Trapped in a nightmare

The destruction in Gaza makes everywhere feel empty. 

Abed Rahim Khatib DPA via ZUMA Press

Before this genocidal war, I ate until I felt full. And I slept until I felt rested.

Everything has changed. I am now just trying to survive.

In Gaza, it feels like darkness has taken over. I am struggling to find myself in this darkness.

Life has been incredibly tough ever since this war began. We don’t have clean water, electricity or internet access.

The little food available is constantly getting more expensive.

Human life seems to have little value.

Even the cats are scavenging for food among piles of trash.

The happiness of graduating from college soon vanished in the darkness.

The darkness deepened when more than 10 of my friends and acquaintances were killed.

Tears keep flowing. Not just from me but from all Palestinians.

In Gaza – particularly in the north and center – people flock to the main streets every day, hoping for food aid. They risk their lives to feed their families.

Bringing back food – even just flour – turns you into a hero.

Children go to search for food with their fathers. The intense disappointment can be seen on peoples’ faces when they return emptyhanded.

Every time our fathers return safely from their dangerous trip, it feels like Eid, an occasion to celebrate.

Fighting for survival

Back in the day, our meals looked like a mosaic of health. They were packed with all the stuff our bodies needed to thrive.

Fresh fruit and vegetables gave our tables a sense of vigor. Every bite was a delight.

Our cooking was all about keeping it simple. Close to the earth.

With ingredients like olives and thyme, we honored our heritage with every dish. Each meal was a tribute to the land we cherish.

Food and culture were intertwined in our daily lives. Now – in these tough times – our feasts are distant memories.

The simple pleasure of fresh food is a luxury we can only dream of. We fight to get the things we need for survival.

We miss the days when milk and eggs were easy to come by. It’s hard to watch our little brothers and sisters grow up without the type of food they need to stay healthy.

Instead, we’re stuck dealing with shortages and not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We do our best to keep going with the little that we have.

The streets feel empty without the familiar faces we used to see every day. It feels like we are in a ghost town now, with reminders of lives and dreams that were crushed.

Places that used to be lively are now just piles of rubble, showing how easily everything can be destroyed.

The places we knew so well are now silent. Instead of windows and doors, there are only empty spaces, reminding us of the void in our lives.

Our homes used to be filled with color and life. Now they’re covered in ash and rubble, suffocating the memories we once cherished.

I never thought that I’d miss the old me. I loved listening to music and taking walks in nature, watching kids play without a care in the world.

Before the war, every little pleasure felt like a gift, even things like a few hours of electricity or slow internet.

Everything has changed. I now eat to survive, not for enjoyment.

Food tastes bland. All I hear are bombs exploding.

I have lost more than my home. I have lost a part of myself.

All my dreams have been shattered. I feel empty and trapped in a never-ending nightmare.

I wish the world would stop and take notice of the destruction around us.

The new me is nothing like the old one. I am constantly thinking about how to keep my family safe in this deadly environment.

I long for the peaceful life I used to have, when I could walk the streets without fear.

My body craves healthy food and clean air, the things I once took for granted.

Eman Alhaj Ali is a journalist, translator and writer based in Gaza.