Four Children On A Beach in Gaza

Ahed Bakr
Zakariyah Bakr
Mohammad Bakr
Ismail Bakr

Last year, these children were playing soccer on the sand near a beach in Gaza. Despite everything going around them, they went to the beach to play. That is, after all, what children do.
That would be the last time they do, as the beach was shelled by Israeli military forces, bringing these four children to their deaths.
The scariest thing one can think of to happen on a beach is some shark attack like in Jaws, not a bombing.
Today, I read a short piece on the Middle East Monitor, titled “Israel closes inquiry into the killing of children on Gaza beach.” Not once did they mention the children’s names.
And Israel may have closed the inquiry, but their family and friends will never stop asking. Their young friends will never stop asking what happened. Their mothers and fathers will never stop asking why it happened and if justice will ever be served.

Ahed Bakr
Zakaryiah Bakr
Mohammad Bakr
Ismail Bakr

Never stop asking about their names.


The Two’s: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.11

Ever since finals ended in June, I have been wanting to read a book that speaks to me. A book that has my heart beating a bit quicker and my mind racing with thoughts and different perspectives. I haven’t read a book like that since I read “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green in January. Then, I came across “Two Brothers” by Ben Elton. 

The novel ends quicker than it started. Taking place in Germany (1920s,1930s, and 1950s), the storyline follows the fictious lives of two brothers and what it was like to be a Jew before Nazi Germany, during and after. 

Although the story talked about a different time, a different world even, all I saw as I flipped through the pages is how easily the book could be about someone living in Palestine, and more specifically, Gaza, and even more so im many other places. 

The chants of “death to Jews” by the Nazis in the novel resonate the chants of “death to Arabs” by Zionists today. The violent scenes hit closer to home. The humiliation seems not far (and not even close) from what the Palestinians experience at the hands of the racist state of Israel. Every “Jew” in that novel could easily be replaced with “Palestinian”. 

I read a review on this book saying that it was believable, and to me, it is. I see those two brothers in a different time, though. I see them in Gaza being separated as they fled their homes. I see them holding on to each other as Israeli rockets fly over their homes. I see one of them crying as the other one smiles down on him from the sky. I see both losing the people they love because they were born the wrong people at the wrong time in this indescribable life. Two brothers. Two friends. Two cousins. Two sisters. Two lovers. For every two, two more begin to hurt, and for those two, two more begin to hurt. And it goes on, as the world remains silent. It goes on in Gaza. It goes on in Syria. It goes on in Iraq. It goes on, here and there. I hate to think of how the world is so silent about things that matter. I hate to think how the world is silent for the two’s of Gaza the way someone was silent for the two brothers in this novel that could easily have been put in the non-fiction section of things. 

Clashes: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.10

Ever since the Awadallah brothers were buried and the kids -being young ones and sometimes grown men – of the town started coming to the settlement nearby to yell a few slogans and throw a few rocks that go only as far as the doorstep of the third out of five houses leading up to the gate of the illegal settlement, a disturbing thought formed in the back of my head. 

Someone would one day get shot, and if he died, he would be named as the first martyr to die in front of the clashes of this settlement. 

That day came when Mohammad AlQutri, 19, was killed last Friday, August 8th. 

It was a regular Friday afternoon, and from my house, I could hear whistling and some shouting.  Like every weekend and every Ramadan night. I went out of the house before any clashes began.

I made a quick stop at the supermarket, and the news channel headline delivered the news that Mohammad AlQurti from al-‘Amari refugee camp was killed in front of the illegal Israeli settlement. I called my aunt who was in the neighborhood at the time, who was sobbing, and she confirmed the news. Everything’s calm now. 

The fact that he was from al-‘Amari refugee camp made me wonder if he was friends with my cousins and siblings who always mention someone from there. He was. 

Mohammad was shot – some say in the stomach, some say in the head – and he was bleeding but not yet dead. The IOF took him, not allowing any Palestinian paramedics to reach him. By the time any paramedic took a look at him, Mohammad had already become the first martyr to be killed in front of the settlement and one to die in anger for Gaza, they’d write on a poster of him. See this for more information of the torture and beating that went on:

The next day, after Mohammad’s janazza, youth came out and the clashes began. From my house, I couldn’t see the people but I saw the soldiers. They were around five in full uniform and weapons on their shoulders. They would point them at the resistors who held nothing but shirts to cover their faces from the teargas and stones in their hands.

