For all of us, 2014 had been a normal summer here in Gaza with power cuts for eight hours at a time, sometimes more, and weather so unbearably hot from the sky-high humidity, you could feel the beads of sweat pooling on your skin. We— my two children, husband and I— found ourselves forced to think of new ways to cool the temperatures down. Given the fact that I was pregnant with our third child at time, this was no easy feat.
The night of June 7th, 2014 was no different, an ordinary summer’s eve. Next to the bathroom door I stood, listening to my husband as he gracefully shaved his face while talking about all the simple details of his day. All I could think about was the upcoming surprise birthday party I wanted to throw for him. As I was staring at the yellowish wall of the bathroom, silently imagining what the decorations might be like if they were a hue similar to the walls, a thundering explosion was heard. As a citizen of Gaza City, such sounds are incessantly frequent to the point that they’ve become a part of daily life. The explosion didn’t drag me out of the chaotic mess of my internal thoughts, but my husband’s voice did… “Heba, Heba, there’s something wrong, it’s not an ordinary sound,” his voice snapping me out of my folly daydreams. He then uttered, “let me check the news hopefully its nothing bad.” Those words took me back five years, back to the horrific days we once lived. “No, it can’t something bad, maybe just another sound like those we hear now and then,” I said. But it wasn’t, it was an alarm for the start of a new and incredibly long, nerve-wracking journey.
For 51 days straight my world was flooded with darkness, fear, blood, explosions, and a constant hovering sound. For 51 days straight, I would recall these moments as I wrote letters to friends and family outside of Gaza about what had happened and how I felt. My one, true desire to write stemmed from my eternal belief that words have a stronger impact than all other forms of communication.
As I was lying on my bed one night after the electricity was routinely cut off, all of a sudden the quite, dark night turned bright as day. The dark sky ripened to yellow and I thought for a second that it must be a nightmare. Getting up quickly, I ran to my children to keep them away from the windows. They had taken this yellow glow to be firecrackers, but in fact they were burning lamps; the kind that are first thrown into the sky to reveal a target and then fall to the ground, incinerating everything in their surroundings. I forced my children to sleep, and perhaps myself to calm down too, by singing lullabies to drown away the bad dream that had become our reality. I couldn’t bring myself to move, so I lay awake next to them, watching their eyes flutter through dreamland till dawn struck the next day.
Yet, it wasn’t until I heard about the mass amount of victims from the Shujaia neighborhood that I felt my world start to collapse in. Some I knew, while others were around the same age as my oldest son. It broke me, and upon seeing the destruction with my own eyes, I knew my heart just couldn’t bear it anymore. I wanted to do something, I knew I had to do something.
So the next thing I knew, I was contacting a friend and, together, we decided to write about what was really going on here in the Strip. I began reaching out to some of the activists whom I had volunteered with just a year before; and per their help, I was put in touch with numerous journalists who were willing to help me share my stories as well as spread the facts about the real situation here in Gaza without the far-fetched, exaggerations running rampant in the media. One in particular even made a blog from all the letters I had written during those 51 days. Finally, my voice was being heard.
I continued to write during this time, though by the time my pen touched the paper, my hands were shaking and I was barely able to speak.
As I go back through those days, I’ve come to realize that my mind does not hold any clear chart of my pregnancy. I had written down daily notes during my previous two, but I didn’t manage to do that with my third. I have no recollection of what it was like or what it felt to be pregnant during those 51 days. I have no caring memory of when exactly was the first time I felt my baby move. I cannot tell you how much weight I gained, nor whether or not I took my vitamins on time. All of that tiredness that a pregnant woman endures is absent from my mind. I was preoccupied with the current events of Summer 2014, to say the least.
Though, at the end of the day, each of my three children are happy and healthy. And, above all, they don’t recall anything from those horrible days. It’s true, I have survived another war for the third time, but I have also lost faith in humanity. I have lost my ability to be optimistic about the bright future that awaits for us, and I have become insecure about almost everything.
No one deserves to live in such horror or pain, no one should feel the anguish that comes from loss. Everyone deserves to love, to be loved, and to live in peace without constant war or hate. I don’t wish to relive this horrific experience, nor do I wish for anyone in the world to live it.
written On March, 2017