My grandfather built our home, now it is rubble

Eid was a somber occasion this year. 

Mohammed Talatene DPA via ZUMA Press

The rituals ahead of Eid al-Fitr are timeless.

My mother would bake cookies – kaak as they are known. My father would choose sweets for our guests.

I would be responsible for decorating our home, as well as caring for our garden. The flowers and trees in it were stunning.

When the morning of Eid arrived, we would hear chants of “Allahu akbar” from the mosques. The chants would spread out across Abasan al-Jadida, the village where we lived in the Khan Younis area of southern Gaza.

That would be followed by lively scenes in our home. My siblings and my father would compete for the iron so that we could have our clothes ready before the Eid prayer.

In the happy chaos of the morning, I would often find myself running late for prayer.

Children from the neighborhood would arrive at our home in their bright new clothes, eagerly awaiting their Eid gifts and sweets.

Eid was a somber occasion this year.

For the first time in our lives we marked Eid outside the familiar confines of our home, away from friends, neighbors and our beloved garden.

Amid the current genocidal war, we had been forced to flee our home in Abasan al-Jadida. We had to leave behind our belongings, save for a few essential items that could be packed in a bag.

We moved from one precarious location to another so that we could escape Israeli airstrikes. Finally, we went to Egypt.

Our relatives and friends were scattered between different places at Eid. Some were in tents in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, some in Khan Younis.

Others were in the central city of Deir al-Balah. A number were in northern Gaza.

We did our best to exchange greetings. The greetings we received were accompanied by terrible news and images.

They showed that Israel had destroyed our home.


For a few brutal months, Israel had captured Abasan al-Jadida. Its troops caused devastation.

Attempting to cope with the shock, we told ourselves that stones can be replaced. The important thing was to stay well.

But the reality is that we all feel unwell.

We had inherited our home from my grandfather Ibrahim. He built it with his own hands, using old stone.

Rania Abu Taima’s home

It had been standing for more than 50 years.

Now it is rubble.

Rather than modernizing or expanding the building, we had striven to keep it as it was. It was part of our heritage.

More than 20 members of our family were raised in it, myself included.

This was not the first time Israel had attacked our home. It was partially destroyed during Israel’s 2014 war against Gaza.

But now the destruction was complete.

From our first steps to my university graduation party, this house had witnessed all our milestones.

All our tears and triumphs.

We have lost furniture, books and clothes.

We have lost my meticulously decorated pink room.

We have lost the garden where we would gather under the stars.

We had a sidra tree in our front yard and a sycamore at the back. People knew it was our home from those trees.

We had a mulberry tree – beside which we would drink tea. And we grew pomegranates.

Trees in the front garden 

We had olive trees, though the Israeli occupation uprooted them three times.

Israel wants to wreck everything – human, plant, even stone.

Israel is stripping us of our identity, our property and our rights.

We have nothing left but our imagination and memories.

Every night as I drift into sleep, I imagine myself back home.

Every morning, I imagine that my mother is gently waking me up for breakfast as my siblings joke with each other and my father looks for help with watering the plants.

I imagine that a neighbor calls, inviting us to meet and chat.

I imagine that another neighbor requests sugar for that final batch of Eid cookies and the neighborhood children play on our orange swing, a treasured relic bought for us by my father more than 20 years ago.

The reality is that my thoughts and our lives are frozen.

We are waiting for a gloomy cloud to pass and longing to return home.

Home is where I have some freedom.

I miss the scent of freedom.

Rania Abu Taima is a writer and translator from Gaza.