Chapter 3 – October 10th

“We exited in less than three minutes. But that was the end of my plan—I did not know where to go. How could I forget such an important detail?”

The day begins at 7 when the three of us say goodbye to my husband as if he’s embarking on a dangerous journey. You never know if he’ll reach the hospital in one piece or come back to us safely after his shift. With random airstrikes, going into the streets is a significant hazard.

I hated addressing the concerns the new day brought: how much water is left in the tanks and if our battery would last until the next possible charge. Little could be done to change things, so I postponed worrying about these until I got an SMS from my husband telling me he had arrived at the hospital safely.

The boys were killing time on their smartphones, with nothing else to do. It felt unjust for their lives to be interrupted like this, to see them lying down all day, taking turns on sofas and beds after having a life filled with sports and activities. Some of my neighbours let their children play in front of their houses, and I could hear their vivid voices and laughter. I wanted my boys to have that instead of this heavy silence, but I could not ignore the threat of Israeli jets and their thirst for the blood of young ones.

By noon, I thought I should use the meat in the fridge before it spoiled, as we only had two hours of power a day. I made lunch and served it to the boys. I was glad they still had a good appetite.

I rechecked the bags, ensuring everything we might need was there. We just needed to follow the plan I made, and we could exit in less than three minutes. I was on standby mode for no apparent reason, but it turned out to be valid intuition.

I was just trying to doze off when I heard sudden elevated noises from next door—women crying and screaming in grief. The husband, son, daughter-in-law, and two children were killed by a rocket on their house in Mawasi (the beach area of Khan Younis). Now it was the rest of the family’s turn; a call from the Shabak1 asked the mother and daughters to evacuate their four-storey building they live in with their uncles. I looked out the window when the strong knocks on my door came from Mohammed, my other neighbour, urging us to evacuate immediately.

I tried not to panic, but my heartbeat could not be slowed. With racing steps and a shaky voice, I called the boys to act on our plan. My youngest was first on the stairs with the backpack of important documents, my oldest followed with the bigger bag, and I managed to shut off the gas and put on my praying outfit2 while descending the stairs. I wanted to take a last look goodbye but got caught up in escaping. We exited in less than three minutes. But that was the end of my plan—I did not know where to go. How could I forget such an important detail? All the people in the street carried their children and ran aimlessly.

My husband had asked Mohammed to knock on our door if such a thing happened and also to inform him. I forgot I had a husband I could call to ask where to go. He was prepared for this and managed to contact a friend who lived in the next block, who came and collected us. We sat in his yard, looking in the direction of my little house, waiting for the explosion to take it. Minutes felt like hours. The sun went down, and nothing happened, but we couldn’t go back home.

I needed to act. My mother’s house was the nearest, and even though it wasn’t safe to drive or be on the streets, I couldn’t burden the kind man with our presence any longer, he was hosting other evacuees from his extended family. We needed to get the car out of the house, even with the risk of it being affected if they bombed the neighbour’s house. I hadn’t driven in a while, so my son insisted he’d do it. I trusted his nerves over mine and left my youngest behind.

I opened the garage doors as fast as I could, my son hopped in, and drove so smoothly. This was the first time I saw him driving, and was the worst drive of my life. We went back and took my youngest and the luggage, then drove through the empty, dark streets. We didn’t use the car’s headlights; you want to go unnoticed under those drones. The bombing sounds continued in rhythm with my throbbing heart. I tried to comfort the boys, but it felt hollow. We finally reached my mother’s house.

In the dark, we sat in silence. I just looked at my sons’ faces, seeing only their shiny eyes. I said sorry and asked them to sleep. They didn’t ask what I was sorry for, nor did I explain.

I was sorry I brought them into this life.

  1. 1. Shabak is an acronym used for the Israel Security Agency. ↩︎
  2. 2. Palestinian women have begun wearing their full length praying gowns around the clock, so they will be fully covered no matter what tragedy they face. ↩︎