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One Year Later, Still Haunted by Israel’s 2014 War on Gaza

Marah Elwadia shares the story of leaving her neighborhood on the unforgettable day of the massacre.

How is Gaza doing now? Short answer: “not well, not at all.” War is war: no words can describe it. Everything is still the same, except for the sound of shells and bombardments, of course. Though wait, we can still hear the noise inside our heads: the shellings left us with many memories, physical diseases and mental illnesses, as you may know. We can’t sleep at night. How are we supposed to forget? How can we move past these flashbacks? Can writing about this aggression bring back some of what we’ve lost? I want to write about it. I want to speak out. I want my voice from Gaza City to be heard all around the world. I simply want you to know about Israel’s attack on Gaza one year ago. Below I share the story of how we left our neighborhood on the unforgettable day of the massacre.

Remembering Israel’s 2014 Attack on Gaza

With our cell phones in hand, we left the house, waiting for death at any moment. The streets were empty, except for some photographers and paramedics. As we passed, the wounded were staring at us as they waited to die.

By the time we reached the outskirts of al-Shujaiya, my neighborhood in occupied eastern Gaza City, we almost collapsed. Entire families were evacuating the area, holding their children, propelling their elderly in wheelchairs while young people carried some clothing.

To become merely a number, to end up as a human portrait; your photos spread across newspapers and TV channels. All of this happens while you are in the middle of a massacre that claimed the lives of dozens of families and neighbors.

We understood the extent of the massacre as soon as we reached the neighborhood’s exit. The streets were witnessing what had never been seen throughout Gaza’s long and tragic history; forced displacement; women in their prayer dresses, barefoot children, men, and elderly, all running for their lives with what’s left of their strength after witnessing the Israeli military spilling Palestinian blood.

“We will go to where our feet take us… to the unknown… to the least bloody place,” – that’s what we kept telling each other as we moved from onewarzone to another. Finally, we decided to take refuge in my grandparents’ house, located in the center of Gaza city. I broke into tears as soon as I knew that death couldn’t catch us… that death lost its way to us.

My grandparents’ house alone sheltered around 150 displaced Gazans, most of whom were from stricken neighborhood. We clung onto the walls, in disbelief that we were in a room, with four walls and a ceiling. Although we were traumatized, we could still hear the bustling sound of shelling, rockets, and missiles haunting us from the outside.

We found a spot down the stairwell and called it home. We stayed there until the displacement phase was over, for it was the only empty space that we could find in that packed house… that was our new “home.” At that time, the aggression had reached its peak, and we knew that “time” had stopped the moment we left our home in al-Shujaiya.

Our nights felt the same as our days – and sounded the same as well: like hell; a path that Israel used as it continually targeted us randomly, not distinguishing between a civilian, a child and a militaryman. Everyone was a target. The criminal acts started intensifying after we moved to the city center. With the passage of days, we became deprived of water, food, electricity, and security little by little. This happened in front of the whole world, yet, no one was able to take a stance against the State of Israel.

Two weeks after al-Shujaiya massacre, Israel decided to declare its first “humanitarian” ceasefire for six hours only. When I finally returned home, the scenes crushed the rest of my soul. I discovered for the first time the true meaning of war… the real implications of brutality. Ambulances began to collect the decomposed bodies of martyrs off the streets. I could still hear the echoes of the paramedics’ questions: “Is there anybody there?” “Are you stillalive?” They were screaming in search of survivors who were trapped under the rubble.

We could breathe the smell of death, the smell of gunpowder, and the smell of mould from homes that were abandoned by their residents in search of safety, the safety that had been lost throughout the entire city.

Oh our misery! Oh or pain! Oh our sadness! Oh our injuries… 51 days… the Israeli military opened the doors of death to Gazans.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

The most frightening thing when writing about this war is that you know too well that the next one will be worse, that we cannot escape the fact that there will be another war. We were able to survive three wars in seven years. The latest was the cruelest and the most ferocious of them all. Yet, we don’t know if we will survive the fourth war, which must exceed our imagination, it actually exceeds any kind of human imagination.

Finally: “Here we are; the disgruntled people at all times and places. Here we are; the ones who live the life of the long waits… we wait for the crossing, for electricity, for fuel, for the reconstruction, for work, for love, for the port, for the airport, for cinemas, for earth, for the sea, for life, for the sky, for war… and for God.”

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