Messages from Gaza Now – November 2023 – Number 4 with zeros and without 1

Hossam Madhoun in Gaza

Number 4, with zeros and without. 

For 2 days I wrote nothing. I don’t know why. Maybe I do! I don’t feel like doing it, it doesn’t help, it doesn’t change anything, waste of time and thinking, exposing myself, my feelings, my pain, my emotions, my privacy, my tears. Why? What for? 

Whatever we do, nothing changes; whatever we don’t do, nothing changes.  The killing machine continues chasing us wherever we go, no place to go, no way to escape, just sit and wait for your turn to be slaughtered. Every day we learn about someone we know who was killed in bed, killed walking in the street, killed taking a shower in his bathroom, killed while cooking for her family, killed while playing at home or in the street. 

But I know that I am not writing to change something. I am not writing to change anything. I am writing for myself. I am writing because I am still alive. I am writing because it makes me feel alive. I will write, until I close my eyes for the last time, or until I won’t be able to write for some other reason. I will keep writing.  

Yesterday, the Israelis bombed a neighbourhood inside Jabalia Camp, a whole block. Block 6. Jabalia Camp, 1 kilometre square, with 115,000 inhabitants, the most densely populated spot on earth. 400 people killed and injured within a blink of an eye, vanished, disappeared, do not exist anymore. 400 people in one shot. Hundreds of injured, no hospital has the capacity to treat them.  More than 40 houses destroyed completely and many people were killed while walking in the streets. It was 4am when they were struck with 6 explosive missiles by the airforce.

400 people of all ages, foetuses in the bellies of their mothers, lactating babies, little children, boys and girls, teenagers and youths, men and women, elderly people and people with disabilities. A whole community. Disappeared. Just like that, because someone in Israel believed that he could do it, so he did it. 

 I was listening to the news on the radio, live, people shouting, screaming, the reporter is speaking loudly to be heard above the noise and chaos around him, one of the reporters  who lives there, screaming that his family members are among the 400.

My family around me were talking all at the same time about it. I was the only one who said nothing. What can be said in such a situation? What words would express what I feel?

I left the family downstairs and went up to my room and my mattress. I laid down, closed my eyes, tears on my cheeks, and suddenly I am there, in that neighbourhood, just a few minutes before the strike….

I am walking in the narrow streets of the camp, lots of children playing, men, women passing by, going out or coming back. I walk and look at these poor houses, houses that were built 71 years ago by UNRWA for the Palestinian refugees, who were obliged to leave their houses in their homeland, in what is now Israel. Low roofs, no space between the homes, the street is  maximum 4 meters wide, some other streets just big enough for cars to pass through slowly with some effort. Windows are at the eye level of an average man. Easy to hear the chat of people inside their homes, on both sides of the walls laundry ropes are hung with children’s clothes. The streets are sandy, sewage leakage every few meters as there is no sewage infrastructure in the camp. People have dug soak-away wells for the sewage, with time they fill and leak into the streets.  

Huge noise coming from the nearby market. 

I stopped. I opened the first door. I entered. I was invisible, people inside the home did not see me, did not feel that I was there. It was a front yard. A woman of around 37 years old besides a small gas cooker with a pot on it, she was cooking, it is cabbage in the pot. Nice smile, 3 children around her playing, a 7 year old girl playing with a doll and 2 older boys running after each other and the mother calling for them to be quiet.  On the other side of the front yard, another woman is washing clothes in three buckets, one with soap and the other two with clean water. Another woman is taking the cleaned clothes and hanging them on a laundry rope hung between a window on the right hand side, all the way across the front yard and then attached to the outside of the home. 

In the corner of the front yard, a small room. The door is opened, it is an outside toilet, a man of 42 years old comes out asking: ‘How long until we eat?’ ’10 minutes’ the woman answers.  ‘Did you get the medicine for your father?’  she asks. ‘I will get it after lunch, it is not 4 yet’. He moves inside the home. I followed him. 

Inside the home, a living room and two small rooms on both sides. In the living room, a line of mattresses right up against each other, an old man lying down, 4 young men in a corner playing cards. The man went out and closed the door. He continued into one of the rooms, inside the room, a cradle with a baby sleeping, the man entered quietly so the baby continued sleeping, he changed his shirt, he put on some deodorant. He moved to the second room, 4 men were asleep, he woke them up, ‘Food will be served in 10 minutes. Get up’. 2 stirred lazily, the other two acted as if they did not hear, the man called again: ‘Get up all of you. It’s 3:55 pm. You can’t keep sleeping’. With a lazy voice, one of the 4 answered: ‘But we only just fell asleep. The bombing and explosions don’t let us sleep. All night, all day, bombing’. He left. The old man in the living room asked him: ‘Did you bring my asthma medicine? I should take it after lunch, not later than 4 o’clock’.  ‘Not yet’ he answered. ‘I’ll go to the pharmacy after lunch, I promise I won’t be later than 4 o’clock, I promise’. 

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock…. 4 pm. Booooom!

Let’s return to 3:45 pm 

I left and went into the next home, … 

To be continued…