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Gaza one year ago: ‘I prayed to my god to be the first in my family to die’

Khulood Ghanem | Mondoweiss

27 December 2009

Khulood Ghanem, 27, kept a Gaza diary a year ago. What follows is Ghanem’s entry from the first day of the war, 27 December 2008.

I finished my work in Khan Younis at 10 o’clock, and rode a car to Gaza City. I reached there at 11. I decided to drink some coffee with my friend who was working in a company beside the legislative council and the academy for police. I stayed there till 11:30, I decided to leave, my friend told me to stay, it’s early, I stayed for 15 minutes.

At 11:45 I was on my way walking in the street. I heard the first rocket, the second and the third, many quick attacks, one after one, at this moment I could see nothing, all I remember was the biggest explosion I have ever seen. I started to run away, but to where? I saw the military planes in the sky at a very low level. I was scared and started to lose consciousness. All I was thinking was how to reach a safe place. The sound of bombs and explosions was horrible, the ground was moving up and down, I said, it is not a joke, it is a real, the war has started.

I stopped beside a building looking at the sky, watching the military planes. At that moment I lost my ability to move or even to think. People, girls and children, all were shouting, running every where, it was the time for students to leave their school, I thought that if they started to attack haphazardly they will make a catastrophe. I walked a lot till I felt sick, the attacks increased and all streets started to be empty from people except the emergency and ambulance cars. I was worried about my family, sisters, brothers, friends, I tried to phone every one I knew to assure that all are safe but the attacks destroyed the telecommunication net.

My journey to Khan Younis took 3 hours. It was more safe to avoid the main street because most of the police stations that have been attacked were located at the main street. Finally I reached home. All my family were sitting glaring at the screen of the TV, shocked, pale, yellow and horrible faces, sitting like idols. I took a place beside them. The first scene was the police academy. The number of martyrs was big, about 180 in one place, the scene was horrible, really can’t be described, blood in every place, severed parts, heads, hands, legs and arms, couldn’t be described. I spent my whole day sitting on a chair in front of the TV. I did not expect one day that I will face such catastrophe, hour after hour, number of martyrs increased and increased.

At 8:30 this night I had a call from my sister who lived in Gaza city. She was walking beside the fence of that school, she saw the heads of young children, bags colored with their blood. One child with his blue shirt, she taught him once before, he was thrown on the ground, bleeding from all parts with no legs, he was shouting and raising his hands, but no one could help. She started to scream, what should we do? I kept silence and started to cry loudly, the vision was so hard to imagine. She started to lose her breath. I told her that is enough, please stop talking, I can’t tolerate. I closed my mobile and took my diary and sat in the living room

That night was the longest I’ve ever seen, the sound of attacks, rockets from sky, the borders and the sea. That night we decided to sleep in one room, so we chose our room in a far corner in the house. How silly we were, when I remember that I laugh because rockets did not make a choice.

So we prepared the place. We were 5: me, my sis, my brother, and my parents, so I arranged the situation to sleep with my mother on my small bed, my father will sleep on another bed, Mona my sis will stay on her bed, and finally my brother took a place on the ground.

The first night was dark cause they attacked the electricity station by 4 rockets. And we used to stay in the dark before, so the situation was not new; the new thing was how to close your eyes under the horrible sound of the army planes in the sky, under the bombs every minute and attacks. I started to pray to god. The sound of bombing increased and got nearer and nearer. My father told us that we have one god and it is one death either by rocket, by car, by gun, there is no difference and you have to die with your dignity and get rid of your fear.

The night was so cold, but we opened all doors and windows to avoid damage from them if we were attacked. I slept that night with a coat beside a cold wall, and did not sleep till dawn. I was afraid but not from death. I was afraid to lose all my family and to be saved from death. So I prayed to my god to be the first not the last. In the late night, I felt that I should go to the toilet but I was so afraid to reach the toilet and thought that maybe in the moment I will be there, they will attack the house, so I decided not to go.

I suffered a lot in my bed. In addition to my discomfort, I was next to my mother and didn’t move left or right cause the space wasn’t wide enough for 2 persons. I waited and waited listening to the small radio all that night. The number of deaths was increasing. I called my dad but he was sleepy. I called him again, he answered me: “what is wrong?” I told him “stay awake with me, don’t sleep, I can’t close my eyes.” He told me “don’t say that, god is greater and stronger than Israel so you have to sleep and calm down.” But I didn’t, I waited till I saw the light from the window. I started to feel better cause night is full of fear.

At 6 o’clock, I went to the toilet. We prayed our usual prayers, my mother went to her room, left the bed for me. I decided to sleep 2 hours, I was so tired. I slept half hour and then waked up again when I heard a strong attack in Khan Younis. It was the good morning greeting.

Seven Days From A Gaza Diary – full text.
Extracts from the diary were published by the Huffington Post on 22 December 2009.