The Living Martyr, a Visit to the Bakr Family in Gaza

Sharifa Bakr sits in front of posters commemorating Ahed and Zachariah Bakr. (Dan Cohen, Mondoweiss)

Last week, the Israeli military absolved itself of wrongdoing in the killing of the four Bakr boys during the war on Gaza last summer. Israeli military spokesperson Peter Lerner posted a narrative on his Facebook page that was full of holes, which Guardian correspondent and witness to the massacre Peter Beaumont expertly picked apart. Paul Mason, who arrived to the scene of the massacre ten days later, weighed in too, which Peter Lerner responded to.

I recently visited the Bakr family in their home in Gaza’s Shati refugee camp. Sharifa Mustafa Bakr, 48, is the mother of 9-year-old Zachariah and grandmother of Ahed, two of the four boys killed.  “Zachariah was my favorite because he was the youngest one,” she said pointing to the poster above her that commemorates his brief life. “He was the sweetest – so innocent and playful,” she told me as tears began to stream down her cheeks.

Sharifa Bakr suffers from heart problems and had just returned from the hospital on that fateful day. “Zachariah asked for a shekel to use the internet, and I promised I would give it to him when he returned,” she said. That was the last time Sharifa Bakr would see her beloved grandson. “When he left, I felt that my soul went with him,” she stammered as she collapsed into tears.

After lying down to watch the news, Sharifa Bakr read on the ticker that four children had been killed on the nearby beach. She knew that the children typically play soccer on the beach because the refugee camp has no parks or open spaces. Upon seeing the news, she ran to Al-Shifa hospital where she encountered a friend who informed her that the dead children were in fact from the Bakr family.

12-year-old Muntasir Bakr was one of the four boys who narrowly survived the airstrikes.

“We call him the living martyr,” Sharifa Bakr told me.

Muntasir was hit with shrapnel which still remains in his head and causes him headaches. He has severe trauma that remains undiagnosed and untreated, and has violent episodes which have caused him to attempt suicide and attack his siblings. I sat with Muntasir in his family’s home. He was polite and good-natured but the trauma from last summer was visible on his young face and audible in his voice. He spoke like a man who had lived many lifetimes – not like a child nearing his teenage years.

“Everyday someone dies. I went to play at the beach yesterday and I couldn’t because I was overwhelmed with fear. It’s a life full of sadness,” he said. “Netanyahu destroyed life.”

– Read more: The Living Martyr, a Visit to the Bakr Family in Gaza – Dan Cohen, Mondoweiss

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