Life is Priceless by A, Gaza, Palestine

6 AM, on the fifteenth of January, 2009.

It was a very cold morning. My family and I woke up to the terrifying noises of the Israeli bulldozers. At first, we were not totally aware of the situation. As far as we knew, the Israeli occupation had left Gaza a long time ago. However, the occupation seemed very present when we saw the Israeli tanks coming after those bulldozers. We thought the worst part was the tremors caused by the tanks, which surrounded our building of every side. All of our neighbors crowded on our floor in an apartment located at the back side of the building, because we felt it was safer to stay there, but it was not. Around forty people, including women and children, were crowded in this apartment to avoid the direct shelling of the front side of the building. We stayed there until 10 PM. Time had passed slowly, it felt as if it had been years. Death could have happened at any minute. We didn’t know if there was anything remaining in the building apart from the apartment where we were staying. With each shell, glass was breaking and the walls were shaking. The sound of the military planes was rising more and more as if it was coming closer to us. Children were crying out of fear. Leaving the entrance of the apartment where we were hiding was tantamount to suicide

The situation got worse when we heard gunshots inside the building. We knew that IDF troops were inside and the shooting was increasing. A neighbor who was fluent in Hebrew tried to tell the soldiers that we were just civilians, but they responded by shooting him. Everyone panicked because we knew that we were inevitably dead. Once again, when one of the neighbors tried to communicate with the soldiers, they responded negatively to him. They told him that everyone had to leave the apartment, surrender, and be inspected. Soldiers asked some to take off their clothes. They took away our phones, personal belongings, and our money.

Then they separated the men and boys away from women and children, isolated them, blindfolded, and tied their hands. I should point out that there was no light source but a small flashlight on one of the soldiers’ weapons. We were treated badly, they ridiculed children and women, also threatened to kill men and prevented contact with the Red Cross to secure our exit from the building.

After being held for a long time, they allowed only women and children to leave, surrounded by the tanks. It was midnight and they stripped us of our coats, but the fear in our hearts overwhelmed any other feeling. They showed us a road inside an agricultural land to pass through and refused to cross any other road. We walked along the road, yet we discovered that the road was blocked by a stone wall. We thought they wanted to massacre us by killing us on the street, until one of the soldiers told us to walk through another way, and it was worse than the previous one. They ordered us to carry white flags to show the other forces that we were civilians, and as we walked through this road we did not know what was  awaiting us.

Along the way a strange burning material called phosphorus – an internationally prohibited material- stuck to my shoes and when I tried to get rid of it the flame increased. At the end, we arrived at house with an owner that decided to host us. Some decided to stay while we decided to go to a safer area. We continued walking until we arrived at a relative’s house and stayed the rest of that night there.

Two days later, the Israeli forces withdrew from our neighborhood, so we returned to our building, only to be surprised by the destruction that has been done to the area, especially our apartment. My room was completely destroyed. It was no longer the room I used to spend hours and hours in. There was no bed, all of my school books had vanished, my dolls were gone, and to be honest, I had lost everything I owned.

What I want to say is that wars are devastating, and leave behind remarkable scars on those who experience them. Life is priceless, to valuable to waste on those aimless wars.

 

This is just one example of the important work produced YaLa’s citizen journalists, a program funded by the European Union’s Peacebuilding Initiative in order to enable young leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa to document and share their experiences of the region.

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