I can still remember the last time I got excited over New Years. There was still an amount of spark within me that hadn’t been killed yet. I’d scold my husband for his lack of festive spirit.
Back then, there were no grand fireworks festivals, so I’d sit at home waiting for the clock to strike twelve and hear erratic fireworks here and there. The weather was too cold to plan for great outings. Some restaurants had small parties, but the overall unpredictable atmosphere of Gaza wasn’t encouraging for a person to go out. I felt safer being home, or so I thought.
Over the years, my sense of time changed dramatically. A year whizzed by too quickly for my mind to process. The number of events that took place over my country and my besieged city were too intense. One Israeli attack after the other. People killed in dozens and hundreds. The first major attack I witnessed in my adulthood coincided with the new year in 2009. It was a bloodbath that lasted for eighteen days and claimed the lives of 1400 Palestinians including 300 children and 115 women.
The intensity of the siege held a tight grip on our lives. I became numb to many forms of happy occasions. Weddings took place because life had to go on. Kids went to school because life had to go on. People went to work, universities opened, conferences were held—all which gave life an amount of normalcy. My people have unfaltering steadfastness, I know this for a fact. They suffer, but go on. Their loved ones get killed, but they rise from beneath the rubble. They realize the only choice worth living for is: not yielding in the face of the oppressor, the occupier and killer.
The siege took hold of our lives in dystopian ways which I find hard to revisit at the moment because I’ve talked about this immensely before. My struggle of living under siege is like my people, but there’s an aspect that I can feel too poignantly: claustrophobia.
The Gaza Strip population has already hit 2.1million. The whole of Gaza city is characterized by high-rises forming complex compounds of suffocating structures. While an apartment can provide a decent life for a family, it fails to give a psychological stability due to the feeling of entrapment and the blocking of light and natural views. Every day, more houses are knocked down to make way for new buildings. An anarchy of cement structures reigns over the city.
The Mediterranean Sea gives us a momentary relief and escape. It’s something that the occupier can’t steal from us. True they conquer the sea, shoot at fishers and restrict their movement. True their warplanes launch missiles at kids playing on the beach like they did in 2014 when they killed the Bakir boys… but at least we have a horizon to contemplate.
Although I may sound like a child whining over and over, I have to say that it’s not my intention to keep repeating things. I consciously keep talking about what my people’s lives under siege. I keep repeating words like killing, Israeli attacks, undrinkable water, polluted air, restrictions of movement, denial of treatment, bombardment of homes. I reiterate because this is the daily reality we live under.
It’s a daily struggle to decide to continue living. It’s a daily struggle to keep believing that the morning light will overtake the darkness. It’s a momentum feat to raise our kids under lacking of a decent life. In a place where they only read about the rest of Palestine in books. They see news of more day-to-day murders of fellow Palestinians in Jenin, Nablus, and Jerusalem. A picture forms in their heads that the other parts of our country aren’t safer than the one we’re living in. They become distraught and confused and trapped into this claustrophobic bubble and anticipate the time when they can make the decision to leave.