‘In any case, you came, Eid.’

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Children playing in displaced persons' camp.
Children playing on Eid. Photo provided by Hadeel Awad

 

Today is Eid. It is the end of Ramadan. A Ramadan that has been painful and an Eid that promises nothing but more suffering and starvation. I wanted to change this for the children in my displacement camp, even if just for a day.

My favorite memories of Eid were waking up very early in the morning to get ready for Eid prayers with my family and community. Afterwards we used to play in playgrounds and festivals set up in the streets of every neighborhood. Colorful balloons would dance and fly in the air, Eid banners and flags would line the streets.  I could find happy hellos and reunions between extended family on every corner.

Even though we have lived under siege and extreme violence under occupation for so long, nothing prepared us for the cruelty and suffering we are experiencing on this Eid. The sound of violent shellings has replaced the laughter of children. Missiles and drone attacks have destroyed our mosques and community centers, leaving them in rubble and devastation. Starvation has become a rule for most of Gaza, with everyone feeling the pain of hunger.

This Eid, I find myself and my family cramped into a small makeshift tent made of tarps and sheets. Our tent has an area of 3×3 meters and we are 10 people living inside. It is a great tragedy for anyone who reads about our living conditions, and, it is also a tremendous tragedy for us as we are actually living in these unimaginable conditions.

We have zero privacy in the tent. We have zero water and electricity. Clean water is virtually miles away and my brothers have been walking long distances to bring water back to our tent for our family. To charge my phone, I have to give it to someone who has additional charges and pay them for the power.

I have not been able to have a decent night of sleep for months. I sleep exhausted and wake up exhausted. The sounds of drones and shelling are continuous and fill me with fear. The temperature has also become high, and we cannot bear the heavy heat inside the tent. My younger brother sleeps beside me and is restless due to the sounds of shelling, high temperature, and the persistent presence of insects and flies.

Today, on the first day of Eid in our small tent, I saw my little brother Muhammad and his friend Mahmoud playing and trying to make Eid decorations with white scraps of paper that they collected from a seller on the street. Mohammed is my youngest brother, age 13, and should be completing eighth grade.  Mahmoud is 12 years old and should be completing seventh grade. They have both lost a critical year of education. Their friendship started since we were displaced to the tents, around seven months ago.

As he was cutting paper, he asked, “Will Eid still come while we are still living in such a tragic situation?” This question was on the mind of every Palestinian in Gaza. I wondered how I could help to revive a little of the Eid spirit in such circumstances.

Muhammed and Mahmoud were busy cutting paper stars and shapes to make banners. They were busily writing Eid Mubarek, or Happy Eid, on the papers and wanted to hang them up as decorations for the holiday. They were happy with their work, and as children, they wanted to bring some of the happiness of Eid to the tent cities that have been filled with sadness. Muhammed and Mahmoud are children. They just wanted any reason to celebrate and play, especially on Eid which is supposed to be a happy time.

I love children, and it makes my heart happy to see them laughing and playing despite the cruelty of war. We have about 15 young children living around our section of the tent, and I was inspired to bring some happiness to them for Eid. The violence and aggression against our people has stolen everything from us every day and for many generations. I wanted this Eid to be something that these children could reflect back on and remember with happiness.

Adult with several children in circle outside tent.
The writer with children on Eid. Photo provided by Hadeel Awad

I started off by bringing the children together and asking them to sit in a big circle facing each other. I started to play some songs from a children’s music channel called Tooyoor Al Jannah, or Birds of Heaven. Each one of these beautiful children shared their voices and quietly started to sing along. As the song continued, they raised their voices higher and higher together:

Let’s all play together, and throw a ball in the air. When we throw it far, it comes back again. Jump, jump, oh ball, jump over the gate, jump from above the alley to the neighbor’s rooftop. Make a paper plane with your hand, roof upon roof in your hands. Blow a little blow, and laugh from your heart.

As we sang together, I passed out candies to the children that I purchased from a vendor in the tent camp. Each one was beautifully wrapped with festive shiny metallic wrappers. The candies were called Al Rabee Sweetness, or Sweets of Spring. The eyes of the children lit up like lanterns as if the candy was coming from a different planet! They held out their hands eager to receive the candy. Their faces became joyful, which lifted my spirits too.

As we continued singing, the children’s beautiful voices and laughter filled our little tent. Some were holding each other’s hands and moving to the music. Others started to jump and hop around. Some children hugged each other with wide smiles on their faces. I felt so happy to see them experience this small happiness. A little bit of Eid was returned to us today.

The Zionist occupation has waged violent wars against the children of Gaza and has attempted to steal their childhood through sieges, murder, and terror campaigns. The damage to the mental health and psyche of Gaza’s children is immeasurable and long lasting. But I was reassured that some innocent songs and festive candies on Eid could return the smiles to their bright faces and light hearts.

In creating an exciting atmosphere for Eid for just a few moments today, I could show these children that they are cared for. They are not forgotten. I am thinking about them. Gaza’s children are in our hearts and they are loved. They are in our hopes and dreams. They are our future and they are our pride. One day, they will have a beautiful life. Even if our gestures are small for now.

Composed on April 10, 2024

The post ‘In any case, you came, Eid.’ appeared first on We Are Not Numbers.

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