If you are lost in Gaza, do not head towards the sea


Al-Omari Mosque.
Al-Omari Mosque, before the war. Photo: Areej Kassab


I graduated in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and worked with many teaching centers at that time, but now look at me, I’m taking the first step toward my future! I am an English teacher for middle school students (grades 7-9).

School started a month before the war, so I experienced the feeling of being a real teacher for only one month, can you imagine?

On Oct. 7, 2023, there was something that said to me, “Why you are so hurried? Just slow down, there is nothing to flee.”

While I started to put on my clothes, I heard something strange. I soon realized it was the sound of many thousands of missiles. I shouted to my mother, “What happened, what is that?”

“It’s the war,” my mum said.

I wasn’t concerned at that time, and my mom told me not to go outside because it would be dangerous. After two hours, many planes surrounded the sky and started bombing. It was the war starting in Gaza. A new nightmare, but it wasn’t like before.

From that moment, everything changed and changed forever. Gaza is now destroyed. There’s no place you dare to look at, because if you did you would cry and be destroyed from the bottom of your heart. Oh, my beloved Gaza what happened to you?!

The features of the sea have changed

Mother with child by sea in front of moored boat.
The writer and her son before the war, At Roots Restaurant, Gaza. Photo: Sara Kassab

There is a saying: “If you are lost in Gaza, head towards the sea and you will find your way home.” Perhaps this is because the sea is the only thing which does not change, unlike righteousness, whose features are changed every time by war.

Today, if you find the sea, you will not find your home. The features of the sea from which we knew the details of the country have changed, and the streets of the city have changed. The entire city has disappeared, and the waves of the sea have receded far enough so as not to swallow what remains of our lives on the sidewalk.

Today, if you are lost in Gaza, do not head towards the sea, and do not ask about your home. Close your eyes and follow your goal, to reach the house, or the rubble of the house! Do you know the house, my son? Just as I know the path to the sea, I know it.

My beloved Gaza, I no longer know you!

Back to the Stone Age

Every day we wake up to killing and bombs destroying homes, destroying hospitals, and to evacuate from one place to another; for hundreds of nights, we haven’t slept. I’m writing now and the sound from the planes is so loud it makes me hate my life.

There are hundreds of notices on our phones from the Israeli army telling you to go from one place to another, causing fear and panic among us.

Our life has changed in a very harsh way, starting with getting water and basic food. I forgot to tell you that there is no pure water suitable for human beings. There is no food to eat, including vegetables or fruit. There’s no electricity, no gas. Yes, as I said, there is nothing.

Even when I want to call my family to see if they are OK, I can’t receive calls or send them. Also, we can’t access the internet either. Days come and go, and everything becomes worse than ever before. There is no safe place to hide from this ongoing tragedy.

Clay oven with smoke coming out.
The family’s clay oven. Photo: Areej Kassab

We started to build our ovens from mud instead of making bread with electricity. Many families make traditional bread (called Saj) in ovens they build in the streets. My family took over the room we had used for our doves and built our oven there. My husband had nothing to feed his doves or chickens, so he released all the doves to fly and be free just like Gazans hope to be but who were forced to evacuate their homes by the Israeli soldiers instead.

We make our bread like this at the start of every day and it becomes a routine, and it takes hours to do it. Every day we wake up and search for food, water, and bread. I’m always wondering how we will ever return to living like normal people and how we will ever be able to forget all of this suffering.

At the time of this writing, it is Day 198 of the war, and we suffer under the same daily siege, with more shortages of the basic things we need to survive, and we are treated like animals. All we need and hope for is to stop this genocide.

A birthday cake with no ingredients

I am a mother of two young children: my daughter, Aysha, is age one, and Yahya turned two during this war and we celebrated his birthday. I made him a cake. “What, you made a cake?!” Oh, it’s a pleasure. Yes, as I said, it’s a pleasure.

But how do you make a cake here in a city of no sugar, no eggs, no baking powder, and no oil? But I wanted to make my baby feel happy, so I used precious ingredients I had hoarded since the start of the war. He is crying all the time now and he wants a lollipop. I feel hopeless because I can’t afford even that for my baby. This is what we have come to in this catastrophic time.

It’s not fair. From the beginning of the war, I lost many people I know, starting with my four students in Al-Amal school, then many of my colleagues at the English department at Al-Azhar University, and ending with many of my friends and family.

Leena, one of my friends, is the only survivor of her family, her husband, her two sons, Aref and Abderhman, and her daughter, Sara. All of them were killed by the Israeli army and she was the only survivor of the rubble. Her story broke my heart. She was living only for her three children and now she has nothing. I am sending her my prayers.

Also, Al-Azhar University was destroyed. When I heard the news, I cried a lot. My memories and my dream place are gone. I had imagined myself to be a professor one day at my beloved university.

What will happen to our future?

My father is 63 years old, and I have five sisters. Inge is a medical student who lost her college in the destruction. She was in her fourth year. She doesn’t know what will happen to her future. I also have a deaf sister who is frustrated; she doesn’t go to school anymore and she misses her friends.

Heba is a new university student, and she is as disappointed as the others. Sara and Yara, my two youngest sisters, are afraid all the time from the constant bombing.

And after all of this, most of the Gazans who are still alive have made a GoFundMe campaign to find a way to survive and to escape from the genocide as soon as possible. It’s a very harsh decision to leave the place you were born and have most of your memories.

But always there’s hope. We don’t have anything except hope and when it is gone, we are gone.

Pray for us not to be targeted and killed. It’s the time to free Palestine because we deserve life.

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