After the blockade, we survived, but the suffering did not end yet. We did not have a school in my camp, we used to walk for twenty minutes to the UN school at a neighbouring refugee camp.
Today, 15th May 2019, I am writing my story and recovering memories with my mother. I ask, “Mom, why did the soldiers use to interfere on our way to school. Why did they shoot tear gas bombs at the school?” Mom answered, “I don’t know what their reasons were, but it was really terrible. “I remember, our teachers were screaming, “no lessons today, there’s teargas inside the school, go and run home. Escape, the Israelis are coming, run and go back home.” But for me and my brother my house was a little bit far away, and there were a lot of soldiers settling in the middle of the road. Besides, it was super dangerous, there were a lot of demonstrations and kids throwing stones at the soldiers and many casualties. We couldn’t pass the road and we knew we would be stuck for hours until they leave. I was crying, screaming and yelling at my brother, “how can we escape?! How can we survive?” We were looking for alternative roads to arrive home, but we couldn’t figure out a way.
I wanted to survive that day and protect my brother from the teargas, weapons, armed soldiers and sporadic gunfire. After a few hours of hiding ourselves behind one of the walls around where the soldiers were settled, I heard my mom’s voice. There were a lot of women passing the soldiers from the other side, and my mom was screaming and calling my name, and calling my brother’s name. I saw my mother from far away, and I yelled at her to tell her I am here. At that moment, when we hugged and cried together, I felt safe.
This image, this memory, will stay in my mind forever. Another day, on my way back home, the same hell happened. I was alone this time. I was very close to my house, even just a few meters away from my neighbourhood. The Druze military brigade had paraded into my camp with their fancy jeeps. Again, I couldn’t go home, the same traumatic scenario had emerged. I found myself running alone between the narrow lanes and neighbourhoods with tears streaming down my cheeks. I remember my body shaking as I looked around to see the endless remains of stones and the fog of teargas smoke. It was like a ghost city.
I don’t think all the alphabets of all the languages in the world could explain the depth of my feelings at that time, it was so terrifying. Mohammad AL Moghrabi, a school mate of the same age, was murdered one day by a sniper right in front of my eyes when we came back home from our elementary school. His blood on the street still stains my mind. I don’t need anyone to tell me what war means, I know what it means, and I have lived it. All feelings of intimacy, relationship morale, and hope, had disappeared through Israeli suppression. We were children, experiencing the superior power of Israel. We had stones and they had guns, bullets and rockets.
I used to practice Karate, and I loved it so much. I always challenged my best friend at that time, Jameel Al Jabaje. He was very strong and won each time I challenged him, with a smile always on his lips. But fate chose to divide us, an assassin’s bullet chose Jameel to be martyred when he was only a child. He was throwing stones at soldiers, it was his only way to oppose the occupiers. Jameel, now resting in the cemetery underground in his peaceful grave, still lives on in my mind. As a child witnessing all this injustice, oppression and subjugation against me and my people, I learned how to hate Israelis and Jews. Looking over at the settlements around my camp, I see hills covered in thieves who control my land and control my life, it still hurts me deeply. Those settlements are still expanding like a chronic epidemic, erasing our feelings and humanity, and our struggles for any possibility of reclaiming the dignity that we lost all that time ago. Israel abducted our dreams and our childhood, the occupation was imposed on us since birth, and I don’t think we deserve that as Palestinians. Sometimes I used to think about how we could possibly talk with the perpetrators about peace or solutions. I would wonder how we could restrain our anger and hate towards them. All my childhood dreams had been dispelled, and now I am paying a very expensive price for my childhood as a refugee.
A lot of Palestinians restrain their feelings out of hopelessness. They have come to accept that we are under occupation and we will never be free in this land again. I would ask myself, over and over, what did we do to deserve a life like that? I would think of the accusations that we are terrorists and do not deserve to be in this land anymore. This accusation obliterates our identity in our land. It forces us to become strangers in our own land. Many innocent dreams when I was a kid, such as being a pianist or even riding a space probe, were false. Well, maybe the occupation killed all my dreams.
Witnessing the Israeli massacres and bloodshed during the Intifada, I really lost all hope. For my whole life in this big prison, I dreamed of seeing the beach and smelling the ocean air. Maybe, fate smiled at me, and I was granted the opportunity to see the beach for the first time in my life, at the age of twenty. I received a permit to go to Israel during Ramadan. I travelled to Al Hadera beach, near Haifa. When I arrived and saw the beach for the first time, I wept tears of happiness. I can’t explain my feelings, finally a small taste of freedom after twenty years of isolation in the refugee camp. It was a moment that touched my heart deeply. I felt I really belong to this place, not to the refugee camp that I am living in now.