremely difficult to bear. The distance amplifies my worry and helplessness, as I long to be there with them, ensuring their safety and well-being. The concern for their safety weighs on me every moment.