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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sex: Don't let words deceive you

Sex: Don't let words deceive you


Gaza, December, I am not known for choosing controversial headlines to spark traffic or discussions, not that is a bad thing. But perhaps I needed to start this post by a reminder to myself and to you all: Don’t be deceived by headlines, words, covers and\or preconceived notions.

It’s always better to dig a little deeper. I know that sometimes we end up discovering a rock after digging up hard, but sometimes we come across a diamond while excavating. I don’t know about you, but personally I think that risk is worth the effort. You will either find a diamond or find the truth. Arent they both worth the digging?

By sex here I mean gender. Males and Females, and everything that falls in between. I am not here to lecture you in science or repeat historical theories and findings about males and females and the endless yet limited differences between them. I am here to talk about a whole different dimension.

I wish it stops at education and science, when it comes to learning about males and females, but it doesn’t. Everywhere around the world, whatever the diverse culture is, we are all raised on pre-defined notions and definitions. Whether its related to morals, or religion, or traditions, or terms or even the simple meaning of things. We are grown to absorb everything as it was decided by others. And we are told that asking questions is bad, it might even label you as an outcast or a rebel.

We become adults based on very old stereotypical definitions that were passed through generations without any effort of thinking things over or adding value to those terms. I am not talking about “modernizing things”, I am just saying that we were given a brain for a reason. Therefore, we should use it and learn that it is ok to challenge old or new meanings. We will either be convinced that they are right\enough, or maybe add to them or change them.

Nobody can define love in a specific way, or success. Love is said to be so many things. Some say it’s a feeling, others say it’s a state while its also said to be a chemical or scientific process. Success too. How can you define it? Is it having allot of money? Or being happy at what you do? Or is it being famous? Or have allot of following? Or maybe all the above? Who knows. And why should we know? Why do we have a hunger to define things and pass them on as the “right definition”?

In different cultures around the world, including the Arab world, we are brought up to believe that men don’t cry, men are indestructible and super strong. Males are raised to become emotionless Hercules who will be judged upon and measured by how much money they make and how many girls they toy with.

Yet, men are expected to be religious and well mannered. Exceptional husbands, amazing fathers, great brothers, obedient sons and good friends. They are expected to remember birthdays and show emotions and really care. But how? And what emotions? If they are raised to be heartless and strong?

Females are raised up to be weak and soft. “The weaker you are, the more men you attract”, and then she falls in love with someone who tells her she is too weak and breaks her heart. Women are told to be stupid, because if they are smarter and more successful  (and they usually are) then men will feel threatened and run away. Women are expected to be a superwoman who happens to be a great wife, marvelous mother, tender sister, obedient daughter and a true friend. She is asked to “find a balance” and “juggle everything at the same time”. She is expected to be the first in her class, yet act dumb. She is expected to soar for success yet let the man feel like he has the superior upper hand. She is expected to be amazing at work and home. She should raise kids, cook, clean, be the perfect maid and yet take care of herself for her husband while she studies and works and does a million thing at once.

But how? And why do you expect her to be strong when she is raised to be weak? How will she believe in herself when she is told she is dumb and must always submit to men? How can she be confident when she is degraded to feel like a maid in her own house?

Men are not brought up to respect the sacredness of marriage. In most cultures, men aren’t shamed for infidelity. And women are raised up to be in competition with each other, not in work or education, but in getting men. So its ok for men to dive into betrayal and infidelity yet they are grilled for it. What do you expect from them when they are raised to fall into such patterns?

Women are raised to be emotional yet oppress their feelings. “Don’t challenge your man, don’t speak about your feelings, don’t complain …..etc” and the list of “Don’ts” continues. Women are told that divorce is shameful and a disaster and that they are too weak to handle it. Yet, they are blamed for staying with abusive or womanizing men. And women are asked to never discuss sex with their own husbands, its an indicator of bad upbringing yet its ok to talk about it with her mother and girlfriends. How do you expect women to be strong and stand up for themselves if they are raised to be mute obedient maids?

And let’s not forget the old tale of all times: “Men are breadwinners, their duty as fathers and husbands is to put food on the table”. Then we blame men for being unfit fathers who don’t help their wives with anything. 

“Women are the center of the house, you are expected to do anything and everything and never ever complain or ask for help”. Then we blame women for being too weak and handling too much and neglecting themselves and not caring for their husbands.

Gladly, we reached an era where we are aware and educated enough to use the unlimited resources we have to questions things and redefine concepts that perhaps we feel like we need to make better. We are no angels and I know no matter how hard we try not to judge, we end up judging. Fine, judge people and things but do go a step further to explore whether your judgment is right or wrong. At the end of the day, you are not god and you are not always right.

We always try to grow as humans, which is necessary and good. But we should also care about the growth of the surrounding environment and the society you live in. Otherwise, your growth will feel minimal. Yes, you need to start within but do aspire to external and widespread change after you start with yourself. And think, by questioning and challenging preconceived constants, you might be paving the way for a healthier better generation.

Writing and reading are therapeutic. I hope you don’t consider my writing as lecturing or telling you what to do. It’s more like sharing my personal intimate thoughts so I could grow with you. We all have our trials and tribulations. Instead of judging each other and growing apart, I believe we should help each other and grow closer. Our time has many advantages but also one of the downfalls is that we are becoming lonely by isolating ourselves by relying too much on technology.

Life is tough, and a constant learning experience. But its limitless too so never stop using your brain or advancing because nothing is impossible and trust me, you are definitely not alone, even though it feels like it most of the time. So let’s get it together.


