Chapter 1 – 7th October

After a late night talking to my friends online and barely enough sleep, I woke up to the sound of my boys murmuring as they got dressed for school. It was supposedly just like any other Saturday; I planned to go to the gym early, have a date with my husband in the afternoon, and cook a meal for the boys before Adel went to his private lessons at the Academy. It was a crucial year for my family. Adel is a senior in high school, and we were expecting to see his name published on the national honor roll. We were prepared to send him to the Islamic Medical School where his father is an assistant professor.

I was still rolling lazily in bed, thinking about what to do for breakfast, when the rockets began flying over the house. I jumped out of bed, and the boys came running to my room. We all looked out of the window at the gray sky. It was unlikely to be cloudy at this time of early autumn. We wished it were sounds of thunder, but then we saw the smoke trails overhead, striping the sky with their white, foggy lines.

I asked the boys to stand by and not to take off their uniforms. We were used to those early-morning rocket exchanges. During the rocky honeymoon of Hamas and Israel between the years 2014 to 2024, the escalations were intricately managed not to disrupt the normal course of life in both nations. Hamas would throw a few empty rockets at the security fence or a little further at dawn, then Israel would bomb mostly a sandy dune on the beach or another empty area before 6 am, and life would continue. Both parties acted according to this unwritten accord, but not this time.

In a state of disbelief and obscurity, for two hours, the rockets were still flying. Everyone in the strip, including me, awaited word from Hamas. Then the declaration came; it was called Al-Aqsa Flood. My Facebook blew up with photos and videos of men taking hostages, riding on IDF tanks at the border, and dragging soldiers out, bringing them and an apocalypse into Gaza.

My mind was flooded with extreme predictions. Were we liberating Palestine, or were we going to meet our doom? Those moments of light aspiration were heavily crushed by reflecting on our enemy’s style of retaliation. Visions of Gaza razed to the ground entrapped me. I knew that we would see a new level of fire and death. For the last few years, most Gazans and I had foolishly thought we had been through live-action warfare and were in a long, cold and hot conflict era that ended today.

With a heavy heart, I told the boys to take off their school clothes and put on pajamas. No more school, bags, and studying for them. If only there was gear I could put on them to protect them from what was coming or a way I could explain to them that they would no longer be students but war victims. I could do neither. I just got up and prepared a big, hearty breakfast for them, and that’s all the mother in me could do for her children.