From the news desk

What does it mean to be a Palestinian father?

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This was written by Nazmi Al-Masri, a father from Gaza.

Almost no Palestinian in Gaza have slept well over the last two weeks, especially parents who care about their children’s mental, psychological and physical safety. I am one of these parents who have five sons and one girl. To have six children is the average number of a Palestinian family in Gaza.

Last night, while I was sitting with my nine-member family, including my wife and my father, 94 years old, a heavy rocket fired by an American-made Israeli war plane leveled one of the houses located about 200 meter away from my home and damaged unknown number of neighboring houses. My house was shaken for seconds and some of the windows were smashed and my car alarm system was sounded.

Looking at the terrified faces of every member of my family and trying to comfort them and ease their fears, I hugged the youngest son and exchanged smiles with them all. But it seems that the deafening sound of the aerial bombardment triggered a series of comments and questions that are challenging to every Palestinian father and mother. Their questions revolved around two major questions that need volumes to answer well.

• What does it mean to get your home destroyed in seconds?
• What is the mental, physical, social, psychological and economic suffering of such collective punishment on thousands of families in Gaza?

Feeling under powerful stress and unlimited worries fostered by the 24-hour buzz of drones, the continuing random of artillery shelling of homes and the Israeli policy of escalating destruction and killing of civilians, I began to encourage my youngest son, eight years, Kareem to start to release some of the questions in his mind.

In a whispering shaky voice, Kareem began shooting questions that many Palestinians parents face daily and nightly:

• Dad, what will happen to us if an Israeli war plane throws a bomb on our house?
• Dad, what will happen to us if our home is bombed? Will we all die, dad? Then, he adds,
Dad, I don’t want to die like the other children killed by the Israelis.
Dad, I don’t want to lose some parts of my body like the children I saw on TV.
• Dad, if some of us survive the Israeli bombing of our house, where shall we go and where to sleep? What will happen to my bedroom?

After receiving such agonizing and heart-burning questions, I hugged him tightly and kissed him on cheeks, head, hands, understanding his fears resulting from his fresh memory of the four children killed who were playing at the Gaza beach and to the three children killed in their home.
I turned to my 16-year daughter who fired these questions in an insecure voice full of worries, distress and fear:

• Dad, why do the Israelis target houses full of innocent people?

Surely she remembers a series of Israeli strikes that have killed more than 45 families in their homes, especially the latest two Israeli air strikes which killed 35 members of two Gaza families within hours: The first bombing leveled a four-story house in the southern Gaza Strip killing 25 members of Abu Jamaa family – including 19 children – gathered to break the daily Ramadan fast together. This is the highest toll for one family in a single airstrike since this policy has been in effect since the beginning of this dirty aggression on Gaza.

The other crime happened when Israeli artillery shells bombed the house of Siyam family in Rafah, southern Gaza, killing 10 members of the Siyyam family, including 3 children- the youngest is 8-month baby.

• Dad, why do they kill so many children and women?
Definitely she knows the up- to-date figures so far: 161 children, 66 women and 35 elderly were killed among the 632 victims of the war against Gaza.
She is also aware that about 50% of the 4010 injured are 1213 children, 700 women and 162 elderly men as mentioned by the Ministry of Health at 02:30 on Wednesday 23 July 2014.

• Dad, it is summer school holiday, ok, we are reluctantly forced to accept being imprisoned in our home and not to enjoy our holiday. But why does every Palestinian family feel unsafe even inside their homes and bedrooms?

Commenting on this, she added: no place, no home, or body is safe in Gaza. The Israelis bomb everything: homes, hospitals, clinics, schools, ambulances, mosques, media/press offices and car, private businesses, taxis, water treatment facilities, greenhouses etc. Then she asks:

• Dad, what do they want from us?

Trying to answer her question by herself, she said in a sad and depressed voice: They have been occupying us and confiscating our freedom since 1967. They have been besieging us for more than seven years where we are not allowed to leave this big prison called Gaza. We cannot visit other Palestinian cities like Jerusalem Bethlehem or Hebron, or travel to any other country.

In less than seven years, they launched three destructive and terrifying wars against the besieged poor Gaza. Dad, what drives me so mad is the deaf ear the governments of almost all countries pay to such war crimes and violation of human rights. This silence encourages Israel to commit more collective punishments and more war crimes and more destruction of homes and families.

In a very depressed and hesitant voice, she added, “Dad what frustrates me and saddens me is that the Israelis always talk about PEACE!!!


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