From Gaza with love,


Omar Ghraieb

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gaza: Dont hit her

Gaza: Don’t hit her



Gaza, December, We grow up being lectured about courage and taking risks and how exhilarating it is. They make it sound like the right thing to do. Until we become adults and we start getting lectured about not taking risks and hearing pro-cowardice sayings like this Arabic one that says: “Cowardice makes two thirds of manhood”, meaning: “When shit hits the fan, RUN”.

“Manhood” and many other terms are being deformed recently in the Arabic region and also the world, but I will come to that later on in future posts.

I saw a man in the street, exiting his house, arguing with his wife then BAM. He smacked her across the face. It was like a scene from a movie. She held her face and started crying, he had visible signs of anguish on his face, they both saw me standing there, and I myself was frozen. Stunned, perplexed, speechless and thinking.

Gaza is like most Arab countries\cities. A little society that is conservative and mainly fueled by traditions. Old, very old ones, that are usually confused with religious rituals. Long story short, if you are a smart person and you saw what I saw, DO NOT INTERFERE between a wife and her man. Just walk away. Unfortunately, I am not smart enough when it comes to domestic violence or violence against women. I was never beaten up as a child and never saw my family or friends use violence against women or each other so I refuse all kinds of violence.

I thought to myself: “So whats the worst case scenario Omar “The Hero of Stupidity”? You say something to the man and you end up getting into a fight which might turn ugly since he can call on his sons and neighborhood backup males. I would appear wrong for interfering and get beaten up. Or he would be a gentleman and just give me a black eye. Or he might listen to me (Ha Yeah right)”. So I decided whatever the outcome is, I am going for it. I would rather get beaten up than feel bad about not saying anything. (Don’t judge, I said I am not smart enough)

I found myself uttering: DO NOT HIT HER, AGAIN”. And hell opened. I distracted him from her but now he got all angry, red faced, cursing me loudly and heading towards me. “Don’t flinch or move a muscle, treat him like you learned how to act around a deadly snake”, I said to myself.
He came and stood right in my face, screaming and spitting. I acted cold and calm as quiet ice (quiet ice? Whatever). 

“Uncle, I am not trying to interfere. You are a respectable man and your wife is a good woman, you don’t want people to misjudge you. Consider me your son”, I said impressing myself but he wasn’t impressed. “You are not my fucking son”, he spat. I knew this means trouble.
I saw his wife making signs to me from behind telling me to stop this and just leave. He saw her. She then told me she doesn’t need my help, she loves her husband, its ok if he hits her and begged me to leave.

The man started going back and forth. Furious. Brushing his hair. I think he was considering his next move. So I jumped in quickly telling him I don’t judge him and I will not tell anyone but its obvious how much he loves his wife and that hitting women isn’t cool. Then I regretted saying “cool”. Like he would care about what’s cool and what isn’t.

To my surprise, he invited me to his house. I thought of politely declining. I knew it has to mean that I am either gonna get killed or kidnapped or beaten. But then he looked into my eyes and suddenly I trusted him. (Again, I am sometimes idiotic, don’t judge). Besides, we live in the same neighborhood, its not like my family wont figure it out and claim my body. (I hope they do)

He asked me all the formal questions, told me he knew my dad (Phew maybe a good sign) and begged me not to call the police or report him to anyone. I said I wouldn’t. But I got scared because it felt like I will end up sympathizing with him and that’s bad. Then I will start finding excuses for him and for every other man who lays a hand on a female.

We started discussing the environment the person grows up in, how he is raised, what he witnesses and ofcourse how occupation ruins everything. I usually get irritated of how much we try to blame occupation sometimes for things that we should blame upon ourselves. But this time he was right. As a dad of 7 children, he witnessed all Intifadas and wars. He is trying hard to make a living, fighting Gaza’s impossible living conditions and yet didnt lose his mind.

He is double my age now, 54, he was my age when the first Intifada happened. He was happily married with one child. He had so many dreams and ambitions then it got all screwed and ruined. Since then, his life has been one big ugly rollercoaster and his main goal is to constantly have food on the table to feed his kids. And education, it’s a very important thing for him to educate his chilldren since he holds a Bachelor’s degree. He worked pretty much in everything. He is responsible for a number of families including his own, his married son, his dead brother’s family and his dad. His brother was shot during the first Intifada. Too much mouths to feed, as he said it.

His wife loves him to death. So on the day this incident happened, the man was sick and his wife was trying to bring him back inside telling him he should rest and she will go out try to make a living. She admits: “He smacks me sometimes, but out of love”. He looked like a tortured soul, a man who endured hell and yet still tries to keep standing and make a living. Still, I reminded myself, whatever the situation is: IT IS WRONG TO HIT A WOMAN.

He told me that his grandson was sick and he couldn’t skip work. He needed to work so he could afford taking him to the doctor. And he wouldn’t let his wife work. “My son graduated a few years ago, he is my eldest, he tries to work, but as you see Gaza is the spring of unemployment”, he said while his eyes turned red. “Do you believe that I hold a Bachelor’s degree? Yes. Me. Yet, I have to work in anything I can find just to keep everyone going. Its exhausting and humiliating but its worth it. And I will never humiliate my wife or let her go and beg for work”, he chocked as tears rolled slowly down his eyes. I couldn’t help but shed a tear as well. But his wife broke down and hugged him. I felt weird. I looked like a foreign journalist who is there to interview them or write their story. 

Weird enough, he asked me if I was a journalist or foreign. I said I am Palestinian and I haven’t written in a while and I don’t use people for stories unless they let me or ask me to share.

