Hello guys, I’m so sorry for the long time with no info. I cant believe how much has happenned in the what, 7 days since I last wrote? I’m back in jerusalem now and I thought a lot of you wouldn’t want to hear about my week until I was safely here in the Old City. 🙂
On, the 22 or 23 – I cant remember – me and Firyal and three of her kids- Rula, Ihab and Mohammed, were sitting in the living room of their house. I was reading and they were sitting on the ground doing homework. We heard shots that were pretty close and they then sounded like they were hitting the building, so all of us got down. Then shots must have come through the cement block kitchen wall. We were all screaming and Firyal and I tried to get on top of the kids and I turned off the gas heater and there was just concrete flying thorough the air and I thought for sure it wasnt just bullets but some sort of larger explosion. We had to run down the stairs that are unprotected from the tank fire to get to safety. We huddled and giggled and ate oranges downstairs in their grandmothers house. I was shaking and so was Firyal.
Finally, tanks still sitting outside, we went back upstairs (just Firyal and Mustafa and me). Me and Firyal wanted to sleep somewhere else but Mustafa said no we were staying. We talked about why they stayed and they just dont have enough money to move – expensive rent in Rafah is 100 dollars a month and knowing how much I spend and how easy it would be to give them 100 dollars a month killed me, becuase I knew I couldnt do it.
Mustafa went into the bedroom and Firyal went in and found him crying. She was horrified. It turns out it was just bullets, 4 actually, and there was one that would have found my head had I been sitting where I was seconds before the bullet came through. The shots were also really low whereas before they had been relatively high – you get down no problem – not so this time. This random shooting into occupied houses happens all day and all night in most of the neighborhoods in Rafah and there’s nothing anyone there can do about it. It’s how most of the people (kids) died when I was there. These arent homes of criminals or ‘terrorists’ they are just families who happen to live near this stupid wall.
Anyway, the next day we went out to let the army know we were there, we went with big signs saying “The World Is Watching” and we found some towers, tanks and bulldozers. We were really close to my house and the whole family was up in the top floor waving at us like we were their heroes or something. It was amazing to me that there in Rafah no one pays attention. There’s no media, there’s no international presence, there’s no nothing and the army knows it and the people know it. So many of them were happy that we were just there, even if we couldn’t stop anything or change anything.
Later that day I got a call from Mustafa. I couldnt understand him so I gave the phone to someone who could, and he said Mustafa just wanted to say hi. A few hours later Ahmed (Mustafas cousin) called. I gave the phone to someone and they told me that the home I had been staying in had been demolished. I wanted to go to them, but i couldn’t becuase it was too dangerous. I should have just gone, but in Rafah we ALWAYS have to have an escort, especially women and I knew they would freak out if I just ran over. So I couldn’t eat and I had bad dreams all night about what was happening and not being able to be with them.
Apparently at two in the afternoon a bulldozer just came, no warning, no nothing and just knocked one of the walls down of this four story building where Firyal was cooking dinner and the kids were studying. They were hysterical. They ran away and there was massive firing from the tanks as they all ran out of the building. My friend Hendrick who had been staying next door spent the night there and apparently it was like hell. There were huge explosions, the army turned off the electricity and sent in troops, the troops set up dynamite and an Apache helicopter was in the air watching everything. They all left, again under massive fire from the now 12 tanks.
We went the next day and it was awful. We got shot at again and I didnt really want to take pictures becuase I felt so sick and was crying so hard. This was home to 6 families. The day before, one of the sisters had shown me this huge closet full of beautiful clothes she had made. Now it was all gone. This place that Mustafa and his brothers and cousins had built with their own hands. This family had turned into my family (just the night before Mustafa said that he was just as worried about me after the shooting as he had been about his family and that before there were 6 people in his family and now there were 7) and their heartbreak was mine, only mine was so so so so small in comparison. All the men were in the corner of this ruined home crying, holding each other and the women were outside just sort of staring.
I’m sorry this is so long. I’m getting tired of writing and I’m sure if any of you have read this far, you’re tired of reading too :). The story has something of a happy ending: they found a new house, it’s smaller and not as nice, but it’s a home which is more than many of these families end up with. Even so, Mustafa cried again today. I got to help them move in and spend the first couple of nights with them again, which helped me anyway :). Mustafa was very sad to see me go today, but I think pretty excited to have his wife and bed back :).
Now I’m here in Jerusalem and I thought I’d be happy to be free, free from constant watching and escorting and staring and coffee :), but I just feel really really lonely. I miss them so much, and all the people I met that were so sweet and open and wonderful. And I hate that this happens every day there, every day. That same day there were 12 houses demolished, which equates to like maybe 30-40 families without a home. And there’s no one to help them or to stop this and I hate it and it’s wrong and I paid for it and you guys paid for it. They can’t leave, no one in Gaza can leave, it’s a huge prison and they are stuck there. They dream to see Jerusalem, tall buildings, anything not Rafah. How is this possible? How can people do this and others not try to stop it? And how can we even try to stop it?
Anyway, I’ll see you all soon and I’m happy for that.