Teargas canisters, sound bombs, sirens, and the smoke of flaming tires filled the neighborhood for a good five hours. They filled the neighborhood where the evening before Mohammad had been killed. 

Eventually, the empty canisters rolled down the streets. The ambulances had left. The smoke of flaming tires had died out. Even the burning grapes leaves in that one house where the soldiers were firing from went from green, to fire orange, to black. 

Everything is calm. 

But not so in Gaza. 35 days and going. Rockets, bullets, ambulances, packed hospitals, schools and morgues, and black skies are still there. The grapes leave probably went black a long time ago. 

The Counting Paused: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.9

The counting paused for 72 hours during the ceasefire. The counting paused. 

The news channels began posting the statistics of “what happened so far”: the number of people in Gaza killed (how many women, children, elderly, paramedics, doctors, nurses), the houses bombed, the people that have fled, the hospitals and schools bombed, the  facilities destroyed, the mosques and churches damaged, the of Israeli soldiers killed…all printed out on our television screens as full numbers, never to decrease but surely would increase. 

Other numbers were showing up: the costs of the “war” so far, the damage boycotting caused to Israel, the money needed to rebuild Gaza, the estimated needs of food and water in Gaza and more.

The one number that continued to increase was the number of people killed. People were being dug out of the rubble so the number shot up from 1883 to 1894 by the end of the ceasefire.  

It was as if the “bittersweet” taste of what the  “end of war” would look like was given to the people that followed up so closely with it. No more rockets, no more “fresh blood”, no more shots in the air…just a little moment for everything to seem “normal”…

Nothing is normal about any of this. The counting may have paused, and other numbers may have been brought up in those 72 hours, but the pain caused still hurts. Will it ever heal? As a character in the movie “Deadline” put it – and this is a rough quote – “Lord, we pray not for those that have past for they are with you, but for those who remain.” 

Scrolling Too Fast: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.8

Ever since the “war” on Gaza started, which was about a month ago, I have been on various social media sites scrolling through images and posts, reading, crying at times, feeling depressed most of the time, and scrolling some more. I share and unshare and share and unshare and share, thinking, it doesn’t feel right sharing pictures of a blown up bodies and getting “likes” for it. Where’s the sense of humanity in that? Of course, the “likes” aren’t neccessarily saying “Oh, wow. That’s pretty awesome,” but instead, they say, “I saw it. I’ll share it, too.” That’s why the same image or post will be shared close to 10 times every time. 

And it’s only a matter of time before one cracks. Before one starts to think, how the heck are these people surviving? Where are these kids’ parents? Where is the damned world in all this? Like I said. It is only a matter of time before one cracks. 

How I dread what I’m about to write: The scrolling through all this gets…”easier.” It becomes as if one is used to waking up in the morning and seeing these despicable images…as if one has become a zombie. It is as if it becomes “just another day” where everyone is counting the number of killed, injured, and the number of days the “war” has been dragging on. Days. Days. Days. But there’s nothing easy about this. Not for the people of Gaza. Not for the people of Gaza.  

Then, today, one wakes up and cannot scroll through, say Facebook, and one runs to the router thinking, What annoying internet company! Do I have to call them again? After a few hours of checking in and out to see if the “server connects”, one reads a post somewhere else from a friend saying that the site has been blocked by none other than the people leading the “war.” 

Is the word getting out so fast? Are people scrolling and sharing too quickly? Did you get caught up in all your lies yet? 

Gaza wants the “war” to stop. Who cares about silly Facebook, anyways? As my grandmother often says, “To hell with it.” 

Ice cream Fridges & Morgues: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.7

When I saw the image of an infant lying on the bottom of an ice cream fridge, I didn’t have to read the caption to know what the story was. All I thought of when I looked at the image was “what could’ve been”. I imagined this infant as a child, tiptoeing near the fridge to pick out his favorite ice cream flavor. Would it have been strawberry? It would have probably been chocolate. Kids like chocolate. I pictured him handing a shekal to the shop owner and leaving to enjoy his treat. But this infant – and the four other children now around him – will never know that where they lay is an ice cream fridge and not a fridge in a morgue.

