Love, loss and the power of memories

A child looks through a broken window in Rafah in November. 

Abed Rahim Khatim DPA via ZUMA Press

My brother Ghassan says his heart was won when he first saw Hadeel.

The engagement announcement drew many people from all over Gaza to share in their happiness. I was so happy that I even wrote a poem for the occasion.

But the war paused the construction of Ghassan and Hadeel’s future house. Our home was in a wedding mood, and Ghassan was overflowing with love and life, looking forward to their wedding day, initially set for November.

Suddenly, after a brutal airstrike hit a few houses in the area, Hadeel’s family house was bombed on 7 November. Her father, Ashraf Fares, a judge, was killed. Her mother and brother were injured along with other family members.

My brother’s fiancée suffered the most severe injuries. Hadeel underwent two emergency operations and remained in a coma in the intensive care unit of a hospital for days.

Ghassan kept praying for her, hoping she would recover and that they would complete their life together. I asked him all the time about her condition, and all he kept saying was, “Hadeel, God willing, is fine.”

But her fate was to become a martyr. Hadeel succumbed to her injuries on 12 November. Now she awaits Ghassan at the doors of heaven.

I have collected the comments that follow from others about the gut-wrenching losses they have also suffered due to Israel’s genocide.

Light on soul diminished

Ruzalinda al-Ashi told me about her friend Hala.

“I’m writing these words with tears in my eyes; they flow for my companion and the love of my heart Hala al-Jaja.”

“She was a very kind girl with a pure heart, a light on the soul, and a true friend.”

“Hala got married in July, and she was one of the loveliest brides I’ve ever seen, as well as the most delicate. She was happy to marry the love of her life, and joy radiated from her eyes.”

“She hoped to be a mother to a little girl. When she found out she was pregnant, she shared her happiness with me.”

“Hala was killed on 7 November, along with her husband, Mohammed al-Jaja, and their unborn child.”

“Hala, my soul, I miss you so much”.

“Your voice, your face, and your laughter are imprinted in my mind. I love you so much.”

“We’ll meet in paradise.”

Honoring a young violinist

Mahmoud told me about one of the students he encountered at the music school where he taught.

“On one of the few serene days in Gaza in the last eight months, I met a calm girl with eyes full of determination and passion. Lubna Elyan was preparing for an audition for a music scholarship at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music, where I worked as a guitar teacher and academic supervisor.”

“I will never forget the enthusiasm that filled Lubna’s eyes.”

“She told me that she wanted to study to play the violin, even though the violin class was full. I asked her, why the violin? She answered, ‘I love the violin passionately, and I want to become one of the world’s top violinists. That’s my dream.’”

“Lubna Elyan, 14, was martyred on the morning of 21 November, after the bombing of her aunt’s house, in the Nuseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City.”

“I will preserve Lubna’s memory in the best way I know how — by writing music in her memory, in memory of her dream, in memory of her passion, in memory of the future stolen from her.”

“I promise you, Lubna, to keep true to your dreams and to help share your story with the world.”

Trio of friends

Tala spoke about her best friends, Dima and Haya.

“We were the happy trio that nothing could break apart. So we thought.”

“I was sitting scrolling through the internet one day, when suddenly I fell on the news that my friend Dima had been killed.”

“Dima Hatem al-Qudra, 13, one of my dearest friends, had the most beautiful smile among us. She possessed a sense of humor. She was filled with joy.”

“The Israeli army had ordered Dima’s family to leave their home, and they did. A few days later, on 11 October, Dima and her mom went back to get some stuff.”

“Their house was bombed. Dima was killed, and her mom was found later. Both of them became martyrs.”

“Haya Imad Abu Kwik was an exemplary student. She aspired to become a doctor and had dreams full of success.”

“Haya was going through a difficult time, trying to overcome the news that Dima had been killed.”

“On 15 November, I received the heartbreaking news of Haya’s martyrdom.”

“My dearest friend and sister was killed, her dreams cut short by an airstrike on her neighbors’ house.”

“Goodbye, my dearest friend. Now, you can reunite with Dima.”

“Haya used to say, ‘I wish I could see Dima, even for a moment.’”

“Now, they can be together again.”

Photographic memories

Hassan was the brother of Jehad Ali. Here she recounts what happened to her brother.

“On the morning of 9 November, I was sitting with some family members in the living room of my uncle’s house, while my father, Ali, brother, Hassan, and cousin, Ahmad, were on the third floor.”

“We heard an explosion, and at first, I thought it was a gas explosion. Then I realized it was a missile.”

“My father and my cousin were killed instantly, and Hassan was injured.”

“Hassan had recently graduated from high school with a GPA of 83.44. He wanted to become an Arabic language teacher, and he had received a scholarship from the Algerian government to continue his studies.”

“My mother rushed into the street to seek an ambulance for Hassan. I stayed with him in his last moments.”

“While we were sitting there, he reminded me of when, in 2005, we went to get our passports. He and I were in the same passport photo because he was only days old, and I was 6. I held my little brother in my arms, but I was afraid to even take a deep breath for fear that he might fall.”

“Eighteen years later, on 9 November, while we were waiting for an ambulance that never came, Hassan died in my arms.”

Rifqa Hijazi is a student in Gaza.