Thursday evening I got the call. From Inge, my ISM colleague, who is still in Gaza. "Nasser's house was bombed," she just said. "The paramedics are evacuating the family now. I'll keep you updated.” It took about an hour before I knew that all are alive. One hour, in which the images were passing behind my eyes, the days we spent purchasing all vital things for the family, the bright eyes of the children, when they saw their new stuff, the hope we were able to give all of them. We, and all of you who have donated. The hope that Nasser's family equally gave to all of us. Hope that also at a place like Gaza, a place where misery is found everywhere you turn, that also there there is something you can make okay. "I have never seen them so happy", Inge had told me in our last conversation, when I asked her about the children. "They played outside, and looked forward to the new house. "Gaza is not the place for happy endings", I was once told by a friend from Gaza. Gaza is no place for happy endings, I had this sentence in my ears when I got the terrible news. Nasser's house was bombed. Four times. Four whole times. Everyone has survived, Inge told me after an eternal seeming hour, but little Maisa, 5 years old, and Ala, 10 years, had been buried under the rubble of the house. And with them everything we all had worked for for the past few months. For psychological support, the processing of the death of the mother, a stable livelihood, and above all – for a feeling of security. A little bit of childhood and joy amidst this hostile place. "Maisa was brave", said Inge. The small Maisa is always brave, and in her 5 years she has been through things you can’t get through at any age. Ala was in shock. Four bombs on a family house that is well known to the Israeli military. Such a blatant cruelty turns any sense of right and wrong in pain. Gaza is no place for a happy ending.
But all survived. Traumatized all over again, with a destroyed house, destroyed belongings, but all survived. And that means to look forward, over and over again. Gaza is not the place for a happy ending, we cannot and we aren’t allowed to give in to that. The psychological care will continue. We will build a new house, as planned. We will create a little happy end, also and especially in Gaza.
April 30th 2011 Inge Neefs - ISM Gaza
*Family house shelled: two children, a woman and a man injured*
"I dreamt of my wife last night, she said the day would have a surprise in
store for me". Nasser Abu Said (37) is pleased: an NGO has confirmed a 2000
dollar contribution to the construction of his new house. He often smiles,
but his face is predominantly characterized with the traces of worries from
his daily struggle for survival. I think how good it is to see him laugh, it
reminds me of the happy family picture I saw of him with his wife and five
children. That must have been shortly before last year's atrocity which has
caused for physical and psychological displacement of his family. On July
13th 2010, on a warm summer evening that the Abu Said family was enjoying
outside, the Israeli Occupation Forces attacked them. "Five tank shells and
a flechette shell", Nasser told me, again, two days ago, with blank
expression. The flechettes riddled the body of his wife, and while
ambulances were prevented from entering the area, she died. Her five
children, aged 3 to 12, watched her succumb and saw how her body grew
In the evening of April 28th, Nasser was still cherishing his dream of his
wife, whilelaying in the bedroom, when all of a sudden, the Israeli
Occupation Forces attacked the house at 8:10 pm. Within five minutes, four
shells were fired from a tank, stationed by an Israeli base by the border, 3
kilometers from the family house. The first one went straight through the
bedroom wall, were Nasser was resting. The second and third shells passed
through the corridor where three of his children were playing and the forth
shell hit the bedroom a second time.
"It was dark, the electricity cut as soon as the attack began. I was afraid
to move, even afraid to turn on the flashlight on my mobile. I was afraid
that they would shell again if they would see any movement. But then I heard
the cries of my children, calling out to me to get them out from under the
rubble. I went into the corridor and saw Ala' under the stones, but could
only see Maisa's hand sticking out from under the rubble", says Nasser. "It
was terrible. I didn't know where my other children were and feared they had
After approximately 40 minutes of utter fear, it turned out that Jaber
(3),Baha (7) and Sadi (9) were outside with their grandparents and were
"Ala' saw how I was panicking and just answered that he was fine when I got
him from under the rubble. It was only when the ambulances arrived that he
told me of his injuries", says Nasser.
Both Maisa and Ala' had been injured by shrapnel and were taken to Al Aqsa
Martyrs hospital in Deir al-Baleh, together with Nassers's brother, Mohammed
Abu Said (43) and his wife Sana'. Mohammed has a crack in his skull, a
swollen eye and his face is scratched, while Sana' has shrapnel in her foot.
Five year old Maisa, is sitting barefoot in her pink track suit at the end
of the hospital bed. She looks pale, but then I realize that she is covered
in dust of the stones that fell on her when the shells crashed through the
walls of her house. She puts on a courageous smile and shows me the shrapnel
wound in her hand. She's staying in the hospital overnight as she has
trouble breathing. Next to her lies her eldest brother Ala', who is
suffering; his eyes flicker around nervously. His face cramps when the
doctor pushes his belly softly. He tries to turn his face, but realizes
there's another wound in his neck and panics with tears in his eyes. His
family members stand by in shock: "They are children! It's outrageous!"
The Abu Said family house is situated in Johr Al-Dik's farming land, exactly
340 meters from the border with Israel. Currently, 14 people live in the
house: Nasser and his five children live on the second floor, with his
parents, while his brother lives on the ground floor with his wife, two
children and his sister. Other families have evacuated the area in the past
decade, because of the danger, but the Abu Said family lacks resources to
relocate to a safer area. Incursions with bulldozers and tanks take place
every month, while gunfire is heard on an almost daily basis. These bullets
pose a direct danger: in the past year, the house has been shot at on
different occasions, the children have been trapped by gunfire while playing
and their grandparents have been shot at while doing nothing more
threatening than drinking coffee and tea by the house.
After his wife was killed, Nasser pitched a tent, a couple of hundred meters
away from the house, hoping for it to be a safer haven for his traumatized
children. During last month's escalation, he moved back into the house,
because how much protection can a tent offer against missiles and bombs?
Once things grew calmer, he and his children spent their nights in the tents
again. But they moved out again after the children had caught two big black
scorpions by their beds.
Nasser has been lobbying different organizations to build him a new house,
because he isafraid of a new Israeli assault. Some of his requests have been
negatively answered, but most have disappeared in the NGO's indigestible
pile of bureaucracy. "Maybe they will help me now, now my house is
destroyed. It's just a shame that my wife had to be killed again; all of her
belongings are destroyed in this attack. It's very painful to lose the
things she cherished."
*** It always seems impossible until it's done ** Nelson Mandela*