The gray of war

My uncle Hareth takes a nap while waiting in line for gas in Deir al-Balah, Gaza. He sometimes waits in line for up to 20 hours. (Photo courtesy of family) 

The struggle for gas, for bread, for water (any water), for shelter. The struggle to survive.

The fear of more evacuations. The fear that we will lose our homeland forever.

This is what being in Gaza feels like right now.

I spoke to my uncle Hareth Nasser on the phone, and he did not sound well. He managed to keep it together, even with all the fears and struggles that mark daily life under war.

But deep down, I know his struggle.

My relatives are still in Gaza, stranded beneath a sky that, at this time of year, is a beautiful shade of gray, with the sun desperately trying to break through.

But now, when my relatives look above, they see not the gray of winter, but the gray of war. It doesn’t smell like rain, but of gunpowder.

I was sitting on the couch the other day, thinking of my beloved Gaza, only to find myself fighting tears and the encroachment of the sea of sadness. I am afraid of losing my homeland.

My uncles, cousins, aunts, coworkers, our olive trees – they have all been left behind to try to stay alive.

My uncle (Hareth, middle) sits in the stairwell of his friend’s house in al-Maghazi in Gaza alongside his oldest son Mahmoud (left), his nephew Mahmoud (2nd from right) and his sister Asmahan (my aunt, far right). They’ve been staying here for the past two months, 10 December 2023.

The hardest thing about knowing that my people are being killed 6,000 kilometers away is the feeling of utter helplessness.

I saw a few photos of my uncles in their shelter in central Gaza. I smiled for a moment when I saw their faces.

I was reminded of the days when we sat around a fire, laughing at my uncle’s hilarious jokes.

I miss everything we had before the war. I miss every get-together, every laugh and every sip of Nescafe.

I finally allowed myself to cry, but just a few tears from the avalanche of them that is trapped inside every Palestinian alive today.

The ugliness of such a war. This is too much for anyone to experience.

I don’t know where to begin.

Is it with my relatives left behind? With journalists slain in cold blood?

With displaced people bombed in schools and mosques? With the humanitarian disaster?

With the political game that is set against the Palestinians? The rigged UN Security Council votes?

Uncle Hareth (middle) and his youngest son Salah seated on his lap, his sister Asmahan (right) and his nephew Muhammad (left) sit in the stairwell of his friend’s house. They bake bread and cook on a makeshift contraption using a wood-burning fire, 10 December 2023.

My people are being slaughtered on national television, and no one is doing anything.

Over two months of death and misery inflicted by Israel on a defenseless population. Israel has a green light.

Meanwhile, we have nothing but hope.

But most days, I fight this hope, because every morning when I click on Al Jazeera, look at Instagram, I see that my people are still being slain.

Meanwhile, my uncle lies down on the ground to take a nap as he waits 20 hours for his turn to fill up his gas canister. Yet another day of a gruesome war.

I was taught in school that it’s the powerful who write history. Gaza will change that.

This is the history of humans fighting injustice. We will survive.

Mahmoud Nasser is a photographer and writer.