Our children hear Israeli troops getting closer. How can we comfort them?

As I write these words, Israel’s ground offensive is penetrating into Gaza City. But we remain determined to tell our stories and hold onto our humanity. The post Our children hear Israeli troops getting closer. How can we comfort them? appeared first on +972 Magazine.

Nov 9, 2023 - 22:28
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Our children hear Israeli troops getting closer. How can we comfort them?

By Mahmoud Mushtaha*

As I write these words, Israel’s ground offensive is penetrating into Gaza City. But we remain determined to tell our stories and hold onto our humanity.

I am still in Gaza City with my family. We didn’t flee south, despite the orders of the Israeli military, whose ground forces have now totally encircled us. We made the painful decision that it is better to stay here, with our relatives in this besieged city, than to be bombed while fleeing. We hear the news about Israeli airstrikes in the southern parts of the Strip, and feel viscerally that nowhere is safe in Gaza.

The overwhelming anxiety and terror inflicted on us by Israel’s ground assault in the past week — on top of the month-long, unprecedented aerial bombardment — has left us on the brink of despair. Our children cry incessantly. Initially, when the attacks began, we tried to reassure them: “That is a distant sound,” or “It’s just a balloon popping.” But now, we are at a loss for words. 

Last night, I couldn’t sleep at all. My heart trembled at the noise of intense clashes and shelling. How can we console our loved ones, especially the children, when they hear the Israeli forces getting closer with each passing moment? I long for someone to offer comfort, even if it is a comforting lie. But there is none.

We are living through a nightmare that won’t end, with no escape in sight. Our sole wish is for a humanitarian ceasefire, a halt to this devastating assault. This is the plea of all the innocent children, women, and men, as well as the young people of Gaza who have borne the burden of war their whole lives instead of being able to pursue their dreams. 

Severed from the rest of the world

Israel’s declaration of war in response to the October 7 surprise attack by Palestinian fighters marked the beginning of what have been harrowing weeks of nonstop bombardment across the besieged Strip. Each passing day has brought more devastation and despair, leaving us with the unbearable realization that there is nowhere to hide.

Every night for over a month, I have found myself sitting in a crowded room, surrounded by my family and relatives, contemplating our uncertain fate. The questions that plague my mind are relentless. Will I survive this attack? If I do, how will I possibly endure the excruciating pain and trauma that Israel’s assault has brought into my life? If I live to see the end of the war, would I stay in Gaza? No. I have to leave. If I even can.

On the evening of Friday, Oct. 27, we were at my aunt’s house. Forced to evacuate our home due to warnings from the Israeli occupation forces, we gathered in a room that we consider the safe room, with about 18 family members. 

We were doing our best to find comfort in one another’s presence, when suddenly the ground shook beneath us as a powerful explosion reverberated through the house. We rushed to the windows to see the damage to nearby homes. To our horror, we saw the aftermath of an airstrike dangerously close to our relatives’ house, where my brother, Islam, had taken refuge with his wife and three children.

In that heart-stopping moment, fear gripped our souls. We frantically attempted to reach my brother, desperately dialing his number — but there was no available phone service to facilitate the call. After several agonizing minutes, we discovered, thankfully, that they were safe.

The true shock, however, wasn’t solely the intensity of the strike or our concerns for my brother’s family; sadly, we have grown accustomed to such circumstances. The shock came with the realization that the Israeli occupation had cut off our ability to communicate with anyone outside the Strip, effectively severing Gaza from the rest of the world.

Israel’s decision to periodically impose internet blackouts on Gaza, coupled with the cutting of much of our electricity supply since October 7, is a deliberate act of cruelty. It is a calculated attempt to silence us as we endure unimaginable suffering, and a reminder that, in the eyes of the world, our lives and stories hold little value.

The blackouts have intensified our agony, leaving us in the dark about the latest news and developments. Each time we regain a fleeting internet signal, our hearts race with fear and anticipation. We dread the arrival of new messages that might bring more bad news. But in the face of this cruel silence, this unending cycle of anxiety and despair, the people of Gaza continue to resist, to persevere, and to hope for a brighter future. 

Survivors, dreamers, and fighters

My dreams, like those of people all around the world, are simple. I yearn to pursue my passions, complete my studies, and travel beyond the walls of the besieged Gaza Strip. I dream of a life free from the constant threat of Israeli bombardment and the suffocating blockade that has gripped us for 17 years. I want to marry the woman I love and build a peaceful home for our future — a home untouched by the horrors of conflict. My deepest desire is to raise children without subjecting them to the trauma that has become the shared experience of all Palestinians.

Palestinians are asking, 'Are you with us?' American Jews are showing we are.
These dreams are neither difficult nor impossible to achieve. They are the basic rights of any human being.

We Palestinians are more than statistics in a news report. We are individuals with dreams, aspirations, and the same human rights as anyone else. Our resilience is a testament to the strength of the human spirit, as we endure hardship and trauma with unwavering determination. The Israeli attacks may have brought pain and destruction, but they have also revealed our unbreakable spirit, our refusal to be silenced, and our unyielding commitment to one day live and thrive without fear.

As I write these words, Israel’s ground offensive on Gaza City continues, but so does our determination to tell our stories and to bear witness to the human cost of this aggression. We are more than headlines, more than casualties, and more than political disputes. We are a community of survivors, dreamers, and fighters, and we deserve to be heard.


* Mahmoud Mushtaha is a Gaza-based freelance journalist and human rights activist.

The post Our children hear Israeli troops getting closer. How can we comfort them? appeared first on +972 Magazine.

+972 Magazine +972 Magazine is an independent, online, nonprofit magazine run by a group of Palestinian and Israeli journalists. Founded in 2010, wants to provide in-depth reporting, analysis, and opinions from the ground in Israel-Palestine. The name of the site is derived from the telephone country code that can be used to dial throughout Israel-Palestine. +972 Magazine does not represent any outside organization, political party, or agenda.