The morgues in Gaza are full. Images are going viral online of bodies lying on the floors of hospitals waiting to be buried. Some bodies don’t have anyone they know to bury them – for they too are looking to be buried. Some bodies aren’t capable of being identified. Some bodies aren’t “full bodies.” They are pieces.

The number of killed keeps increasing. The news channels I am watching are keeping score…of the bodies recovered from the rubble. God knows how much are still under the mess. When the attacks on Gaza started, the names of each person murdered were added to this list going viral on social media, and they were placed in the fridges in an actual morgue. Now, after 1800+ killed in cold blood, a few names appear here and there, and ice cream fridges are being used.

When will the world see that today – in the 21st century – a genocide is being committed where ice cream fridges are used to hold the bodies of innocent children?

Families: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.6

As I took a little walk this evening, I passed by an orphanage. I always pass by it, but I don’t give it much thought except “it’s an orphanage” and I move on. Tonight, though, as I walked with my father, I slowed down a bit and told him, “I think they’re making donuts. It smells like donuts.”
After that comment, I realized the kids in there do not have families. They live together; all are probably different except for that fact. I have my family, though. Sometimes, I forget how lucky I am to have people to yell at me and for me to yell back at over little things. I forget how lucky I am to text one of my best friends to tell her how much I hate them sometimes and how much they annoy me. I forget how lucky I am when I pray to God to thank Him for keeping them. I forget how lucky I am for having people to go back home to. I forget how lucky I am to be loved and cared for by my own blood. I forget how lucky I am to be taking a walk in the neighborhood with family.
I remembered, though, when I passed by the orphanage. I remembered when I got home and turned on the television to see Israel perform another massacre in Jabalia, Gaza Strip, Palestine.
I couldn’t but help and think that when this is all over – and I hope it is sooner rather than later – of the number of orphans that will be left behind. I couldn’t help but think of how the young man from Gaza that graduated from BZU (and I never got a name) didn’t have his family there to cheer him on because they weren’t allowed to leave Gaza. Where are they now?
I stared at the TV screen and watched as the ambulance went to pick up people and bodies from under the rubble. Some were dead. Some were living. Some were barely making it through, holding their index fingers in the air to say their final “I witness that there is not god but Allah and that Muhammad (PBUH) is his messenger.”
Those images scarred me, but the images that brought tears to my eyes were that of family members that were not physically hurt. Instead, they were calling their loved ones, falling on the ground in despair, screaming, cursing the Arab world that is silent, praying to God, and telling their kids that so and so just died.
“You’re lying. Let me see! You’re lying to me!” A girl (probably 7 or 8 years old) was screaming and sobbing, holding a white piece of cloth to her head.
Someone told her that someone that she loved was just killed…and they weren’t lying. Gaza is not lying to you, world.

Lines That Don’t Rhyme: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.5

Olive-colored skin is now gray.
Under rubble.
Rocks of the house, the house made home to the child, woman, man, grandma, grandpa, cousin, everyone under the olive-colored skin.
Olive-colored skin is now red.
In blood.
Blood that was circulated from heart to lungs to heart to body to heart now on the outside.
Olive-colored skin is no longer capable of being identified.
Identification that was asked for on a border to home.
Olive-colored skin is what is hated.
Hated for the mere fact.
Lips curled into a smile.
A smile is a frown…teeth clenching.
A religious war? Your own holy jihad that you despise?
I don’t care. I don’t want to hear it. I can’t hear it.
Throats are dry.
Eyes are tired.
Will it end?
Olive-colored skin is not gray, not red, and not unidentifiable. It is olive-colored skin.

