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Diary of a war: Questions of life and death

Dec. 3, 2012 8:20 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2012 6:57 P.M.)
By: Ahmed Ferwana
This is the last of a series of journal entries documenting life in Gaza during Israel's Operation Pillar of Cloud. Previous entries can be read here.

November 20

Another unusual wake-up alarm came with heavier and more intense shelling on the tunnel areas during the first hours of Nov. 20. Another unstoppable wave of fear spread among my family members, and another bundle of fast, strategic tactics and survival procedures overcame my mind.

The sounds of the explosions were deafening, the house constantly shaking with thunder-like airstrikes from F-16 fighter jets. It was more terrifying and threatening than ever and the eyes of everybody in the family widened with the trembling rush of adrenaline.

Gasps of shock were rapidly consuming the vulnerability of hope to survive. A spontaneous volcano of questions erupted and annexed my peace of mind: "Is it the beginning of a ground incursion? Is it the beginning of a nationwide terror? Will our house be targeted? And if not, is it going to keep my family and me safe?"

I needed answers in this matter of life or death.

Majestic was the thought of catching a glimpse of what was happening outside through a nearby window because it was the calm inhaler-dose for that asthmatic horror.

The view from the window made it clear that it was just a "regular" escalation of airstrikes, and I went back to my room to conduct the usual Web investigation of today's situation and tomorrow's destiny.

Good news! Rumors of a ceasefire were all over the news, yet the airstrikes, shelling, and killing of civilians all over Gaza were continuous.

November 21

Optimistically, I stayed awake all night long waiting for that lost needle of truce to be found in the war’s haystack.

And the waiting continued until another terrible incident occurred -- an incident that would likely serve as a turning point during this fatalistic war.

On Nov. 21, a bus was bombed in the middle of Tel Aviv shortly after noon. All I felt was numbness within me and all around me. Motionless, I lay in my bed while staring at the ceiling and thinking of the consequences of this bomb attack in the heart of Israel.

The more I thought, the more I felt I was lying in front of the fires of the inflammatory war. There was a high possibility that the Israeli military operation "Pillar of Cloud" would change into "Pillar on Ground."

The worst would happen; a war that could be unimaginable in its ruthlessness, and indescribable in its brutality.

At that moment, hopeful patience had its toll; my mind was completely obliterated by a missile of tiredness, and sleeping was better than thinking the unthinkable.

At that very moment, I slept uninterested in what would happen next and discouraged to survive this psyche-deteriorating war.

I woke up later amazed at how peacefully I slept; 10 uninterrupted continuous hours of sleep; 10 hours of sleep that felt like a piece of heaven. Yet, I chose to practice what developed into a habit through this war: a Web investigation to inspect this ugly war's updates.

Overwhelmingly, it was all over.

Headlines all over the news channels and websites announced a ceasefire effective at 9 p.m.

No more killing, terror, suffering, mourning, or waiting for death to come.

It was a nightmare that finally came to an end with a death toll of over 170 Gazans and 1,222 wounded; most of them were kids, mothers, wives-to-be, and time-weakened elders.

Happy indeed was I that the war was over, yet terrified because of its unbearable, disastrous madness. Yes, terrified of the times yet to come, terrified of a crazier rematch of the rivals and the intimidating aftermaths of this war.

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