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Don't cry for me: A letter from a little girl in Gaza

With Palestinian children in Gaza bearing the brunt of Israel’s offensive on the Strip, this is what one little girl may have written to us – had she the chance.

By Sam Bahour

As the latest horrific obscenity of Israel’s aggression against the Gaza Strip continues, the death toll mounts. Palestinian children are paying the highest price, both those who are killed and wounded, and, maybe even more so, those who survive.

Since I have written for decades about how Israel’s prolonged military occupation and endless violations of international law – let alone its blatant disregard for its very own self-interests – would get us to this very point, fresh analysis and fresh vantage points are difficult to find. The only words I can muster now, while the images of the carnage are freshly etched into my mind, are the words that may have come from one of the child victims whose life was cut short by a U.S.-supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jet missile.

A child of Diab Bakr is seen amidst the rubble of his home which was destroyed last night by Israeli missiles, in As-Shati refugee camp, Gaza city, July 22, 2014. Another home from the extended Bakr family was also destroyed and another one damaged. Hassan Khader Bakr, was killed during the attack in the street. Their cousins, Bakr family who live in the same area, lost four children, Ahed (10), Zacharia (10), Mohamed (9) after they were targeted by two Israeli missiles while playing at the beach on 16 July, 2014. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

A child of Diab Bakr is seen amidst the rubble of her home, which was destroyed by Israeli missiles, in A-Shati refugee camp, Gaza City, July 22, 2014. Another home from the extended Bakr family was also destroyed and yet another one damaged (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Below is the imagined letter from the victim:

Dear Humankind,

Hi. My name is Eman; it means ‘faith’ in Arabic. I doubt you will have seen or remember me; only particular photos make it to your TV screen, those are the ones you will remember. I’m a Palestinian child from Gaza. I like my dolls, playing with my sister and swimming. I was told that many of you are crying for me, but please don’t cry for me. I just arrived to this place and wanted to write to let you know that I’m OK. Really, I’m fine. I just miss Mommy.

There are a lot of people here, just like back home in Gaza. Lots of Palestinian kids too, some have been here for a very long time. Why would you want to cry for only me?

My neighbor arrived a few months ago from the Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria, he shares a room with someone who came from a different refugee camp in South Lebanon called Sabra; he arrived in September 1982. I really don’t know what a refugee camp is, even though Mommy told me that’s where we live too.

Down the road I saw a really older girl, maybe 13 years old. Her name is also Iman, but she spells it with an “I”. Iman came here in October 2004. She told me she was walking home from school, not far from my house in Gaza, when an Israeli soldier emptied his magazine into her after she was wounded and lay on the ground. She says he was caught on radio communications saying he was “confirming the kill.” I don’t really know what that means, either.

There are a lot of old people here, too: mommies and daddies. Some have their kids with them and some are alone. I actually saw a sign on one house that said the person arrived from Kufer Kassem in 1948 – that’s a long time ago! I think Kufer Kassem is not far from Gaza, but I really don’t know since Daddy never took us on trips far away.

Anyway, I made friends with another girl exactly my age, Amal. Her name means ‘hope’ and she is from Qana in Lebanon. She lives with her sisters; one arrived in 1996 and the other in 2006. There are really a lot of nice people here from Lebanon.

See, I’m in good company, so please, don’t cry for me.

I am exactly eight years and 23 days old; a pretty big girl, wouldn’t you say? I have one baby sister and two older brothers, or at least Mommy tells me that I have two brothers. I’ve only seen one, the other, Mommy says, lives in an Israeli prison and has been there for a very long time. Even though I never saw him, I still love him.

It is true that I was born in Gaza, but Grandpa told me when I was very young that our real home is in a place called al-Majdal. He still has the key to his house. It’s all rusted but I think it may still work. I bet you don’t know where al-Majdal is located, but you may know a place called Ashkelon. I understand how this can happen, it happens all the time. Those people who made Grandma and Grandpa come to Gaza keep changing the names of everything, even their own names. They not only changed the name of al-Majdal, they changed the name of many cities and villages too. Daddy told me that one organization called Zochrot goes around and puts up signs with the original names of Palestinian towns and villages that were wiped off the face of the earth. This way no one will forget. You really don’t need to worry, because here they must have a very big computer, as all the names are what they used to be, nothing is forgotten. So please, don’t cry for me.

Let me tell you what happened to me last month. It was the beginning of Ramadan. I love Ramadan because at the end of the month there is a big feast and Daddy takes us all to the marketplace and we each are allowed to buy two toys. A few days before the end of Ramadan, Mommy takes us to buy new clothes and shoes. This is the happiest time of the year for me and my brother and sister. But this year, Mommy was sad. She stayed sitting in my room crying while she nursed my baby sister. When I asked her why she was crying she said that we would not be able to buy new clothes this year because all the stores were closed. I understood (I am almost nine years old, you know), so I surprised her. I went to my closet and pulled out my dress from last year’s Ramadan and I dusted off the pink paddy leather shoes Mommy bought me on my last birthday and I told her she can stop crying because I don’t mind wearing old clothes, even if they don’t match. But she cried even more. I think I know why she was crying. The neighbors were playing with fireworks all night and day, even though Ramadan was only in its first week. Usually fireworks happen only at the end of Ramadan. I asked her if she wanted me to go tell them to stop but she said no, she liked to hear them. I pretended as if I liked the fireworks too, but I don’t think she was telling me the truth because they are scary, especially at night. I’m glad there are no fireworks here.

