How will children in Gaza heal?

two children huddle together around a phone

The author’s siblings huddle together around a phone. 

Wejdan Wajdy Abu Shammala

In Gaza, your life can be snatched away in an instant.

You have no control. Death is everywhere.

The most terrifying element is that you won’t have any time to express your opinion because your name will already be written in the records of those killed by the Israeli occupation.

More than 10,000 Palestinian children have been killed in just over 100 days of Israeli bombardment. That’s roughly 100 every day.

How many of their stories have been told in the US and Europe?

For me, the most traumatic aspect of Israel’s genocidal violence is what I have experienced with young children during this aggression.

I have two young siblings, one is 5 and the other not yet 3.

One day recently, when we were preparing to search for food, my 5-year-old sister said to my mother, “Mom, I want chips. I haven’t tasted them in a month and a half.”

My mother looked at me with a look of helplessness, then said: “Wejdan is going to the market to buy some food supplies. There are no snacks or chips in the market but I’ll tell her to bring chips for you and your brother if she finds them.”

My little sister was overjoyed, clinging to this simple hope.

She left the room, and I turned to my mother.

“You know very well that there are only a few food products left,” I said. “And that there are definitely no chips.”

She looked at me with that helpless expression again. “And what can I tell her except what I said?” she replied.

I went to the market, full of all the pain and misery of war and want. I found some of what my family was looking for but I couldn’t find the rest.

Of course, I couldn’t find the chips my sister wanted. She cried when she learned I had been unsuccessful.

Profound impact

That evening, the occupation forces turned night into day with a shower of flares. The sudden brightness was a stark reminder of the constant threat of violence.

Moments later, the sound of shelling erupted, shaking the ground and rattling windows.

My little brother woke up screaming, his eyes wide with fear. He ran to my mother, burying his head in her arms.

My little sister ran to me, her hands over her ears. She clung to me, her body trembling.

“I’m scared,” she whispered. “The sound of shelling is so terrifying.”

After the shelling stopped for a few minutes, my little sister asked me an innocent question as I tried to play with her to make her forget what had happened.

“Do the airplanes and the occupation shell the stars?”

I looked at her, my heart breaking, and said, “No, they don’t. But why, my dear?”

“Because I love the stars and I’m afraid for them. I don’t want them to be killed.”

I put my arm around her and held her close. “I love them too. I promise you, they’ll be safe.”

I looked up at the stars, and I knew that at least I was telling the truth. The stars are far away, beyond the reach of the bombers.

They are a reminder of hope, even in the darkest of times.

The next morning, the shelling resumed. I was pouring water for my younger brother to drink when I heard the shelling.

I immediately picked him up and held him close.

“Don’t be afraid, my love. We’re all here with you.”

He replied in a simple, innocent voice, “I’m afraid of the fire.”

My brother meant the shelling because he doesn’t know anything about it except that it is a bright light accompanied by a terrifying sound.

He reached out for my phone, his eyes pleading for a distraction. I handed it to him, hoping that games would help him escape the terror.

My little sister also asked to sit with him and look at the phone.

We sat together, watching the screen and trying to forget the fear and violence outside.

Children in Gaza will be scarred for life. We know that this terror will have a profound impact.

How will the minds and hearts of children heal?

I do not know the answer to that question. I don’t even know how I will heal or how my parents will heal.

After enduring so much fear and death, is such healing even possible?

Wejdan Wajdy Abu Shammala is a writer, voice-over artist and translator.