They insisted I stay for lunch but it was too awkward so I made up an excuse and left. But before that, I talked to him about domestic violence and hitting women. I tried not to sound like a lecturer but I did. “You need to understand uncle, hitting women isn’t right no matter what excuse you tell yourself. I will not ask you to go the gym to release negative energy, just walk it out or read Quran if you are too tired to walk or just sleep it off. Anything but hitting women. I know it anguishes you and it hurts your wife so why not just stop it?”, I said embarrassingly.

“I never laid a hand on my daughters. But sometimes I get angry, I don’t do drugs like other men here, I have a family to feed, I need to be sober and save money. I need a release or I will die. My wife is a good woman, she tolerates me and I swear I don’t smack her hard. I suspect my son is doing the same with his wife and I feel guilty.”, he said while looking down. I was saddened but understanding. He clearly appears like he wouldn’t do anything to his sons in law if they hit his daughters, he will feel like a hypocrite. That’s just wrong.

Before I could respond, his wife hurried to chip in. “Yes, it hurts more mentally than physically, I feel humiliated but at the same time I feel like as a good wife I need to help him get a release. Or he will die. So I let him hit me and promise myself to stop him next time. I never did. I love him too much. I overcome my shame and pain and anger for him. But inside, we both know its wrong. Atleast he never hit me infront of the children, right?”, she asked me. I didn’t answer because she knew the answer and wasn’t herself convinced that it was “right”.

He promised me never to hit her again. He realized its wrong. But I didn’t believe him, he knew it was wrong all along but did it anyway. She promised me she will stop him if he did it again, but we both knew it will never happen. 

I left feeling overwhelmed, thinking about children who see their dads hit their moms and how they follow the same pattern. Wondering why women are considered second class citizens in their own home? Why do we tolerate that? Why do we shove it under the rug and act like our societies are strong and religious?

I still see him around sometimes. He waves his hand to me and all I can think of is the memory of waving his hand to land on his wife's face. He smiles, but I cant smile back.

I faced the sad truth. Arab women are oppressed, degraded, abused and underestimated.

Ofcourse, many Arab women broke the cycle and soared to success. They fought against all odds, although it shouldn’t be so hard for them to become achievers. In Gaza too, many women revolted against traditions and violence and oppression. They became a beckon of inspiration, hope and success. Yet, many others are still suffering, still being hit, still being degraded and still being forced to shut up about it or lose their house, family, kids or even life.

Unlike the western world thinks, Islam honored women and actually emphasized on their rights more than men’s rights. Women should enjoy equality and all kinds of freedoms, including the freedom of choice. 

Women aren’t only our moms, sisters, wives and daughters. They are our friends, colleagues and peers too. I see men here go from opening the car door for their wives to being there for them and helping them succeed. Some men here even stay with the kids or work under their wives to make sure their business grow. And so many other sweet stuff. Unfortunately, those are the exception to the rule, and not the rule itself.

Its nearly 2015, and you still hear about so many cases of honor killing and beating up women in the Arab region and the world. Its not acceptable one bit. And this global new trend of promoting sexual violence claiming women love that, its beyond disgusting and sick.

If you think hitting women makes you a better man, you are wrong. Manhood is about respecting women and treating them right, not the opposite. Don’t make excuses up.

Your action shouldn’t just stop at not hitting women. It should extend to reach much higher actions like standing against domestic violence and violence against women. Your duty is not only to stop yourself from laying a hand on a woman, but stopping from doing it too.

Be strong by protecting women, not hitting them.


From Gaza with love,
Omar Ghraieb

Monday, July 21, 2014

Days 9-11 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: Entrapment

Days 9-11 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: Entrapment 



Gaza - I used to look out of my bedroom window and stare at the sky at different times of the day, and lose myself in my dreams and the vastness of the skies above.

I would think about my life, where I would be years from now, what I would want to accomplish, and so many other important but trivial thoughts. However, most importantly, I would imagine traveling to different countries and cities around the world.

My bedroom window was like the window to the universe. Through it, I imagined the next adventure on which I would embark.

Right now, the sight of my bedroom window makes me cringe.

I have been housebound for more than ten days, a little prison located inside the biggest open-air prison on earth — besieged Gaza. Due to regular nearby explosions, I have been told by my family not to go near the window. It has started to look like it has prison bars.

And when I get close to it for some fresh air, I start wondering about completely different questions, such as: When will I ever see my friends again? When will I see Gaza’s beach? When will I visit my favorite places in Gaza? Will I survive to dream through this window again?
Guaranteed

With war, nothing is guaranteed. Who can guarantee my survival when four little kids playing on the beach are killed by Israel? An Israeli warship bombed a shack near the boys — who ran away after that first strike and were then directly, deliberately hit in another strike. They had hopes and dreams too.

“Is this the end?” I ask myself. How did I go from dreaming about the impossible to wondering whether I would live to see another day, at the same window? Ah, war. I regretted listening to Adele’s “Skyfall” song. It’s not the right time to quote it or even play it in my head. I don’t want the sky to fall on Gaza.
Anticipation

The United Nations proposed a brief “humanitarian” ceasefire of five hours on Thursday, 17 July. Both Hamas and Israel agreed to it. It started at 10am. Yet seconds before the ceasefire ended, Israel committed a massacre and killed a number of people — which ruins the whole concept or a humanitarian ceasefire. At 10am, drones and warplanes were still over our heads.