Anyway, just as I was putting my Eid clothes back in the closet something happened. I want to tell you what happened but I really don’t know how. I felt like I was swimming, but I wasn’t. The water did not feel like the bathtub, it was warm and sticky. When I glanced down I think it was red too. The last thing I remember is looking up and seeing the light fixture in my room, the one that looks like a clown’s head (Daddy bought that for me when my sister was born). It was falling, coming straight at me. I know this is not making sense, because ceilings don’t fall, but I swear that was what it looked like.

Next thing I knew, I was brought to this nice place. I love it here but I really miss Mommy and my baby sister. I wonder why they did not come here with me. Mom would love it. We have electricity all day and night, and the stores never close. Really, I’m not joking. In my home here, I can drink water right out of the faucet any time I’m thirsty. One of my friends told me that when I get a little older we can even go on trips far, far away, even to Jerusalem. I’m not sure where that is but I’m sure I’ll be able to ride a plane for the first time ever to get there.

I want to tell you so much more but I’ll have to write again later because I need to go now. My two newest friends, Hadar and Issa, are bringing their bikes to take turns in giving me a ride. Can you tell Mommy to send me my bike? I also forgot my toothbrush in the rush to get here so I need that too. Tell her not to send me my Eid dress and shoes. I want my baby sister to wear them for Ramadan next year, because I doubt the stores will open anytime soon. One more thing, please: tell Mommy to empty my piggybank, and send all my savings to The Palestine Children Relief Fund because I’m sure that many of my friends who did not come with me are going to need a lot of help.

After going for the bike ride I’m coming back home to take a nap. I was so happy that I found the CD here with the same exact song that Mommy use to sing to me every night at bedtime. It’s this one.

So see, I’m fine. Really, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves.

Love,

Eman

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant in Ramallah, Palestine, father of two daughters, and blogs at epalestine.com

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog.

Related:
Israeli strike on Gaza beach kills four children
How will Gaza’s children carry their scars into adulthood?
Blaming Palestinians for their own deaths

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    COMMENTS

    1. Pedro X

      If this girl did exist, I might write to her and try to explain in terms which she might understand why Israel is fighting the Palestinians in the Gaza strip.

      Eman back in 1947 before the war began, Jewish children ran, played and prayed in their communities in the Gaza strip. You could hear their laughter in the air and hear them learning the torah in their synagogues. A cruel war then arose when your grandfather’s father’s generation began a war to kill those Jewish children, their parents and grandparents, neighbors and citizens. They called upon the might of the Arab world to help them destroy Israel and their people.

      In 1948 the Egyptian army invaded the Gaza strip, conquered and destroyed all the Jewish communities in the Gaza strip. No longer was the laughter and prayers of Jewish children heard. The Egyptian plan once the Gaza strip was conquered, was that their army would move to conquer Tel Aviv and do the same thing to Tel Aviv’s children and adults as in Gaza.

      The Egyptians met such strong resistance from the Jewish fighters in Gaza who were outnumbered by more than 10 to 1, they established military bases at and dug in at Ashod and Askhelon, your grandfather’s town of al-Majdal. The Egyptian army saw a number of defeats and decided to retreat to the Gaza strip which triggered mass flight. Israeli forces took possession of mainly empty towns. At al-Majda only 1,000 of the 10,000 inhabitants did not flee. The Israelis allowed them to stay and brought back some original inhabitants back to al-Majdal who went into hiding in the surrounding countryside. Many of those Arabs decided to join their brethren in Gaza rather than live under harsh Israeli military rule.

      After the war ended Palestinian Arabs, and other Arabs continued to attack Jewish children and their parents. Jewish children have been shot while studying the Torah, eating pizza or a seder meal, blown up in their baby carriages, stabbed to death while sleeping, shot to death while in the stomach of their pregnant mother. Israelis children have been blown up on buses going to school or kidnapped and killed while at school or on school trips. Hamas’ rockets killed two young Jewish children in Sderot playing in their back yard. Recently Hamas killed three Jewish teenagers which triggered the current conflict.

      It comes down to this if the Palestinians attack and try to kill Israeli children and their parents and country, their country and parents will defend them and Palestinians will die.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        Just like you’d write to a Native American girl and explain to her why, even though it will probably kill her, the Trail of Tears will ultimately bring forth a glorious Westernized “liberal” nation. And sometimes, primitive peoples need to be sacrificed for more advanced peoples to have progress.

        Oh, wait, that’s Benny Morris I’m thinking of.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Kiwi

      “Oh, wait, that’s Benny Morris I’m thinking of.”

      No. You are not thinking. You only build your straw men which you proceed to demolish.

      Don Quixote.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        No, I think I’ve got a pretty good picture of Pedro’s outlook.

        Better Don Quixote than Sammy Glick.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kiwi

          No, Mr Reza, you are the one who builds straw men. Here is an example of it:

          Reza –
          “And sometimes, primitive peoples need to be sacrificed for more advanced peoples to have progress.”

          Benny Morris certainly has NOT said that. It is your invention.

          Reply to Comment