My heart aches as I think about my niece Deema. Her second birthday came amid the horrors of Israel’s bombs.
I was thinking about organizing a party for her. I wanted her to experience a childhood that would be completely different to mine.
My wish was for Deema to enjoy her birthday. Plenty of toys and cakes shared with other children.
I forget that we live in Gaza. In Gaza, everything can change in the blink of an eye.
On Deema’s birthday, war broke out in Gaza.
I asked my sister about her kids. She told me that their temperatures had soared to alarming levels. Out of fear.
Before this latest war, I felt that I could write blog posts about anything I wanted. I was planning to write about my favorite player and his inspiring journey.
For four days after this latest war began, I could not write anything as I could not believe what was happening. I was not able to organize the thoughts in my mind.
My mind was too busy. Everyone in Gaza was thinking of countless scenarios.
Eventually, I regained the ability to write. With a heavy heart, I am now writing again, my thoughts focused on friends who were forced to flee their homes.
I dedicated four years of my life to studying at the Islamic University of Gaza. Two months ago, I graduated from there; I felt proud.
The Islamic University of Gaza not only provided me with an education, it gave me the chance to meet my true friends. It is a place where I laughed loudly, cried sorrowfully, ate with friends, read my favorite books, learned in an excellent way and planned for my future.
I had ambitions.
Israel’s air strikes destroyed all of this.
I have walked every inch of the streets surrounding the university.
I have visited every bookshop and café and many other places near the university.
I have taken beautiful pictures there.
Little did I know that all these moments would soon be mere memories.
Even though I had graduated, I had found myself going back to the university – it was somewhere familiar – as I worked towards building my future.
I had started a training program, aimed at improving the way I write and translate and to help me find a job. I was hoping for a better future with my family.
The Israeli military has now destroyed the place where I was following the training program. It has been reduced to rubble.
Israel has destroyed my dreams.
Israel has targeted vital infrastructure in Gaza: mosques, hospitals, schools, universities, residential buildings, shops, the communications network. This has made reaching out to people incredibly difficult.
I have many friends living in a neighborhood that has been completely devastated.
My friends are enduring unbelievable hardship: no electricity, no water, no means of connection. I am not sure if they are alive, injured or in good health (at least physically).
They have been uprooted in a huge number of cases. Their situation is dire.
I also have friends who have lost loved ones. And I have struggled to find a way to express my condolences.
Words have failed me. When I have managed to speak with friends going through a bereavement, the deep sorrow in their voices has said everything.
I finally succeeded in reaching my best friend Jumana after numerous attempts to call her. She had to evacuate her home due to bomb threats in her area.
When I asked her to explain what happened, she told me how her family gathered their IDs and passports and other essential documents, along with some clothes.
“All our neighborhood has been evacuated,” Jumana said. “Women and children were screaming in the streets not finding a place where they could be safe. There were no cars to transport us from our region to one which is safer.”
Jumana was crying as she told me of her fears. “I will lose everything. I will lose the place where I spent my childhood. I won’t have my room again. We are not going to get together with my brothers and their sons.”
My friends and I have been sending each other our final messages.
We are writing down what we wanted to achieve. Our aspirations.
We are writing down how much we love our country. We pledge to defend it.
We are writing down these messages for people with no humanity or sense of morality.
We are keeping our dignity.
Ghayda’a Hasan Owaidah is a writer in Gaza.