When the ceasefire first went into effect, nothing changed. Few people left their homes. Silence was laying heavy over Gaza. Careful anticipation spread until, just a little over an hour in, people start leaving their houses in unison, as if everyone had coordinated it — but of course they didn’t.

Cars started moving, streets became busy, people rushed to stock up on items they needed. An electric mood ran through Gaza. Ironic how life in the human body is represented by the blood flowing through the veins but death is represented in Gaza when blood is flowing in the streets.

I stayed up all night, wondering, would the short ceasefire happen? Should I go out? Where would I go out? Who would I see? What would I do? What would I buy? A series of endless questions bottled up in a building sensation of pure anticipation. Oh, and adrenaline.

When the time came, I went to the door, with no certain plans in mind, and started to open it when it all hit me. What the hell was I doing? I closed the door and went back in.
The beach

As much as I was dying to go out, to breathe, to see the sky and the beach, to see any of my friends, to see the streets, I realized that I was being treated like a prisoner and a lab rat — both at the same time.

I am being confined and controlled. I am being told when I am allowed to leave and when I should return to lock myself back home and wait till we get bombed and killed again. It felt like a scam, a humanitarian scam in that we need to stock on up medicine and food, which I understand.
How can I ever look at the beach the same when those little Baker angels played football on the beach in the early morning, and then ran for their lives only to be shelled and killed by Israel? For playing football. Isn’t it enough that it took us years to forget the Ghalia family massacre on a Gaza beach years ago? Now we have a new massacre that reminds us of the old ones.

How will I ever look at Gaza beaches the same now?

The beaches are some of the most beautiful jewels of Gaza. They are like lifelines that keep people sane and help them enjoy themselves beyond the siege, the occupation and personal hardships.

Even they have been taken away from us. The beaches are now ruined and tainted. But I guess this is the effect of war and occupation. Israel wants to diminish your soul, your being. It wants to confine your existence and stain every nice aspect of your life or where you live — as if the siege wasn’t bad enough.
Prison

I boycotted the “humanitarian” scam of a ceasefire, and I decided to stay in my prison. Going out to the prison yard for a few hours won’t really take away the fact that my home is a small prison inside a big one.

It was difficult, but my heart felt like it was the right thing to do. I will boycott every humanitarian ceasefire until the war ends and children stop getting killed.

Israel kept threatening us with ground invasion every day for days, until that one night. I felt it before it was reported. We were attacked by land, air and sea. Gaza was turned into a scene from a Hollywood movie, except we were living inside of it.

The sky turned red, night turned to day and you could hear every kind of weapon being used. The ground was shaking, the house was lit like a discotheque and the loud blasts were no longer a background sound. The numbers of deaths and injuries have started increasing dramatically since the ground invasion, which proves how vicious it is.

War continues. New lives, dreams, hopes and existences are being killed. New bombings are everywhere. New bloodshed. New massacres. New families wiped out completely. A daily renewed contract of imprisonment.

Can you see the light at the end of tunnel?

First appeared on Electronic Intifada: http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-will-i-ever-look-gaza-beach-same-again/13611

Surviving Israel's bombs: Dos & Donts War-zone guidebook

Surviving Israel's bombs: Dos & Donts War-zone guidebook 

Photo credit: AFP - Mohamed Hams


Gaza – Every night I seem to think it’s the worst night, until I go through the next one. I got so used to the house shaking and moving from the consecutive blasts that it now feels weird when everything is still. Flashing lights, the ground shaking all around, that’s my house during the current Israeli war on Gaza.

Every day, Israeli warplanes bomb a new house; a mosque is hit; a car is blasted; a hospital is attacked. Even cemeteries and handicap associations are no longer safe. Every day, new people die, people who were once alive with hopes and dreams, are now nothing but a number in a news report. Life is so vulnerable in Gaza right now that your life can suddenly become a statistic. No one knows who will become a number, or when.

When you live in a conflict zone, like Gaza, experiences force you little by little to create the best “Dos and Don’ts” warzone guidebook. After three wars in the space of six years, you manage to figure out the best ways to survive with the limited options available to you:

Warzone guidebook

Anticipate and don’t hesitate. Don’t wait for it to happen, and head out of your house in the daylight to stock the basics. Make a plan and a list of everything you need and make sure to calculate the distance between the places and the time you will need. You are not going on a fun ride. Make sure all the places are nearby and easy to reach without wasting too much time. You will need a good amount of clean water because no one knows how long it will last.

Life is so vulnerable in Gaza right now that your life can suddenly become a statistic. No one knows who will become a number, or when.

Stock up on bread and canned food, they last longer than fresh food. Do not go out at night, unless it’s an emergency. Make a list of all numbers you will need in urgent times like numbers of hospitals, doctors, family members, friends, pharmacies and such.



Stocking up on medicine is more crucial than stocking up on food. Don’t only get medicine that you take or your family takes, make sure you stock up on emergency medicine, such as a first aid kit, bandages, plasters, medical cleansing alcohol, burn soothing creams, anesthetics, dehydration solutions, painkillers and anything else you might think you will need during days of war. Remember, during war, anything can happen, so it’s important to be vigilant.

Earplugs, earplugs, earplugs. Especially for those who have issues because the sound of the blasts might cause infection, pain and/or damage to the ears.

Use water and electricity wisely, moderately and efficiently. Make sure everything is recharged whenever possible. Stock up on candles or emergency flashlights, and make sure you always have enough batteries. Also, be careful when using candles, be always alert and never sleep while a candle is still lit.

