One Million and a Half Broken Hearts

By Natalie Abu Shakra – Gaza

Tears drop on her hands, hands that he had once kissed passionately, on her engagement ring, that ring he chose for her, on her cheeks that oust the redness of burning coals within her. The funeral is over now; his body is away, but the memory of him is as vivid as his own being yesterday. Dreams of a wedding, now written in the history of numerous deaths, is beyond of what reality can bring.

Her name is Hanaa, what means felicity. But, Hanaa shall know no felicity for many years now, overcoming the killing of her lost love, Mohammed, who was killed by Israeli occupation forces whilst at the Abu Middeen police station on December 27th, 2009. Red roses are thrown over Mohammed’s tomb as he is carried through the streets of his neighborhood. Hanaa, her head bent towards the ground, stroking the ring on her right hand, nods her head accepting a reality imposed, one of which she had no choice in determining.

This is the case of many here in Gaza, where love has been targeted, where intimacy has been destroyed, where sentiments are victims of slaughtering and massacres. “We are just numbers in the media,” says Hanan, a student at the Aqsa University in Gaza. “But, behind the numbers are stories, are loves lost, are childhoods devastated, choked.”

As I visited my friend’s house in the eastern neighborhood of Jabalya Town, I saw beds being torn apart, as the holes in them mark the aiming of an Apache rocket in the middle during the twenty two day attack on Gaza.

Since we are living in a culture of a so-called ‘human rights’ production, then perhaps those that declared those aforementioned rights can issue a declaration of a right to love.

“How can one express the broken dreams inside of him? How can one express himself?” asks the late Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani in “I have Married You, o Freedom!” a similar rhetoric now demanded on the streets of Gaza.

“There are no theatres, no cinemas, not even public libraries!” There is not even the right to go to the sea… to smell the ocean. Three years ago, the adolescent Huda Ghalyeh came out of the sea after she was swimming to find the eleven members of her family, slaughtered on the coast. The Israeli gunboat had missed shooting at her as she swam far from where her family was walking. Huda came out of the ocean as she heard the nearby sounds of the ambulance siren and people screaming to the images of killings. From three years of living within what is now described as the largest collective prison modern history has witnessed to what has become a largest concentration camp of killings and slaughtering, that many compare to the Warsaw and Auschwitz concentration camps, which still bring shivers to those who recall it during WWII.

In Gaza, where normality of habit and routine does not exist, in Gaza where the thought of a coming death is a consistent companion, amid a struggle to maintain a meaning to one’s life. “After one’s home is demolished, leveled down to ruins, one’s love, one’s family no longer existent… can you tell me what is worth living for?” asks twenty five year old Firas, who lost it all. He works at a local media agency, and manages to control the torn life that dwells bellow his childlike facial expressions.

“I missed eating fruits. We had no fruit. But, after the killings, they opened the crossings for a day or two to bring in fruit… I was nauseated by the fruit they [IOF] allowed to enter. I do not want to eat any fruit anymore after they killed 1500 of us” I hear from a young lady.

On the balcony of a friend, I observe the sun setting down on Gaza. My friend’s eyes are now an ocean of sadness. His expressions changed since before the war; he now looks into empty space, losing everyone around him. When he jokes and we laugh, his smile returns back to the land of forlornness, and it leaves a façade of an expressionless existence. We speak about the numbers of the dead, but there are also those six thousands citizens who have lost a body part, who are now physically challenged. How will they live the rest of their lives? How will the rest of the million and a half broken hearts in Gaza go on living in a time where the human condition is too worthless to be a condition from the start?

When asked about hell on earth, my answer is not Gaza: Gaza’s hell is… other people.

– Natalie Abu Shakra is from Lebanon and is affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement. She defied Israeli orders for Lebanese citizens not to go to Gaza and was able to get in with the Free Gaza movement. She contributed this article to

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