Love amidst chaos – We Are Not Numbers


In a world filled with pain, love has the power to transcend barriers and endure the harshest of circumstances. I learned this truth from my friend, Hind, and the love of her life, Malik, two souls bound by love, whose journey took an unexpected turn amidst the turmoil of war in Gaza.

Malik first noticed Hind when they were neighbors in the Zeitoun neighborhood near Gaza City. Hind immediately captured Malik’s heart with her big eyes and hopeful smile. Soon after they met, Malik knew he wanted to marry Hind and sought her father’s permission, as is traditional. The engagement may have been a traditional one, but the love Hind felt for Malik was real. She loved his loyalty, his sense of humor, and his generosity.

Profiles of a young man and woman. Text: Cease Fire Now So We Can Love.
Artist: @sarahbharnafi. Courtesy the Palestine Poster Project Archives

Because of the challenges they faced, from poverty to the lack of work, they did not set a date for their wedding for two years. During this time, their bond continued to grow stronger with each passing day. Whenever people asked why they had not married yet, they would say they were not ready.

Hind often reminisces about the early days of their engagement as she recalls Malik’s gentle gestures and unwavering support. “We both believe love is a promise of a warm house with kids messing around, and me cooking him his favorite dish and eating it together.” These beliefs highlight the simple yet profound dreams they share.

A date is set

As their love blossomed, Malik and Hind eagerly anticipated their upcoming wedding day. On Oct. 6, 2023, just 17 days before their planned Oct. 23 ceremony, excitement filled the air as they made final preparations. Oct. 7 was the day Hind was supposed to pick up her wedding dress and Malik was supposed to check on the wedding hall. Instead, on that day, Israel’s unrelenting attacks began, killing Hind’s cousin in one of the first bombing raids and shattering their joy. A wedding, even a small one, is now an impossible dream until the war ends.

Malik’s focus immediately switched from his wedding day to saving lives. Because he is a trained paramedic, he saw it as his duty to go to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City in the north of Gaza and help in any way he could. This left Hind with no choice but to travel with her family to her aunt’s house in Nuseirat in the middle of Gaza, where they would seek refuge. Until then, Hind and Malik had always been neighbors in north Gaza. Now they were separated by miles and besieged by fear. Their only solace came two months into the war when they were able to have occasional phone conversations that offered brief moments of connection amidst the chaos.

Hind recounts the agonizing wait between calls, her heart heavy with worry for Malik’s safety. “I spend the time waiting for any news related to him, even news that doesn’t show anything.”

Malik is injured

Two months into the war, tragedy struck. While Malik was caring for an injured civilian, shrapnel from an explosion pierced his abdomen, destroying half his liver, and lodged in his back. Even after he sustained this grave injury, Malik continued to work to save lives, surrounded by the sounds and chaos of war. “Whenever I tell him to rest, he says he can’t. He feels compelled to rush to help others who have been hurt,” Hind recalls.

When his wounds got worse, the Israeli army refused to give him permission to travel south by ambulance, where he would have better access to healthy food and the surgery he needed to remove shrapnel from his back. Without permission from the military, the only way Malik could get to the south would be to walk along the safe path established by the military. That was an impossibility, given his injuries.

Hind’s worst fears were realized on March 16, 2024, when Malik was taken captive by the Israeli army during its attack on Al-Shifa Hospital. “I talked to him a day before the attack. We laughed more than we had in months. Before hanging up, he promised to call back when the connection was better. As it turned out, the army surrounded the hospital faster than we thought it would and he couldn’t call me. He sent me messages saying he was fine, but the connection was not good.”

Hind’s voice began to crack as she recalled that Malik had said he would call after Iftar. Malik never called; Hind’s calls to Malik went unanswered. Later, she learned from his brother that Malik may have been captured. She fell into a deep despair. The uncertainty of his fate weighed heavily on her. She felt helpless.

Hind lives with uncertainty

For the next 25 days, Hind and her family lived with uncertainty about Malik’s fate. Then they saw a news report about Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army from Al-Shifa Hospital. There, in a photograph of IDs taken from the abductees, was Malik’s identification card. Hind felt hope that he was still alive but could not understand why he had been taken captive. “He never hurt anyone! He’s a paramedic.”

Despite the overwhelming odds of being reunited with Malik any time soon, if ever, Hind clings to hope, refusing to let go of the love that sustains her. “My Malik is fine. That’s what my heart tells me.” In the face of adversity, she finds strength in her memories of their time together and the promise of a future where they can be reunited once more.

‏The story of Malik and Hind is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of love. Despite the turmoil and tragedy that surrounds them, their love remains a beacon of hope in a world filled with darkness. As they continue to navigate the uncertainties of war, their bond serves as a reminder that love conquers all, even in the most challenging of times.

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