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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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    1. Rab

      Or, instead of getting F16s so we can have more war, you can stop shooting rockets at Israel, kidnapping Israelis and murdering them.

      Just a thought. It’s not that complicated. Israel did everything in its power to avoid this escalation.

      Reply to Comment
      • Felix Reichert

        The number of rockets from Gaza only rose AFTER Israel attacked Gaza, for something that happended in the West Bank…

        So no. You’re wrong. Israel did everything in its power to escalate this conflict.

        Also, what do the civilians of Gaza have to do with the rockets Hamas (allegedly) fires towards Israel?

        How many Israelis have been killed by Hamas explosives in this youngest escalation?

        How many Palestinians have been killed by Israeli explosives in this youngest escalation?

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          “rockets Hamas (allegedly) fires towards Israel.
          Pray tell; who is firing the rockets if not Hamas and all the other jihadist outfits?
          And if they are not firing them at Israel who are they firing them at?
          Hamas embeds its military structure within the Gaza civilian population to try and prevent Israel hitting them, or to create martyrs for the Arab Cause.
          That constitutes a WAR CRIME.
          Palestinians kidnapped Israeli Jews before any escalation occurred, or is your head so deeply buried wherever that you cannot see the obvious.

          Reply to Comment
        • Vadim

          “So no. You’re wrong. Israel did everything in its power to escalate this conflict.”

          Is this really everything in our power?!

          “Also, what do the civilians of Gaza have to do with the rockets Hamas (allegedly) fires towards Israel?”

          1. They voted for Hamas. Maybe next time they should vote for someone else.

          2. “allegedly”. funny 🙂

          “How many Israelis have been killed by Hamas explosives in this youngest escalation?”

          We are grateful for the incompetence of our enemies. Impotence doesn’t absolve the desire to kill Jews.

          “How many Palestinians have been killed by Israeli explosives in this youngest escalation?”

          Sadly, too many. Maybe Hamas should not hide rocket launchers under people’s homes? Maybe Hamas should not dig tunnels from mosques?

          To conclude – your comment is silly.

          Reply to Comment
    2. Jan

      I hate the idea of rockets heading into Israel because they even though they do little damage they often head toward civilian areas and because they bring the wrath of Israel back on the hapless Palestinians who have been confined to the world’s largest outdoor prison.

      I don’t know how many Israelis know that most of the residents of Gaza were either ethnically cleansed in 1948 into Gaza or are the children and grandchildren of the ethnically cleansed. I don’t know how many know that some of the people of Gaza once lived in an Arab village near Sderot. That village was ethnically cleansed and destroyed.

      My question is how Israelis ever believed that they would be able to live in peace after making certain that the people who were once on the land could not ever come back. How did they believe that occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would lead to peace?

      Sometimes I wonder if as long as too many Israelis aren’t killed if Israel wants peace as much as it wants more and more land. Sadly, I think I know the answer and Israel has already given the answer.

      Reply to Comment
      • Rab

        First of all, they weren’t ethnically cleansed.

        Second, they started a war of ethnic cleansing. Which they lost.

        Third, Israel is a country filled with refugees from Arab and Muslim countries who had to flee their homes and communities – some of them older than Islam itself – to move to Israel. Today they, their children and grandchildren (and Western Negev and Sderot are particularly populated with this refugee population) live in Israel and try to protect their democratic country from the very same fate they already experienced, the likes of which they can see daily in the news from neighboring countries. Did they believe they could live in peace when the Arab refugees of that war merely needed to be resettled within a range of 100-200 miles from their own homes? Sure they did. But maybe not. As many of them say, they “understand” Arabs in ways people who didn’t spend centuries living among them as minorities do not.

        Fourth, Gaza is bordered by their old occupiers and significant cause of their plight: Egypt. Egypt keeps its borders closed with Gaza and yet not a peep from you about the other half of the “open air prison”

        Fifth, Israel has given Gaza to the Palestinians, which throws a wrench into your whole Israel wants land theory. Then again, if you really want to test the question of Judea and Samaria and its importance to Israel, why don’t you do a little imagining…consider what happens if ISIS tackles Jordan next and succeeds as it has in Syrian and Iraq. If Israel wasn’t in the Jordan Valley, how long before it was added to the list?

        Reply to Comment
      • rsgengland

        Every war results in refugees
        They are the first and most obvious casualty of war!!! Anywhere and Everywhere!!!!!!!!
        The Palestinians were refugees as a result of a war. Plain and simple.
        The Jews expelled from the Arab/Muslim lands were expelled because they were Jews – only because they were Jews.
        The racist antiSemetic bigotry displayed by those Arab/Muslim those countries in the past seems to be translating into anti-Christian racist bigotry today. This is resulting in the beginnings of an Ethnic Cleansing of Christians from North Africa and the Middle East

        Reply to Comment
    3. Robert Lee

      God, it must be awful living in Gaza. Why don’t you just leave?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mor

      You can not call you and your family intact. You are helping terrorists by hiding them and by this you are allowing them to shoot from population centers. If you were not attacking us in all media we did not need to respond. Quit attacking and we will not have to defend ourselves.you’re Just like Hamas, only you do it by writing.

      Reply to Comment