By Najwa Sheikh in Gaza
"I spoke with him a little, but when he sees me he begins to cry … the situation in Sderot in general is very difficult, and I do not know how we can continue, how we can stay in the city." — Sderot resident Rima Haimov, whose ten-year-old son Yossi was wounded by a Qassam rocket. ("Doctors save hand of Sderot boy hurt by Qassam; 4 Palestinians killed in Gaza," Haaretz, 26 February 2008)
Dear Rima Haimov,
When I read your words the only thing I can say is that I feel sorry for your son, and that I can understand you as a mother and the traumatic events that your child is experiencing. I cannot deny the fact that life becomes very difficult in such circumstances when you realize that you and your family are in danger at any moment; I fully understand your worries, your feelings and concerns. I am addressing this letter to you with the hope that you will understand my pain too.
Like I feel sorry for your son, I feel sorry for my Palestinian children who are born and will die in Gaza, unable to have the chance of seeing other worlds, and who have to face F-16s, Apache helicopters and the Israeli army’s brutal invasions into Gaza. However, my children are not fortunate enough to have the excellent medical care that your son has. My children do not have the chance to run to a shelter and there is no alarm to tell them that there is a strike coming. My children cannot be guaranteed the love and care that your son found because all of their family might be killed in one strike, they might witness the death of their parents, or any of their dear family members as the Palestinians are targeted everywhere, even in their homes and among their children.
My children cannot find the counseling that your child will have to help him deal with his appalling experience. They have to keep their pain inside them, and recall it day after day. Even in their dreams they suffer from remembering the things they have witnessed.
My children are not children anymore; they lost their innocence and are forced to act like adults so they can protect themselves. They no longer cry to their parents because they realize that even adults are scared and also need comfort and security. Instead they swallow their pain and deal with it on their own.
When your child is sick or injured he has the chance to go to the best hospitals to receive treatment while my children have to live with their pain and injuries because they cannot go to a good hospital like you have in Israel. In Gaza, they can only wait for the pain to pass or count the days waiting for the end. They have learned how to face death fearlessly, because they hope to find justice and a better life in heaven.
While your child enjoys his new schoolbooks, my children have to use old, disreputable books because the borders are closed and even schoolbooks cannot be brought in.
My children have to face the extreme temperatures because of the electricity cuts. They cannot enjoy sitting in front of the electric heater in winter or the fan in summer. While you as a mother can plan for your child’s future, I cannot because my child is locked in a prison called Gaza, and he cannot dream of having the chance to receive a better education and work outside of Gaza.
While you as a mother can give your child all the promises of a better life, I can not give my child these guarantees, simply because we are both eligible to die in any moment by an Israeli strike, without any plans, dreams, nothing.
After all of this do you think that my children deserve their pain only because they are born to Palestinian parents? Do you think it is fair that they are treated in this way? Is it fair to be subjected to the sanctions that your government has imposed on us? I hope you can understand my pain too.
-Najwa Sheikh is a Palestinian refugee from al-Majdal located just north of the Gaza Strip. Shiekh has lived in refugee camps in Gaza her entire life where she is married and has three children. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.