My name is Safa’, I am a mom of three little girls, Zeena, Yasmeen, and Leena. I live in Ramallah but am originally from Gaza. I wrote this letter Sunday night, after a long and bloody day – one of many. I want you to know what it’s like here – and what my family is telling me Gaza is like.
And I want to ask for your help.
In 1994 I left Gaza when I was 18 years old to pursue my university studies at Birzeit University, exactly one year after the signing of the Oslo Accords. I am now 38, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine continues.
When I got married in 2002, my parents were never able to make it to my wedding. My oldest daughter is not 9 years old, and has never met her grandparents in Gaza. Like most Palestinians, we cannot obtain a permit from Israel to move between the West Bank and Gaza.
Last March, I finally got a permit to visit my parents when my father got very sick. When I got a permit to go to Gaza it was for one week only, I was only able to take Leena with me as she was only 5 months old. One daughter out of three. One week out of nine years.
I am not the only one who is living in such a difficult situation; thousands of Palestinian are separated from their families and loved ones due to the separation wall and classification according to the type of ID they hold. We have Gaza, West Bank and Jerusalem IDs and movement to and from these areas require access permit from the Israeli government. Most Palestinians are denied such permits for reasons that they are not aware of but always rejected for allegedly “security reasons”.
For the past eight days Gaza is being massively attacked by the Israel Occupation Forces with all kinds of missiles and weaponry. The death toll just reached 170 people most of whom are civilians, children and women, and more than a thousand injured. Hundreds of homes were bombarded. Images coming out of Gaza are terrifying and heartbreaking. I do not think anyone with a little compassion in their heart would not sympathize with the victims.
I sleep every night hoping that this madness will stop in the morning.
Whenever the phone rings my heart beats in fear that I will be receiving bad news about my family. Thank god they are safe until now. My family has a three-story house where my parents live on the ground floor and two of my brothers each live in one story.
Due to the bombing and massive shelling, the whole family including my other brother who lives in a different building gather with my parents for better safety - or that’s what they hope. They say, it’s better to live or die together. The other day they also received the neighbors’ who were afraid of getting hurt after their closest neighbor was demanded to evacuate as the house was targeted for bombing.
I call them multiple times every day to hear the news. They pretend to be safe and strong, but I can hear the fear in their voices, the uncertainty, bitterness, and helplessness. I feel especially devastated for the little children in the family who do not really understand what’s going on or why they are being hit.
My mom told me that it feels and looks like a tsunami has hit the neighborhood. I thought if it was a tsunami; maybe the International community would have acted fast to save innocent lives.
I do not understand how Israel is defending itself by killing entire families and children. If Israel has a right to defend itself as an occupier, why we are denied the very same right as the occupied. Why after more than 20 years of negotiations we cannot live in an independent state. Why Israel is breaking more than 65 UN resolutions without being questioned. Why Israel is building more settlements. Why it’s almost impossible to make Israel accountable to international law. Why the US does not see that Israel is not acting responsibly, or why they think killing hundreds of civilians is a responsible act.
I wonder: when will my daughters see their grandparents?
I have many questions but can only think of one answer: the US is not interested in bringing peace and justice to Palestine.
The US government is occupying Palestine as much as Israel. The US is supplying Israel with weapons. It is backing it and preventing the UN Security Council from even condemning the atrocities and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians. The situation will change if and only if the US takes a strong stand against Israel continued violations of human rights. And that will require Americans who believe in justice to put a stop to the US policy of unconditional support for Israel.
I will sleep in my home tonight, but my heart remains with the people of Gaza. I am sure if you look at the physical and human losses at both sides, you will realize yourself where you stand.
And you will want to act.
Please, sign Jewish Voice for Peace’s Open Letter condemning this attack and its root cause: the idea that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives. They will take out ads this week in the Israeli paper, Ha'aretz, and the Jewish Daily Forward--so every name counts.
Salam from occupied Palestine.
Safa’ Abdel Rahman-Madi