Stay away from windows, unless you want to risk being on the receiving end of flying glass, or have your face cut to shreds. Stay away from doors. People say that corners are always the safest place in every house, so make sure you stay near one. Crack the windows open, because they have a larger chance of exploding if they are closed, especially when an attack happens close by and the pressure of the blast causes the window to explode. However, always keep the doors closed.

Do not rush to look out the window if you hear anything, and avoiding running to a nearby site that got burned or hit or bombed.

Never speak about locations or give too much information on landlines, mobile phones, or online. You are putting your life in danger and the life of other people who never gave you permission to endanger them.

Make sure you sleep at least three to five hours a day. There might be nights where you won’t be able to sleep at all, so sleep whenever you can. It is true that adrenaline keeps you awake and running for days, but when the rush dwindles, you will need days to recover, so be cautious.

Have a fire extinguisher in your house or building and make sure to be ready in case a blaze sparks anywhere near you. Getting burned isn’t fun. And stay hydrated.

Stay alert. This might save your life 90 percent of the time, unless you are destined to die. When you are alert you can anticipate danger and stay away from it or get out of it fast. Listen to your gut and have your instincts always on full-drive mode. I’ve found that in some ways it is actually more beneficial to stay alert than being safe because safety isn’t ensured unless you are well aware.

Ultimately, safety is nowhere to be found in Gaza, but you use whatever means you have.


Ultimately, safety is nowhere to be found in Gaza, but you use whatever means you have.



Ceasefires and ground invasions

The question of a ground invasion is one many Gazans were asking whenever we heard something on the news. The monster that is the ground invasion has been used as a fear tactic for days, Israel threatening Gaza with it every day, until one night: the night it happened. And I certainly felt it and heard it before it was even reported.

Israeli tanks, already beefed up on the border line, started advancing into southern and northern Gaza. Smoke bombs and tank shells were raining on Gaza, especially in the previously mentioned areas. We were attacked by land, air, and sea. And boy could we hear it and feel it. There were sounds of consecutive and rocking explosions, then it started getting harder to guess from where they were originating and where they will fall.

Since the ground invasion, the number of fatalities and casualties has been increasing dramatically by the minute, which only indicates how vicious it is.

Another issue we’ve been pondering revolves around the question of a ceasefire. My neighbors from one side are with it; they are tired and can’t handle any more madness. My neighbors from the other side are against it; singing melodies of how strong Gaza is. I, on the other hand, am sitting in the middle wondering when I will see the beach here again, or if I ever will.

Gaza is like one small village where everyone knows everyone. Everybody is related in one way or another. And those who you don’t know in real life, you befriend through social media, essentially turning Gaza into more than just a village, but a home which significantly helps when it comes to finding out what’s happening, and trying to figure out what to do. But even these connections don’t change the fact that we still face limited options.

Two nights ago, for example, many of my friends received Israeli recorded evacuation calls, all of whom live in the same area I live in. We quickly realized that we needed to formulate a “safety” plan, but in order to establish a plan, you need to understand the very real but almost comical situation on the ground. Imagine this scenario: Nalan al-Sarraj, who lives in Tal al-Hawa, tweeted that she got an evacuation call and was heading to her friend’s house which isn’t far from her’s. While I didn’t get a call myself, we still worked on scenarios of what we should do. Say I got an evacuation call and went to seek refuge with a friend, they might have already left their house because they too got a call. We both, then, would seek refuge with a third friend, and while we are there, he gets an evacuation call. “Where should we all go?” a question myself, Nalan and many others keep asking.

Truth to be told, nowhere in Gaza is safe. Some refugees sought refuge in UNRWA schools, but these were bombed by Israel during its “Operation Cast Lead.”

There is also the sound of actually hearing the missile falling and then a blast. That’s the best and our favorite kind here. Hearing the missile fall means it probably won’t be targeting you.

Having lived here long enough, sometimes trapped for days because of wars or attacks, I’ve realized I’ve become a sound expert. Now, instead of getting bored of seeing my family and neighbors all day every day for days, I decided to develop this skill, and I can now differentiate between rockets and their sounds’ impact.


Say an Apache [helicopter] is nearby, very loudly roaring above the house; that’s bad, right? The answer is yes and no. On one hand it’s a good thing because it means your house won’t be targeted. Unfortunately it also means another house will be targeted from a place in the air above your house. Also, Apache rockets are mild in comparison to the loud, devastatingly damaging and explosive F-16 rocket.

Blasts have different sounds too. A tank shelling, for example, doesn’t sound like a warship shelling. Then there is this sudden huge blast, caused by an F-16 rocket. It will take your breath away, literally. F-16 blasts give mini heart attacks. But that’s only if you are lucky. If it’s closer, you are probably flying due to this sudden blast. There is also the sound of actually hearing the missile falling and then a blast. That’s the best and our favorite kind here. Hearing the missile fall means it probably won’t be targeting you.

I jump even when the door slams. There is a buzzing in my ears now as a result of the proximity of the explosions. My heart stops for a few seconds each time I feel a blast. I haven’t slept for nine nights, and I’m fasting during the day. My mind and body are in overdrive; tracking the news; preparing for an evacuation to I don’t know where any second now; preparing to die, stuck at home. My fear now is turning into a zombie.

At least 335 Palestinians have been killed, and a further 2,390 others injured, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. Several new massacres were committed by Israel, including those against the Abu Dagga and Bakr families. Seven fatalities from which five are children. Four children alone, brothers and cousins from Bakr family, aged 9 to 11, were hit by a warship shelling on Gaza beach while playing football. Heartbreaking. My humanity is hanging by a thread, especially after I hear such news.

