I wake up in the middle of the night to go check on my child. She breathes, she makes little sleep-noises. I leave the room. Again, half-an hour later I go back to check if she is alright. If she still breathes. I go back again and again through the night because instead of sleeping I have been watching the news coming in from Gaza. This is the seventh day of bombing in Gaza, ten children are dead and 140 wounded. I refuse to call them “children”. They are not “children” to be compressed into a common noun by the western press: they have names, they had toys, they also once cried in their sleep while their parents went up to check on them.
Let us call out: Jumana and Tamer Eseifan. Jumana and Tamer were killed by an Israeli missile in the town of Jabaliya. They were not yet four. Let us call out: Iyad Abu Khoussa. Iyad was killed when another Israeli missile hit his home. He was one. 10 members of the al Dalu family were killed in an Israeli airstrike while they were sleeping in their beds. Let’s call out some of their names: Sara was 7, Jamal was 6, Yusef was 4, and Ibrahim? he was 2. The New York Times reporter, Jodi Rudoren, described the funeral for the al Dalu children as an exercise in “pageantry”. According to Rudoren losing ten family members in one day was no excuse for forgetting your manners and weeping in public. Jumana and Tamer. Iyad and Sara and Jamal. Yusef and Ibrahim. Let’s remember they have names. Let’s remember they also had toys.
When the bombs started to fall why didn’t their parents flee? Mohammed Omer, a Palestinian journalist based in Gaza, tells us why.
Gaza does not have bomb shelters, and with the borders closed, the shoreline blockaded and many of the tunnels destroyed, no one can leave. The Palestinian education ministry and the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) have shut all schools in this coastal enclave. Mosques and churches are not safe. The stadium is not safe. Media offices are not safe. Government buildings are not safe. Homes are not safe.
There is nowhere to go. But when the bombs stop falling what will life be like for those who remain in this ‘open air prison’ that is Gaza? What does childhood in Gaza smell of when there are no airstrikes?