The Aftershock of Trauma: Reflections from Gaza in August, 2022

It’s pretty much the same news, the same incidents, the same feelings of helplessness and weakness. Everything is familiar. From the children mercilessly killed to the melancholy over youths whose lives have been stripped away due to trauma, to the women leaving their children behind . I feel drained writing repeatedly about the situation in Gaza. Nothing has changed. The most recent aggression on Gaza finished just yesterday, but the pain is ongoing. I’m sure the ones who physically survived,  lost something inside, or maybe died in spirit. We try to resist all that, the traumas, the overwhelming losses of our loved ones. We’re people, after all. We need to ask for the aggressions to stop. In fact, we need to ask Israel to stop what it is doing, which seems to feel impossible to admit for so many Westerners. Israel wasn’t provoked at all, yet they massacred us shamelessly this time.

Read more:The Dark Face Of The Occupation, What Lies Behind It In Gaza ?

Soad Hassona was pulled out from among the rubble after her house was hit in an Israeli airstrike.

Just few days ago, I woke up to the news that Gaza was under attack. The first thing I thought of was: there’s nobody to help us. And sadly, it’s true. I’m thankful this intense aggression lasted only three days, but who will bring the children who died back to life? Who will return Khalil Abu Hamada, an only child delivered after15 years and six cycles of in vitro fertilization to his parents? Imagine that after 13 years of marriage and many attempts of pregnancy you will have a baby. Then Imagin that after 19 years from his birth you will lose him! Who will heal Soad Hassouna, who graduated with a high GPA and was recently recorded talking about her aspiration to become a dentist, from the traumas she’s now enduring because her house was hit in an airstrike? She was actually found in the rubble. She was pulled out, but whether she will survive is unknown. She also lost her brother.

Just yesterday, a mother from Gaza missed her only son after 13 years of marriage.

Gaza children are familiar with war Calamities

“My little daughters vividly recall the previous aggression”, says Deema Aydieh. “They opened the windows before I even told them to. They knew that this way, our home would be safer; the glass wouldn’t break and shatter around us.

“They prepared their prayer clothes, and asked me to pack our important files and things, so we wouldn’t forget them if we had to leave out of sudden.

“For a moment, it felt as if my little daughters had gained, too rapidly years of wisdom, although their dreams and wishes were very simple. They just wanted to be safe. All they wanted to protect were their favorite clothes and toys, and the money they had saved from the previous Eid, which they planned to use to purchase school supplies. Their childhood is mixed with both innocence and wisdom, things that don’t often come together. But, it’s Gaza, the land of paradoxes, she added”.

Gaza kids
6 sisters lost their mother and father in a missile strike.

It’s crystal clear that such aggressions, in other words, become painful traumas very familiar to children in the Gaza Strip. I, myself, am a five-years-old survivor and can recall the time I stood before classroom window and saw the flesh of human beings flying in the air during an airstrike by our Israeli occupiers. I remember the shock and the cold that wrapped my body. In that moment, everything turned white in my mind, everything stopped, and there was only emptiness. Life didn’t really matter after that, because I realized how cheap we are to the rest of the world. That was during the second aggression on Gaza. I remember it happened when I was at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency school. It’s ironic to me that they’re considered shelters, while Israel targets children, civilians, mosques, and even schools. In an aggression, there’s no safe place in Gaza, and Gazans know this very well.

Israeli aggressions against Gazans leave them traumatized

Palestinian children in Gaza live in trauma without an end!

Once, when I was talking to a therapist, Cheryl Qamar, I asked if it’s true that all Gazans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. She replied that any human who experiences these types of incidents will probably suffer from PTSD, so there’s a strong likelihood that all Gazans do. She added that we might be suffering from CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) as well, as a result of experiencing prolonged or repeated traumas.

I remember when my friend Raja visited Gaza, and asked me what it was with Gazan girls and boys, because we were all afraid of cats. I’m not sure, but I think it’s because trauma manifests itself in us through fears and phobias. I also noticed it, as I used to be afraid of cats and many other things too, but thanks to God, I’ve overcome many of my fears and I am trying to overcome the rest.

Gazan youths question their reality and fate, living under the Israeli occupation

I wonder whether killing civilians in times of aggression is allowed, even if for self-defense purposes, and I wonder how it was okay to kill five-year-old Alaa Qadoum. Alaa was only a small child, and was never a threat to anyone. She was supposed to register for kindergarten this year.

I wonder how killing Daniana Alamour, a 22-year-old student at Al-Aqsa University, is in any way beneficial to Israel. Daniana was the same age as me and lived in my neighborhood, studied where I study. We both loved art, yet she was smarter and more talented, and made a collection of beautiful portraits before she died and hung them in our neighborhood’s gallery. If killing her is okay in the eyes of Israel, then killing me can be highly expected in future aggressions.

I wonder who should be called a terrorist—Ashraf Al Qesi, who didn’t hesitate to allow the Palestinian Civil Defense to demolish part of his house in order to rescue his neighbors, after nearby buildings were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, or the one who is shooting at civilians from the sky.

Read more: Visiting Jerusalem: Would It Be A Mere Dream For Gazans Living Under The Israeli Military Siege?

The pain Israel causes Gaza is not only during aggressions; it goes beyond that. Israel has imposed a lockdown on us since 2007. People here aren’t allowed to travel except for specific purposes like illness and education, and even though this should be the case, I have met many Palestinians who met the required conditions and who have not been allowed by Israel to leave Gaza. Some of them tried in vain many times to get Israel’s permission.

Read more: Best Prescription For Wooing Voters In Israel: Spill More Palestinian Blood

It hurt me quite deeply when my friend Hossam Abu Shammala said that he wanted to travel abroad, because that way he’d be living a dignified life. He meant that living in Gaza is a form of humiliation, and it’s hard to admit, but it’s true. It takes unbelievable strength, courage, spirit, and resilience to be able to live in such a place. Our fate as youths isn’t even known. When we look at the future, all that we see is utter chaos. It’s not that we’re inherently messed up or lost, it’s that the situation here makes us miserable. Yet, we try to resist it and make the best out of it. We try to live happily in the world’s largest open-air prison, not knowing what crime we have committed. We try to find hope every day, and we manage to do that. Sometimes it’s really hard, but we are survivors.


Shahd Safi
Shahd Safi is a freelance writer, tutor and translator. She has been writing for We Are Not Numbers since 2019. She is progressive-minded and in tune with new developments in her field. She has proven to be effective and collaborative with strong teamwork talents. Not only that, but she has a vast work-related network, which allows her to coordinate activities to achieve a common goal.

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