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Diary of a war: A balloon-like fortress

Nov. 28, 2012 7:44 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 29, 2012 8:26 P.M.)
By: Ahmed Ferwana
This is the second in a series of journal entries documenting life in Gaza during Israel's Operation Pillar of Cloud. Previous entries can be read here.

November 15

What should I be indeed?

A worried Gazan who should think of his dear Gazans, the war, the stress, the destruction, the exchange of rockets between Israel and Gaza, the material losses, the death toll, the innocent civilians, the airstrikes, and this whole madness?

Or should I be a member of a trembling family who must deal with one main concern -- the safety of that family; the safety that I won’t be able to provide except through weak attempts to keep them calm, and feeling safe?

All of this took me back to the 22-day war against Gaza launched in December 2008, "Operation Cast Lead" -- when I miraculously could survive, escape death, keep the family safe, and above all, learn a lot about how to deal with war.

Although that military operation caused immeasurable destruction to so many houses, mosques, families, factories, farms, schools, and hospitals in the Gaza Strip, it also left behind Gazans who became experts at dealing with war.

I began to think about what damage I could avoid. I started by opening all the windows and keeping the doors ajar in the house because in the last war those windows and doors flew off the walls from the pressure caused by the explosions of the airstrikes.

Then, I urged my family to evacuate the part of the house facing the main street -- a precaution to avoid flying bullets or shrapnel. After that, I made sure to deter my brothers' and sisters' curiosity about leaving the house or looking through the windows to see what was happening outside.

These precautions served as an insecure balloon-like fortress, yet it was a small relief knowing that my family clutched onto that little feeling of security.

It was still the second day of the unjust war on Gaza, and I was psychologically ready for the shock and madness. Alone during the night disturbed by the noise of surveillance drones swarming through the dark skies, I followed the numbers of the airstrikes, the numbers of unarmed civilians and children killed, and the numbers of all other losses in both Israel and Gaza.

All over the news channels, websites, articles, reports, and analyses, numbers were all that mattered. That was what the people of Gaza were considered by the media; merely numbers of "collateral damage" in a war they never wished to be immersed in.

What about the "unilateral damage" of every single unjustified death? Parents who have lost a kid, children who have lost a parent, or a whole family that has lost its right to live in dignity and peace?

It was all "collateral damage" for the media, for the international community, for the Arab world, and for the oppressor against the oppressed. It was an "inhumane moral conspiracy" to lessen the value of humanity; the value of representing Gazans as human beings instead of numbers. It was an "inferior goal" to be achieved through such an unjust war; a goal of dehumanizing and incriminating the innocents of Gaza.

And for Gazans, just like me, it was an undesired road of suspicions. It was a road with major signs on its banks; signs to be memorized so that a Gazan could get a wanderer’s license in a world that licensed media-blackout, deception, ignorance, injustice, humiliation, displacement, genocide, and discrimination against a group of people who did nothing but cry out for their simple rights.

I chose to end a tiring night of endless thinking by checking up on my family one by one and kissing them good night as I hoped tomorrow would come and I’d be able to see them alive; a night whose lullaby was the sounds of bombardments caused by Israeli airstrikes and the non-stop noise of the swarming surveillance drones.

Ahmed Ferwana is a language and literature teacher at the American International School in Gaza.
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