Out of Balance: Reflections of A Person Not From Gaza pt.4

A dear friend of mine texted me this afternoon telling me that the universe is out of balance, and frankly, I have to agree. I told her something supernatural was probably going on.
The summer in Palestine is as gloomy as the winter I was glad was over.
Summer nights are filled with the sirens of ambulances, gunshots, and teargas canisters falling to the ground. The sirens makes me anxious all the time, and I constantly wonder if I know the person being carried in the ambulance. Then, I push aside my worry as guilt builds inside of me because people in Gaza are living in fear that is unimaginable.
I have not written a blogpost this Ramadan about my trip to Jerusalem because there was none. I couldn’t get a permit – almost no one got a permit – and even if they did, people are worried and anxious to go with everything going on.
I haven’t written a post about how spirtual everything is -if that makes any sense – in the month of Ramadan because to be honest, I didn’t feel it one bit.
I haven’t written a post about how annoying the city of Ramallah could be during the last days before Eid and how I am the “grinch of Eid.”
All I could think of is how, as my friend put it, the universe is out of balance, how the masjid just called on people to go to hospitals and donate blood, how the world is still silent, and how the guy I park our car by did not charge me tonight. The universe is out of balance.

To Stay Where We Are: Reflections from A Person Not From Gaza pt.3

On May 15th of this year, my philosophy professor decided to hold off the lesson about Karl Marx and instead ask us, “Why should we be off on this day?” The day she was referring to was al-Nakbah 66th year commemoration. A lot of students went on strike after 12 P.M. Buses took some to Ofer prison to protest, whereas others did their own thing. It was my class at 2 P.M. that was in the questioning mood of “Should we go to class?” Most of us were there, anyways, so we decided we might as well attend. Enough students for the professor to give class were present, but when someone told her, “We should be off,” she asked, “Why should we be off on this day? What do you guys know about the Nakba – and no one give me anything from a T.V. show. I’m asking for facts.”
Students began raising their hands, each narrating a story they heard from their parents or grandparents. Some had read about it. All I could think of was Deir Yassin and the massacre that had occured there. I thought of Deir Tarif where many of my childhood friends are originally from. I thought of that documentary, “Memory of A Cactus”, and the three destroyed villages presented- Yalo, Imwas, and Beit Nuba.
“Do you know how they used to expel people out of their lands?” She proceeded to ask.
“What they did,” she began, as she grabbed a green marker to draw on the board, “was block the village from all sides and leave an area open for the people to flee and not come back.” I looked at the board where she drew a ‘C’ and an equal sign, and ironically, it looked like a flipped-to-the-side smiley face.
We all listened to her lecture about this for an hour before she gave us an assignment to pick a destroyed/ethnically cleansed village, research about it, and present it for next class.
We spent the next class – and the class after – presenting the villages of our choice – hearing the numbers of people that lived there, what the land was used for (mostly agriculture), where the people ended up, what the village was now…a park? Ruins? Forgotten? Definitely not forgotten.
When the time came for the guy two seats away from me to present, a question began to form in my head. He presented a village known as as-Safria, which is located around Yaffa (Jaffa). His grandparents lived there, but they had to leave forcibly due to the Israeli colonization of the area. They have lived in the city of Ramallah ever since.
I looked at him as he told the story, and the question that had formed in my mind was, Would we be sitting in this same classroom if the place he was originally from wasn’t destroyed? Where would he be if it wasn’t destroyed? A university in Yaffa perhaps? I thought about everyone in class, every one of those villages – some were repeated many times, such as Deir Yassin – and wondered where we all would be without this heinous occupation?
This morning I was reminded of that feeling of sadness, of that flipped smiley face, of that guy in my class when I saw the people of al-Shagia’a in Gaza leaving their homes to find a safe place (safe? in Gaza? now? with all these massacres?). Hundreds of people were leaving after their homes were demolished (or in fear of being bombed on top of their heads), coming towards the camera of the photographer as he captured the images that bring to mind the images of the 1948 exile. There was one photo of a family riding on the blade of a bulldozer. Some people were carrying their young siblings. Others held on to some belongings. A history repeat? Oh, come on, for Lord’s sake.
Palestine does not need another commemoration date of a horrible event. Palestine doesn’t need another ethnically cleansed place on the list.
Perhaps, if that flipped smiley face was erased, the date of 1948 was just another day in Palestine, and the occupation never -dare I say – started, maybe – and I take this from one of my favorite novels – “We would have been ‘safe’.”