Don’t people in Gaza deserve to have human rights? How about the children?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 7-8 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: Nakba two

Day 7-8 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: Nakba two


Gaza, July 16, Israel launched a new aggression\operation\offensive against Gaza and decided to name “Protective Edge” also known as “Solid Rock”. Israeli warplanes, tanks, drones and warships participated in bombing places across Gaza all day long. This makes it the third Israeli open war against Gaza in 5 years or less. This isn’t a report, this is a personal account of what I lived today through the seventh and eighth day of Israel’s new aggression on Gaza.

NOTE: Due to lack power and too much news to track, I stopped for a while but I am trying to make up for it now. Blogs of the past few days will be posted successively.

Israeli warplanes, tanks, drones and warships have been participating in bombing places across Gaza for ten days now. This makes it the third Israeli open war against Gaza in five years or less.

Every night I seem to think it’s the worst night, until I go through the next one. I got so used to the house shaking and moving from the consecutive blasts that now it feels weird when everything is still. Flashing lights, the ground shaking all around, that’s my house during the current Israeli war on Gaza.

Every day, Israeli warplanes bomb a new house. A mosque is hit. A car is blasted. A hospital is attacked. Even cemeteries and handicap associations are no longer safe. Every day, new people die, people who were once alive with different hopes and dreams, are now nothing but a number in a news report. From life to statistics, that’s how vulnerable life is in Gaza right now. Who knows who is about to become a number, and when?

When you live in a conflict zone, like Gaza, experiences force you little by little to create the best “dos and donts” warzone guide book. First, the autopilot mode is ignited. You stock up bread, water, canned food, medicine and first-aid kits in no time without even thinking about it. You know which is the “alleged” safest spot in the house - usually the corners - and you know to stay away from windows and doors. Safety in Gaza is always missing and never found, but you use whatever means you have.

The question discussed among most of Gaza’s homes and neighborhoods has been around ceasefire or no ceasefire? My neighbors from one side are with it; they got tired and can’t handle any more madness. My neighbors from the other side are against in; singing melodies of how strong Gaza is. I, on the other hand, am sitting in the middle wondering when will I see the beach here again, or will I ever?

Gaza is like one small village where everyone knows everyone. Everybody is related one way or another. And those who you don’t know in real life, you befriend through social media, essentially turning Gaza into a home, not a village, which helps significantly when it comes to finding out what’s happening, and trying to figure out what to do. But even with these connections, it doesn’t change the fact we’re still faced with limited options.
Two nights ago, for example, many of my friends received Israeli recorded evacuation calls, all of whom live in the same area I live in. We realized quickly we needed to formulate a ‘safety’ plan, but in order to form a plan, you need to understand the very real but almost comical situation on the ground. Imagine this scenario: Nalan Al Sarraj, who lives in Tal el Hawa, tweeted that she got an evacuation call and was heading to her friend’s house which isn’t so far. While I didn’t get a call myself, we still worked on scenarios of what we should do. Say I got an evacuation call and went to seek refuge with a friend, they might already be out of their house because they too got a call. We both then would seek refuge with a third friend, and while we are there, he gets an evacuation call. “Where should we all go?” a question myself, Nalan and many others keep asking.

Truth to be told, nowhere in Gaza is safe. Some refugees sought refuge in UNRWA schools, but these were bombed by Israel during their “Operation Cast Lead”.

People living on the borderline in Gaza get evacuation leaflets, calls and warnings everyday to leave their lives and home behind and evacuate. Not enough UNRWA schools to seek refuge at. And the strip is already condensed hence the dramatic numbers of fatalities and death.

Living here long enough, trapped for days sometimes because of wars or attacks, I’ve realised I’ve become an expert in sound. Now, instead of getting bored of seeing my family and neighbors all day every day for days, I decided to develop this skill, and now I can differentiate between rockets and their sounds\ impact.

Say there is an Apache is nearby, very loud roaring above the house, that’s bad right? Yes and no. It’s a good thing in one way because it means your house won’t be targeted. Unfortunately it also means another house will be targeted from a place in the air above your house. Also, Apache rockets are mild in comparison to the loud, devastatingly damaging and explosive F16 rocket.
Blasts have different sounds too. A tank shelling, for example, doesn’t sound like a warship shelling. Then there is this sudden huge blast, caused by an F16 rocket, it will take your breath away, literally. F16 blasts give mini heart attacks. But that’s only if you are lucky. If it’s closer, you are probably flying due to this sudden blast. There is also the sound of actually hearing the missile falling and then a blast. That’s the best and favorite kind among us all here. Hearing the missile fall means it probably won’t be targeting you.

I jump even when the door slams. There is a buzzing in my ears now as a result of the proximity of the explosions. My heart stops for a few seconds each time I feel a blast. I haven’t slept for nine nights, and I’m fasting during the days. My mind and body are in overdrive; tracking the news, preparing for an evacuation to I don’t know where any second now, preparing to die, stuck at home. My fear now is that I turn into a zombie.
At least 213 Palestinians have been killed at the time of writing, and a further 1565 others injured. Two new massacres were committed by Israel today against the Abu Dagga and Baker families. Seven fatalities from which five are children. Four children alone, brothers and cousins from Baker family, aged 9-11, were hit by an warship shelling on Gaza seaport, Western Gaza. Heartbreaking. My humanity is hanging by a thread, especially after I hear such news.
Don’t people in Gaza deserve to have human rights? Not even the children?

