Friday November 17, 2023

As bombs fall and newborns die in their hospital incubators, an Islamic Relief aid worker* describes his heartbreak at being unable to shield his family from the unfolding horror in Gaza.

More days have passed, and still there is no end to this horrifying situation in which we live.

Palestinians have been brutally killed and all the world has seen the dead bodies of children, women, older people, and even animals. This assault is leaving nothing unharmed. It is targeting all living things in this land, and is affecting every aspect of our lives.

I fear we might not be able to survive the coming days and weeks.

2 days ago, as we were having lunch, there was a huge sound of explosions close by. In an instant, my 6-year-old son ran away, screaming. I scrambled after him, finding him lying on the ground beside the table, covering his ears as he cried in terror.

It broke my heart. I have never seen him like that before.

My tears fell as I tried to comfort him. As he calmed down and I was able to talk to him, he said, “The sound hurt my ears”. I told him, “Don’t worry, son. The noise has stopped now,” then I asked him how he was feeling. “I am afraid,” he replied. To which, my answer, “We are all afraid, son. Do not worry. It is not wrong to be afraid.”

Trying to soothe him, my nerves were failing me. As a father, I was failing my son and the rest of my family. I couldn’t protect them. I couldn’t get them to a safe place. There were so many things I can’t do for my family, now.


I feel I’m failing as a father because I can’t protect them

I have always provided good standard of living for my family. I have always tried my best to attend his school events and the ceremonies they used to do in the kindergarten years. I wish I could protect him from this.

Now, I can’t provide my kids with the food they are used to. It is getting cold – winter is coming – but they only have summer clothes because when we fled our home we couldn’t take everything we owned. In the area where we are staying now, there are no new clothes: there’s nothing left in the shops, and people are struggling for anything they can find.

Imagine, my friends, there is no coffee left in Gaza. If anyone does happen to have a pack of coffee in their kitchen, it’s worth 3 times what they paid before this crisis began. Even a morning coffee is beyond my reach, right now. Israel says laying siege to Gaza is self-defence, but how is it self-defence to stop ordinary people from drinking coffee? How is it self-defence to keep flour, salt, spices, and toilet paper from us?

We are being deprived of everything. I think, if they could, they would keep even oxygen from us.

I was speaking to an Islamic Relief colleague who was working on a project that that included providing incubators for sick newborn babies. The same babies who are now being left to die, without power to run their incubators.

My colleague said, “I can’t understand what is going on. We gave the incubators to Al Shifa hospital to save the lives of newborn babies. Now, the whole world is watching the babies being slowly killed, live on television. I feel so helpless.”

She does not have the power to stop this madness either.


We cling to our hope and we tell our story

I can’t stop thinking about why this is happening to the Palestinians. I keep telling myself it is because Allah is testing us, and I thank the Almighty for the blessing of still being alive and able to tell the story of my people. So I will keep writing to you, my dear readers, and I will keep hoping that you can carry on this story.

Today we managed to get some olives for breakfast and it reminded me that we Palestinians are deeply rooted in the land. I remembered my father, who planted 3 olive trees at our family home, and always got us children involved. He taught us the names of every type of olive, their taste, their smell and colour. 

When it was time to harvest the small fruits he’d warn us against damaging the trees, “Do not pull hard. The branches will carry the new olives next year.” As I looked for the freshest olives, I told myself that for as long as this land holds olive trees, Palestinians will be here.

And, if a ceasefire ends our fear and misery and suffering, the seed of hope to which my family are clinging, may get the chance to grow.


Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing situation on the ground, which has since continued to deteriorate. This information was correct as of the afternoon of Monday, 13 November.

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