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a palestinian man with a head injury holding bags of belongings as he evacuates in gaza

“Palestinians are strong but we hurt. I pray this horror ends and my son has his birthday”

An Islamic Relief aid worker and father of 2* continues his account of the struggle to survive in Gaza.

It has been a couple of days since I last wrote anything. I feel frustrated and exhausted, and I have no hope. This situation is making me mentally ill.

We are all damaged by this escalation. None of us will get out of this unhurt – either physically or mentally. Our lives are being taken, in front of our eyes. Our futures are being stolen. We are falling into a deep, dark hole with no hope of escape.

Will my child get to celebrate his birthday?

Like most children, my 6-year-old son has been eagerly awaiting his birthday, which is next week. When the crisis began 1 month ago, and his school closed, his first question was, “Will we still celebrate my birthday?” I told him, “Of course we will. This will end soon, dear.”

Back then, I never expected we would be forced to flee our home and would be struggling to get food, water, and electricity.

I keep praying that this nightmare will end before his birthday.

If it ends, we might be able to return home – he’s been missing his bedroom, particularly – but even still, his birthday won’t be the same as before. We always took him to his favourite restaurant. It served kebabs and grilled meat, an unusual favourite for a child, but he loved the place all the same. His pizza and pasta-loving sister complained that he always chooses the same place. My son was very upset to learn the restaurant was damaged in an attack, so there’ll be no more special times there.

Anyway, I do not know if we will ever be able to gather as a family again. To take the kids to their favourite places. I do not know if they will be able to go back to school and see their friends again – we heard one of my son’s friends lost their house. Maybe there are others in the same situation. I do not know if our road is still there, if the familiar traffic light remains, and if so, will people ever again crowd near it, waiting for a safe moment to cross?

I don’t know if there will ever be a homecoming.

Why are Palestinians having to suffer, again?

I keep thinking of my father and my grandparents. They used to live in a small village, growing crops and raising animals on their land. They were normal Palestinians with their own traditions, memories, love stories, and sad times. In 1948 Israel took their homes and land. They weren’t nobodies, as Israel may want you to believe – they were somebodies, and they lost everything.

Here in present-day Gaza, I wonder if we have to tread a similarly difficult path: forced from our homes, dispossessed and oppressed. Why do Palestinians have to suffer? My thoughts turn to the ordinary Syrians, Libyans, Yemenis, and Iraqis, many of whom are suffering like us.

We are resilient, but we are tired. We are solid, but we are soft enough to hurt. We are strong, but we have had enough. We are humans, just like you. Today, humans must stand together, raising our voices against what is happening.

In Gaza today, we refuse to be silenced. We keep telling our story. We keep demanding justice.

But all the writing and speaking might prove to be in vain, as yet more innocent men, women and children are killed. As hospitals, schools, churches, and mosques are destroyed. What will my life mean if I cannot save my family? If I don’t get to see my children thrive and prosper? If I can’t take a photo of my son celebrating his sixth birthday, if I can’t even give him a present?

He only wanted a skateboard – just like any child anywhere else in the world, he loves toys and fun. Like any child, he wants his share of life. His time playing with his cat, Mesho, for whom we have run out of food. My children want their pet to remain part of our family, but it feels to me as if it is Israel, and those with influence over Israel, that will make that decision.

I just want a birthday. Please, my dear friends, out there in the world: we need to be saved.

Islamic Relief is on the ground in Gaza, serving as a lifeline to ordinary families suffering in this crisis. Support our work: give generously to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*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 6 November.

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