Dispatch from Gaza: You can never be emotionally ready

I have witnessed two wars and even more escalations, and yet I have never been ready for the trauma. 

By Abeer Ayoub

GAZA – It’s 2 a.m. and the electricity is off for the night. I can’t sleep because of the extremely hot weather and my two sisters are lying next to me checking the news on their cellphones. My sisters and I were discussing whether there will be another Israeli offensive again after the recent attacks between the two sides. We tried to dismiss the idea but everything taking place around us indicates it’s possible. We decided to sleep for an hour until the Sohoor meal (the meal Muslims have before dawn during Ramadan to prepare for a long day of fasting). We didn’t even make it through the hour; the many explosions were enough to wake us up.

“Switch on the radio,” I yelled at my sister as she tuned it to a local station.

It’s official now. Israel has launched a new military operation against Gaza called “Protective Edge.”

The atmosphere of these nights is not new to me. I have witnessed two wars and even more escalations, and yet I have never been ready for the trauma. That this escalation coincides with the holy month of Ramadan and a very complicated electricity crisis is very bad. Fasting for more than 14 hours a day, hearing bombings every single hour is the last thing the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza want.

I woke up and began the regular routine for every escalation: set the radio to channels that report on every single bombing, then go on Twitter and Facebook to see what your friends are up to and call them when you know there was a bombardment close to their house. That was when I was supposed to have my Sohoor meal. I missed it this time.

Among the very difficult challenges we face every time these offensives happen is having to deal with the children we have at home. This is the first offensive that my two nieces who live in the same building have witnessed; they both are less than three years old, and there is nothing more we can do for them when they cry out of fear aside from hugging them and telling them it’s only fireworks.

Living with a very violent offensive is an experience that my family has learned to adjust to. Making sure that the alternative power supply is working properly, making sure we have enough flour for the coming days and forbidding us children from going outside the house are just the basics. But it’s the mental consequences that we usually fail to deal with; we keep fighting for little if any reason just to release the enormous amount of stress we have inside.

Listening to the Israeli spokespersons explaining why they had to wage the offensive, I couldn’t find anything new; it’s the same aims every time: “destroying the Hamas infrastructure and stopping the rockets from Gaza toward Israel.” What usually happens, however, is that civilians on both sides are the ones to pay for the never-ending conflict.

If we want to go back to the beginning of the story, when the three settlers were killed in Hebron or where Muhammad Abu Khdeir was burned in Shuafat, things are clearer. Loudly and clearly, I always condemn violence that targets civilians, anywhere in the world, even when my friends attack me and call me “pro-Israeli.” And yet Israel’s constant settlement expansion and placement of thousands of illegal Israeli settlers in the Palestinian territories had to have led to such horrible consequences. Even when it comes to hitting Gaza while calling it “self defense,” I wonder how you can come and displace thousands and occupy their land, and then come and defend yourself against their rights!

I have to deal with Israeli attacks on Twitter every day when I post updates about what’s going on in Gaza. One of the comments that I always get is that Palestinian rockets are random and absurd, and my only comment here is: if you think that the Palestinian resistance rockets are absurd, then demand that the U.S. to provide Palestine with F16s!

Abeer Ayyoub, 26, studied English literature at the Islamic University of Gaza. She is a journalist who covered the last war on Gaza and has recently covered various internal issues. She has written pieces online in English for Al Jazeera, Haaretz and other publications. Follow her on Twitter: @AbeerAyyoub.

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