A farewell to my beloved Gaza

Two people walk across an empty courtyard

People making their way to Egypt on the last crossing of the day, 12 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

Leaving home. Leaving everything that makes you who you are.

Your home country. Your memories.

Your dreams, your hopes, the smell of your apartment, the laughter of your uncles, your coworkers, the sound of a rooster at the crack of dawn.

Leaving our beloved Gaza.

Feelings of loss have come in all forms in recent weeks. From losing your business, your home, your loved ones, to losing your country, for which you abandoned the safe life of the “West,” all for our beloved Gaza.

“Why would you ever come back here? Are you crazy?”

Everyone asks.

Border guards at work

 Palestinian border police stamping passports, 12 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

But there’s something about the air here.

This is something that many cannot and will not understand or feel.

It is October, autumn is here, winter is on the horizon, it’s 9 PM on a Thursday night. You make your way back from a hard day’s work in the city to retreat to your family home.

The car window is open as the first whiff of wind strikes your nostrils. You inhale deeply and an indescribable relief consumes your entire being.

You have entered the town of Beit Hanoun. That smell, that feeling that lives eternally inside us, the same feeling for which we endure all the hardships of life in Gaza.

This is what many can’t feel.

Our beloved Gaza.

The view from inside a car

Taxi driver takes us to the Rafah border crossing on our first attempt to leave, 10 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

Waking up on the first day after leaving Gaza, it is strange to feel the absence of war. Suddenly, there is no fear of losing your life in an airstrike.

It’s a feeling of safety that intrudes like a stranger from the past.

There is running water here. There are toilets that flush. There’s safe water to drink.

It’s a strange life, one that has been entirely absent for the past few weeks. Normal life to any free soul has become a luxury to us.

The shock and trauma of the war worms its way into our heads at night. We sleep, but waking up in the middle of night from nightmares of the war, you ponder the misery.

You cry a little.

A horse-drawn cart with luggage

A horse drawn cart delivers people and luggage to the Rafah crossing. There is an acute fuel shortage in Gaza so few cars are still running, 10 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

Questions begin to creep in.

Why does this happen to us? Are we not humans?

Is our life of less value?

No one seems to have an answer.

You are filled with rage at seeing your humanity taken from you.

You think about the worst place a human can reach, when your humanity has been robbed from you, when you’re deprived of your dignity, when some people look the world straight in the eye on TV and tell us “you’re all terrorists,” that we deserve this somehow.

This hurts more than the pain of the actual war, to be dehumanized to a point where your entire existence becomes meaningless and the value of your life non-existent.

Helpless, beaten, exhausted and scared, even after leaving the war and our beloved Gaza, being Palestinian doesn’t end.

People pass time in a waiting room

Travelers awaiting the border gate to open, 10 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

My dear and beloved Gaza.

To you I write. I left you, with a bag on my shoulder. I weep at losing you.

A part of myself will forever be empty without you. My body may not be there, but my soul, my heart, everything that makes me human, stays etched in your beautiful and rugged concrete landscape.

No more stunning sunsets and walks on the beach. No more falafel from Zahran. No more Thursday nights with our families.

It’s goodbye for now.

I hope to see you again, my beloved Gaza.

Silhouette of a person on their phone

A passenger assures her family in Gaza that she has safely crossed the border, 12 November 2023.

Mahmoud Nasser

Mahmoud Nasser is a photographer and writer.