From Gaza,


Omar

Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 5-6 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: 172+ killed, 1150+ injured

Day 5-6 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: 172+ killed, 1150+ injured



Gaza, July 14, Israel launched a new aggression\operation\offensive against Gaza and decided to name “Protective Edge” also known as “Solid Rock”. Israeli warplanes, tanks, drones and warships participated in bombing places across Gaza all day long. This makes it the third Israeli open war against Gaza in 5 years or less. This isn’t a report, this is a personal account of what I lived today through the fifth and sixth day of Israel’s new aggression on Gaza.

I apologize for skipping day 5, I will be writing about both day five and six both. I had no time yesterday due to power outages, a little sleep and the intensity of the bombings. Too much news to track, allot of things to do. You try your best to keep up, sometimes your best isn’t enough.

Before I start, I would just like to say that I wish I was writing this out of propaganda, I wish we weren’t living through this brutality and I wish it was just lies I am making. Its not. You can easily Google the information now and see not only pictures but videos of what is Gaza going through. And for those who challenge my state of being a civilian, check what a civilian means and how its define by international standards, if you have a problem then blame them not me. Call me “not a civilian” all you like, I am a civilian and it is a fact.

The last two nights were intense. Many explosions nearby to an extent that I felt my ears will fall off. But how dare I complain about anything when whole families are being killed and Gazans have become refugees in their own country. Many families left their homes in the north seeking refuge in UNRWA schools, not that its safer or anything, Israel bombed them during cast lead. An estimation of four thousand people, left everything behind seeking some peace of mind, since safety is nowhere to be found in Gaza. No where is safe.

Israel committed many massacres, new and old ones, during all wars and times of no war. Latest one was Al Batsh family. A multiple-storey house was bombed. NINETEEN were killed and more than fifty others injured. All from the same family. Imagine losing your mom, And your dad, And your siblings. Oh, And your relatives. Oh wait, there is more, And your neighbors. If you were lucky to survive this, your whole life that you once knew has ended. Maybe those who survive are unlucky. I don’t know. Imagine waking up to find your whole family dead, your house was destroyed, even your neighbors and relatives are no longer there. Would you say: Thank god I am alive?

Mothers, daughters, grandmothers, kids, elderly, families, men, boys, girls, handicapped, sisters, brothers, relatives, neighbors, and friends, all are being killed. If you were lucky enough not to lose a member of your immediate family, you will def. end up losing a relative or a neighbor or a friend.

172+ Palestinians killed, 1150+ injured, 2500+ Israeli attacks on Gaza (360 square meter of a highly populated strip), nearly 750 houses\mosques bombed, destroyed or severely damaged. Houses. Mosques. Medics. Hospitals. Ambulance centers. Cemeteries. Farmlands. Coastline. Shore. Boats. Cars. Motorbikes. Buses. Residential areas. Banks. Schools. Colleges. Universities. And pretty much everything. Depressing huh? Well, that’s what we are going through. According to UNRWA, an estimation of about 70% of the fatalities are civilians, from which 30% of them are children. I think the percentages are even higher. Don’t believe me? Google UNRWA and Chris Gunness.

I still cant get over the bombing of cemeteries (3+), like the English cemetery in Gaza. And also the handicap association. Even handicaps are not spared. Three handicapped females were killed. Human rights much?

As we enter a week into protective edge, or Israeli ongoing aggression on Gaza, you feel a shift. Being under siege and occupation for so long makes you adapt very fast to any current situation, bad or good, which is totally unhealthy. The first few days we were in denial, then we started adjusting and now we are used to it. Yesterday, people were leading normal life in the daylight, nearly, which kind of confused me. I was sad, happy, confused, frightened and puzzled.

Now if a huge explosion hits nearby, its like: “Uhm, yeah that was near”. With no shock or terror. We got accustomed to this and its sad.

Here are a few types of explosions I noticed during this war:

1- Sudden blast. Just a huge big “KABOOOOOOOOMBOOOOOOMPAAAAAAAW” out of no where.

2- Hear a missile penetrating air and then “KAAAAAAABOOOOOOM”.

3- Hear a missile falling and then the ground shakes.

4- Tank shelling.

5- Warships shelling.

6- Apaches missiles.

7- And finally, the big F16 gigantic rocket. If you are lucky enough to just hear it without getting dead or injured.

This will sound crazy, but we all favor type “2”. We prefer to anticipate death instead of getting blown up with no further warning. We think its safer, when its actually not safe. But hey, if you hear a missile falling it means you’re lucky, its near you but not targeting you.

Every time the phone rings, you assume you will get a call from Israeli army to evacuate your house, if you are lucky. Although now Israel uses the new “Warning missiles”, yeah warning missiles, you heard right. They bomb the house with a warning missile, if you were still alive, you have 1-3 minutes or less to leave. If you were lucky. Many houses got bombed with no warning missiles, hence the huge numbers of deaths and injuries or fatalities and causalities if you want fancier definitions. I don’t.

Homebound for a week now. I try all ways with my family to let me go out. Its always a big fat resounding NO. I tried negotiation with my dad, using Maya Angelou quotes of empowerment, beg, childish sounds, fake tears, threatening to do it behind his back and finally I played the “Adult” card. You would think this powerful card would have an impact on my dad, right? NO. He said if I was an adult I would know better than wanting to go out during these difficult times. He is right. I put my head down and dragged my defeat away with me.

