The Leaflet:

by | Oct 17, 2023 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

You must evacuate your homes immediately and head to the Southern Gaza valley.

Urgent statement!

To the residents of Gaza City.

Terrorist organisations have begun a war on the state of Israel and Gaza city has become a battlefield.

You must evacuate your homes immediately and go south of wadi Gaza

For your security and safety.

You must not return to your homes until further notice from the Israeli Defense Forces.

Public and known shelters in Gaza City must be evacuated.

It is forbidden to approach the security wall and anyone who approaches exposes himself to death.

For your safety and the safety of your families.

You must evacuate your homes immediately and head to the Southern Gaza valley.

The I D F

My eldest daughter, Maryam, brought it in. 

“They’re falling like Jasmine petals. We Have to go. Why Mama? Why?” She handed me the small slip of paper, her eyes wide and filled with tears.

“IDK,”  I signed, taking the leaflet from her hand. Did I tell you she was deaf? Her eardrums were sucked out by a percussion bomb in two-thousand and fourteen. She was six then. Maryam was born the year before Hamas won the election. She hasn’t known any other life. Her best friend was closer to the blast. She wasn’t so lucky. Her lungs were dragged from her chest by a bomb designed to suck the air from a Hamas tunnel.

I read the leaflet, my heart sinking with every word. Israeli Defense Force? Defence against what? They say that some boys crossed the border and killed civilians. How can that be possible? Yet, I know this to be true because my cousin’s son disappeared two months ago. He said, “to take part in something big.” He’s sixteen.

All of this in the name of Hamas. They say that Hamas planned this so-called atrocity. What about the atrocities they have visited upon us? My Uncle and his wife received such a visit. They told him that they would be using his yard from which to fire rockets. Told them, not asked – Hamas don’t ask.

Three hours later, the whole block was destroyed by an Israeli air-raid. Seven families, My Uncle, Aunt and six cousins. Hamas left long before the raid.

Back to the leaflet. It says we have to go south. How Ironic is that? My home city is Khan Younis! My husband was killed there by Israeli ground forces in the last invasion, when Maryam lost her hearing.

So, we have to walk to the south. Me, my three daughters and my mother-in-law. I look out of the window. There’s no glass, I swept it up two days ago. I can’t have my babies walking in broken glass. The street below is strewn with rubble. The roof of a car lies upside-down, like the prone corpse of a dead cockroach.

My youngest, Amira, cries from the bedroom. She wants water. We don’t have any. She stood on a nail two days ago when looking for food. Now, her foot is swollen, red and very hot. I have no medication or bandages for her.

***

Consider this. You’re a thirty two year old widow. You live with your disabled mother-in-law. She has Parkinson’s disease and is confined to a chair. You have three beautiful daughters. Following the death of your husband, you had to move twenty kilometres north to live with your in-laws. Your home had been destroyed in the last invasion in 2014. You rely on handouts from extended family, most of whom have either left or been killed in the recent Now, you have to reverse that journey on foot.

The road outside resembles an obstacle course. Your eldest daughter is deaf, the middle one is permanently traumatised and the youngest has to be carried everywhere. You can’t remember the last time you had tea or coffee. You are now reliant on your thirteen-year-old nephew, to bring you a bottle of water, for which he has queued for three hours.

***

My Name is Omar. I have no family other than my Aunt, three cousins and Grandma. I spend my days in the rubble looking for treasure. Not gold or silver. I see plenty of that. It has no value here. You can’t eat gold. You can’t drink silver. Now, a bag of lentils is a fortune, a half bag of rice, a ransome. That’s a real treasure. In the hands of my Aunt, it’s a King’s banquet.

One day, I entered an apartment. It was as if it hadn’t been touched by the air-strikes.  Everyone had fled, in a minute’s notice.  The larder was full. Zatar, chickpeas, jars of olives – green and black, and the ultimate, Nablus cheese. Block after block of it. 

As I filled my sack, I recalled my Baba telling me of his grandfather.  He farmed the West Bank of the Jordan River. Olive groves, sheep and goats. Herbs growing everywhere. Sage, Thyme, Parsley and tart Sumac berries that made your cheeks draw in. 

Then they came. Pitching their terraces of tents in the field next to the farmhouse.

The old man fed and watered them and they were grateful. That was, until the British soldiers came. The message they brought was that it was their land. The ramshackle group of thin, pale refugees. Not that of my Al Jad Al’Akbar.

Anyway, it’s almost my turn in the queue. Let’s hope it’s Mohammad distributing the water. He has a soft spot for Aunt Samia and he’ll give me an extra bottle for the girls, Inshallah.

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