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Diary of a war: The Safe Room

Nov. 30, 2012 7:38 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 1, 2012 7:16 A.M.)
By: Ahmed Ferwana
This is the fourth in a series of journal entries documenting life in Gaza during Israel's Operation Pillar of Cloud. Previous entries can be read here.

November 17

At around 4 a.m., I was levitated, astonished, off my bed because of an explosion whose sound, strength, and effect I had never experienced before.

It was Nov. 17 and with that heavy airstrike I started the day. I turned on all the lights in the house, and as I headed back to my room, another rock-and-roll airstrike took place -- causing the house to shake, and spreading fear among my family members as they rushed out of their bedrooms.

I took them all to what I call "the safe room" in a corner of the house and next to a neighboring building, and then, that unexpected family gathering became an unusual tea-time. We sat together, chitchatted, and exchanged fake smiles of security as if there weren't 18 more airstrikes nearby that turned the whole neighborhood upside down.

When my family eventually went back to sleep, despite the noises of drones in the sky, I mentally traveled in my thoughts beyond the borders of Gaza to the southern parts of Israel; mainly Beersheva.

I have two friends there who are Palestinian-Israelis, as most of the international community identifies them, or 1948 Palestinians -- as Arabs, or dare I say only Palestinians, call them.

I was so worried about my friends, although most likely they were little affected by the war. Also, I started to think of Israeli civilians and the mutual pressure and hardship they were going through.

As a matter of fact, the Israeli government has the technology to surgically and accurately hit its military targets in Gaza, yet a lot of Gazans -- including children, women, and elders -- die on a regular basis in Israeli airstrikes.

And Hamas -- although it doesn’t have a quarter of Israel’s military might, nor tanks, warplanes nor warships -- is firing primitive, homemade rockets on Israel in an act of defense; rockets that might be considered fireworks compared to Israeli missiles, with few, yet unbearable losses in Israel.

Nevertheless, these rockets are fired in retaliation for the killing of innocent Gazans and the unjust life that Israel has brought on the heads of not only Hamas, but also the nearly 2 million civilians living in the Gaza Strip through an economic siege since 2006.

And Israel claims that its army, in an act of self-defense, fires missiles and launches military operations in Gaza to target the "terrorists" of the Hamas Terror Organization -- or anyone who tries to defend Gaza, for that person is also no less of a "terrorist" according to the Israeli dictionary.

How can I rival this fierce rivalry? How can I help initiate an agreement over the disagreements?

Although it is quite a simple matter of "cause and effect" that could possibly be negotiated, and accordingly achieve peace and harmony in the area, wars are still being launched, and the current one was on its fifth consecutive day.

So, how dare I mention "negotiations?" How dare I mention a so-called "peace-process" that has been deferred with ruthless wars and massacres since the 1948 Nakba for the Palestinians, and for the Israelis since 1967?

How dare I dream of stability with my eyes suspiciously open? How dare I speak out on a basis of "neutrality" and preach about the need for "co-existence?"

This act of sacrifice that would likely be misapprehended as an act of naivety, or betrayal, but my humble interpretation would be a real call for peace, a call of humanity.

Melancholy could still creep horribly through the firm bars of vulnerable hope I established to protect my heart behind.

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