Mourning our shattered memories

Nobody was prepared for the scale of destruction in Gaza. 

Bashar Taleb APA images

We have experienced many wars against Gaza. But I never expected to see the current scale of killing, destruction, displacement and hunger.

After Israel declared war on 7 October, all the horrors and nightmares seemed to converge on me.

I was nine months pregnant at the time. And I was already the mother of two girls.

Who would take care of me and my two little daughters?

How would I get to the hospital so that I could give birth?

Who would accompany me?

I felt weak and helpless as my daughters ran into my arms seeking protection from Israel’s bombardment.

The violence was extreme.

We could not sleep due to the severity of the explosions.

Then our house was struck by shrapnel. All the windows were broken.


We decided to sleep in a dark and musty basement. It was a very stressful situation.

The most stressful thing was when I went into labor at a time when the Israeli military had surrounded us with a belt of fire.

We were only about 500 meters away from the hospital.

But we were unable to reach it. Finding a car to bring me there was like an impossible mission.

There was huge confusion about what I should do and with whom I should leave my daughters, who were crying in fear. Amid that confusion, I decided that I would take them with me to the hospital.

At the hospital – as my husband was busy looking after my daughters – I felt like I was drowning in pain.

I wished that instead of taking my new baby from my womb, the doctor would put all my children inside me so that I could protect them from the horrors surrounding us.

It was a difficult birth. I needed many stitches.

If the circumstances were different, I would have stayed at the hospital under medical care. But because of the security situation, we had to leave immediately.

The danger to the hospital was very real: It was subsequently bombed.

Instead of being able to go home, I went to stay with relatives in Gaza City’s Beach refugee camp.

We were about 20 people in the house and gathered in a room that we thought would be the safest.

It felt chaotic. There was no comfort or privacy.

I slept on a sofa. My newborn daughter was next to me – on a table.

Like everywhere else in Gaza, we heard the sounds of explosions in Beach camp.

Witnessing a massacre

We had not been there long when the Israeli military ordered us to leave for the south. So we set off for the city of Khan Younis.

On the way, Israel bombed a truck full of displaced people in front of us.

A massacre.

We saw death with our own eyes.

I could not believe what was happening.

We were trying to survive amid mass destruction. And we were hearing stories of atrocities against children and women, against people’s homes and everything they owned.

It dawned on me that we were facing a genocidal war.

We stayed with family in Khan Younis. In the middle of the night, we received a call from the Israeli military, telling us to evacuate.

We fled from the house barefoot. My heart was full of terror as I tried to look after my children.

I spent an entire night on the sidewalk with my baby and my two other children. It was cold.

I used to tell my daughters stories at bedtime, sing to them, hug and kiss them. They slept in a warm and clean bed and we lived in safety and love.

Now we are living in a tent.

We have no electricity or clean water. We are often in the dark.

We use unclean public bathrooms. They put our children at risk of contracting disease.

We queue for water, bread and other food and struggle to provide the necessities of life.

I cannot buy new clothes for my baby.

I am struggling to find diapers and infant formula.

I have changed the type of formula and diapers more than once. My baby has allergies and abdominal bloating.

Empty markets

My older daughters long for chocolate, chips, candy, fruit and meat. We cannot provide them as we wander through the empty markets.

All we can buy are some canned goods and biscuits.

We have been uprooted a number of times. This has meant that we have had to leave many of our belongings behind, including clothes and bedding.

We have always struggled to buy what we need again.

The war has humiliated us, stripped us of our dignity and humanity, made us sleep barefoot on the streets and in tents, made us yearn for our previous life.

Before the current war, Gaza had been already under a complete blockade for more than 16 years.

Compared to the current situation, we now see the previous state of siege as bliss. Something that we long for.

I miss my old life, my home, my room, my bed, my memories, my children’s room, their toys, their clothes. I wait for the day that we will return to the north.

I know that I am like vast numbers of other Gazans.

If I return, I will return homeless.

I always held out hope that I would return to our house, even if it was damaged, that I would repair it and live in it again. That was before I saw the pictures and had to accept that my house had been turned into rubble.

When entire families have been annihilated, when the bodies of so many children are still buried under the rubble, we cannot mourn for mere stones.

But we can mourn for the years of effort that have now been destroyed.

We can mourn for our shattered memories.

And we can wonder.

We can wonder how many times we Gazans must start our lives all over again.

Fedaa al-Qedra is a journalist in Gaza.