Snow falls in Ramallah’s Manarah Square on 27 December 2006, the site of the 4 January 2007 deadly raid. (MaanImages/Fadi Arouri)
I never thought I would be so happy to come back home. I am still disoriented and traumatized, and though I had taken pain killers, and coffee after coffee, I just can’t bring myself to sleep.
Early this morning while walking in Ramallah, I took a road that brought awful memories into my head. Last year, I witnessed one of the Israeli forces’ raids in Ramallah. Though it was from a distance, it was a chilling experience to be totally surrounded by bullets and blood.
I have just come back from Ramallah where together with my sister I was locked inside a building at Al Manara, Ramallah’s city center, for four hours. While we were shopping this afternoon, people started running, stores began closing up, and the Palestinian policemen fled from Al Manara. Everyone was pointing somewhere upwards and there were two Israeli helicopters flying in Ramallah’s skies.
I cannot recall how I ended up in this building, but that was not the most rational choice I have made in my life since it is in the heart of Al Manara. We have been living in an area of armed conflict before I was even born, with its bullets, sound and/or gas bombs, in addition to helicopters, but today it felt like a factual battlefield except that the battle was waged by a powerful side against civilians. Shots, gas, noises of the Israeli jeeps, bulldozers, two helicopters, nonstop bullets everywhere, screams and cries, inhaling gas, constant fear, not knowing what’s going outside, and not being able to have a peek outside lest catching a bullet is rather insane.
At some point, I felt that this was it. And I will never get back home. I could not stand the raining bullets and bombs; I could hardly tolerate the numbness in my ears. The noise was getting much and much louder and closer while the locked building was getting darker. I sat on the stairs and had my head against the wall. I was totally petrified not for my life, but for feeling what the other Palestinians have been through. Those who have been attacked on daily basis in Gaza, and the kids whose only crime is being Palestinians have to live that without knowing what the next seconds hold. I, on the other hand, was reassured by the young men who were locked in the same building. They may have noticed my watery eyes, and said, “It’s alright, sister, this happens all the time. Now they will leave.” Half an hour later, the shooting and noises of military vehicles was getting more intense, and I could have sworn that one of the bombs was thrown inside the building. The ten guys who were by the window jumped away, and I almost fell, so I found myself hugging some guy.
Eventually, everyone was let out after hours. It was getting dark. People were surrounding me from everywhere, kids were screaming, cars were crushed, streets filled with rocks, broken glass, and smoke, and hundreds of young men were carrying either dead or injured people. The noises of shooting and bullets faded while the noise of ambulances dominated.
I would never wish this to happen to anyone because it is much worse than death. I am still unable to put things together at the moment, but I am so glad that I got back home. The only irony is that once I got here, Al Jazeera was covering the Olmert-Mubarak press conference. While they were sucking up, we were under attack. They were discussing peace (I guess), and they made sure it is being perfectly applied this afternoon in Ramallah.
Dana Shalash is a student of English at Birzeit University. Her blog is Stranger than Fiction.