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Diary of a war: Lessons in survival

Nov. 29, 2012 6:19 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 30, 2012 12:56 P.M.)
This is the third in a series of journal entries documenting life in Gaza during Israel's Operation Pillar of Cloud. Previous entries can be read here.

November 16

Hearing the echoes of massive explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets bombing Rafah was the sign that it was a new day of atrocity. It was Friday, Nov. 16. Waking, all I cared about was a careful checkup trip among my family members to comfort my anguished soul by knowing they are safe.

Next, thorough scrutiny of news channels and websites with a doubtful hope that the international community might have intervened with decisions of ceasefire, or decisions that would stop the vivid nightmare of an unmerciful war.

I was disappointed to find out that Israel announced a reinforcement of troops on the Gaza Strip’s border and the civilian death toll had risen morosely. "What does that escalation mean? Is it possibly a preparation for a long-term war? Is Israel preparing for a ground invasion?" I hoped not as I terrifyingly stepped on that ladder of endless questions.

I’m not a political analyst, nor have I ever wanted to be involved in politics. However, the subconscious system of my mind works in a way that I can't control or understand at a time of war. This system's catalyst is the unbearable calamities of war, and its objective is survival; a mental system I chose to call "an artful adoption" to the current and sudden war environment.

But in order for this system to work well, a full understanding of the war's aspects is essential to anticipate the events that are yet to come.

The complexities associated with war, if resolved, make a regular individual an expert in military issues and war survival.

For example, from my experience surviving "Operation Cast Lead," I -- like many other Gazans -- can differentiate by sound the type of warplanes flying in the sky, whether it’s an Apache helicopter, an F-16 fighter jet or an unmanned surveillance drone.

Also, the distance of an airstrike can be calculated from the echo of the explosions or the belly-dance of the house if you are indoors.

And if you are outdoors, these measurements can be calculated by how high the debris flies and falls and the volume of smoke you can see.

The golden rule you must follow strictly is that if you go out and leave the so-called safety of your own home, there is a high possibility you will meet your maker.

It is true that there were cases of soul reapers paying visits to people in their homes, but the possibility of meeting them outside your house is far higher. Nonetheless, a bright smile on your face is highly recommended.

That is how life in Gaza is through times of war: a mixture of ironies that, most of the time, you never get a chance to comprehend.

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

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