Every morning I hear the birds chirping and the sun filling the place, I miss Gaza. I miss the beach. I miss the freedom of choice whether I want go out or stay home. I miss my favorite places here. I miss my friends. I miss the streets and the feelings. I miss walking around. Seeing your family for a week, every day, nonstop, while you are homebound and under war is kind of a challenge. I hope none of them read this entry. If they do, I hope they know I love them, but I need space (or a change of face) so I hope they don’t end up hating me. What? I promise my readers here brutal honesty.

It hurts when you see children die. People with names, lives, families and a being turn into numbers. A statistic. Its like you can smell death, overshadowing the smell of gunpowder. Its like blood is running through the streets.

Life was never normal here, ever, by all means, but I miss my normal life, whatever that was before the Israeli ongoing war. Every day you live through the fear of losing a loved one. Its nerve wracking.

As usual, the house was all shaking while I was writing this blog entry. Or diary. Whatever you want to call it. Explosions in the background. Like I am watching an action movie, but instead of watching it this time, actually living it.

Once again: A shout out to medics, nurses, doctors, journalists on the grounds and everyone who risk his\her life for the sake of others. Heroes is a cliché, so you all deserve a better definition.

And A shout out, also a HUGE thank you, to all the big numerous protests around the world in support of Gaza. We love you.

Let’s see what the 7th day will bring, if we live to see it.



From beautiful Gaza, lingering to hope,



Omar

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 4 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: 124 killed, 925 injured

Day 4 of Israeli aggression on Gaza: 124 killed, 925 injured


Gaza, July 12, Israel launched a new aggression\operation\offensive against Gaza and decided to name “Protective Edge” also known as “Solid Rock”. Israeli warplanes, tanks, drones and warships participated in bombing places across Gaza all day long. This makes it the third Israeli open war against Gaza in 5 years or less. This isn’t a report, this is a personal account of what I lived today through the fourth day of Israel’s new aggression on Gaza.

I wanted to write this blog earlier, since we are half way through day five but the power was out and I had no battery. Another intense night in Gaza under the nonstop bombings of Israel. What a day. Actually what a week. Also, since we are at it, what a night.

I will sound like a repeated record for a minute when I saw Israel bombed everywhere across Gaza and the targets were mainly houses, although the targets did expand to include new things, but that’s the reality of daily life here through this barbaric Israeli war or offensive (call it whatever makes you happy) against Gaza.

The Israeli targets in Gaza remained the same but expanded to include a handicap association Northern Gaza, which caused the death of two or more handicapped females. Mosques and houses were bombed as usual, also cars and motorbikes and all the usual targets. Oh and humans ofcourse. Another cemetery was bombed, and the old cemetery was bombed again. Basically, everything in Gaza is a potential target.

Latest official statistics from different official governmental and media sources say: 124 Palestinians have been killed, 935+ others got injured. Israel carried out 2025 bombings across Gaza so far, or even more, using 400 tons of explosives every day, give and take. Yesterday, people noticed a fog covering due to smoke bombs fired from Israeli tanks. It might contain poisonous gas, cast lead flashbacks. Most casualties (dead and injured) are women and children, as usual, and dare to tell me they aren’t civilians.

I will not lie and say life here is normal, but it hasn’t stopped either. People do be careful and stay homebound (not that it saves you or anything, no place here is safe) but also go to work and buy groceries and the usual stuff. Its Ramadan, although its hard to feel the blessings and magic of this holy month through all this madness. We went through similar situations to the extent that each one of us become a walking guide book on how to survive though war, and also sound experts. You know to immediately stalk medicine and all the basic needs like water, bread and canned food when such things occur (they usually occur out of nowhere) but during times like this, even basic needs become trivial.

Many explosions were nearby to where I live, but one explosion was so nearby that I lost hearing for a few minutes. But it came back, thankfully.

Israel didn’t start a ground invasion yet despite the media declarations.

Oh, an explosion just happened nearby, ok, back to writing.

800 foreign passport holders issued requests of departure to leave Gaza through Erez. I guess some people just cant handle it.

Egypt opened Rafah, let some bad injuries through but their priority was letting through Egyptian citizens in Gaza. Despite some bad Egyptian media, celebrities, public figures and people who actually support Israel’s war on Gaza, many others actually support Gaza and are highly criticizing those who don’t.

Arab leadership and governments are disappointing as usual. No reaction. In some Arab countries, regimes oppress protests in support of Gaza even.

Heartwarming protests across the world held Palestine flags and protested for Gaza, which is always heartwarming. We are so grateful. But perhaps my favorites are London, Yemen and Japan.

Britain’s “Blair” will arrive to Egypt to discuss a potential ceasefire, Obama is also working hard on obtaining one by pushing Qatar and Jordan and Turkey into extensive talks of forming a solid ceasefire.

Mainstream media remain either silent or biased towards Israel’s massacres in Gaza, which isn’t new at all, but some media and journalists are doing a great job.

Another huge shout out to medics, doctors and journalists on the ground who risk their lives to shed a light on others.

Do I wonder about the time frame of this aggression or when will it end? Maybe I do. But when you are in it, you are caught up into living the moment. Its puts you in a certain mode. I don’t know how to explain it.

Last night and during the first hours of this morning the Israeli bombing intensified. Israeli warplanes, warships and tanks were all bombing Gaza at once. It was kind of surreal, like you are watching an action movie, except you are actually living inside it, or living it.

I will post below some useful links regarding most of the things I mentioned here, feel free to check them out.

From Gaza, survived another day,


Omar

GRAPHIC VIDEO: WARNING: Not for those with weak herts: Heart shattering video of a Palestinian father in Gaza trying to wake up his dead child, he tells him to wake up and see the doll he brought him: