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In Palestine, our struggle for freedom and independence continues to this day, but the accumulative pain does not disappear with new deaths and new rounds of destruction. Just the opposite is true. With every new layer of dispossession, with every additional day of Israeli military occupation and with every new form of discrimination against our people, the resolve for more justice—more absolute justice—increases.
Children pay the ultimate price in any conflict. All children pay the price, children on the receiving end of violence just as much as the children on the perpetrating end of violence.
Since I have written for decades about how Israel’s prolonged military occupation and endless violations of international law—let alone their blatant disregard to their very own self-interests—would get us to this very point, fresh analysis and fresh vantage points are difficult to find. The only words I can muster now, while the images of the carnage in Gaza (as well as Syria and Iraq) are freshly etched into my mind, are the words that may have come from one of the child victims whose life was cut short by a U.S. supplied Israeli F-16 fighter jet missile.
Below is the imagined letter from the victim:
Hi. My name is Eman; it means faith in Arabic. I doubt you will have seen or remember me; only particular photos make it to your TV screen, those are the ones you will remember. I’m a Palestinian child from Gaza.. I was told that many of you are crying for me, but please don’t cry for me. I just arrived to this place and wanted to write to let you know that I’m OK. Really, I’m fine. I just miss Mommy.
There are a lot of people here, Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, and Afghans, just like back home in Gaza. Lots of Palestinian kids too, some have been here for a very long time. Why would you want to cry for only me?
My neighbor arrived a few months ago from the Yarmouk Refugee Camp in Syria, he shares a room with someone who came from a different refugee camp in South Lebanon called Sabra who arrived in September 1982. I really don’t know what a refugee camp is, even though Mommy told me that’s where we live too.
Down the road I saw a really older girl, maybe 13 years old. Her name is also Iman. She came here in October 2004. She told me she was walking home from school, not far from my house in Gaza, when an Israeli soldier emptied his magazine into her after she was wounded and laying on the ground. She says he was caught on radio communications saying he was “confirming the kill.” I don’t really know what that means, either.
There are a lot of old people here, too: mommies and daddies. Some have their kids with them and some are alone. I actually saw a sign on one house that said the person arrived from Kafr Qasim in 1948 (that’s a long time ago!). I think Kafr Qasim is not far from Gaza, but I really don’t know since Daddy never took us on trips far away.
See, I’m in good company, so please, don’t cry for me.
I am exactly 8 years and 23 days old; pretty big girl, wouldn’t you say? I have one baby sister and two older brothers, or at least Mommy tells me that I have two brothers. I’ve only seen one, the other, Mommy says, lives in an Israeli prison and has been there for a very long time. Even though I never saw him, I still love him.
It is true that I was born in Gaza, but Grandpa told me when I was very young that our real home is in a place called al-Majdal. He still has the key to his house there. It’s all rusted but I think it may still work. I bet you don’t know where al-Majdal is located, but you may know a place called Ashkelon. I understand how this can happen, it happens all the time. Those people who made Grandma and Grandpa come to Gaza keep changing the names of everything, even their own names. They not only changed the name of al-Majdal, they changed the name of many cities and villages too. Daddy told me that one Israeli organization called Zochrot goes around and puts signs up with the original names where Palestinian towns and villages were wiped off the face of the earth. This way no one will forget. You really don’t need to worry, because here they must have a very big computer, as all the names are what they use to be, nothing is forgotten. So please, don’t cry for me.
Let me tell you what happen to me last month. It was the beginning of Ramadan. I love Ramadan because at the end of the month there is a big feast and Daddy takes us all to the marketplace and we each are allowed to buy two toys. A few days before the end of Ramadan, Mommy takes us to buy new clothes and shoes. This is the happiest time of the year for me and my brother and sister. But this year, Mommy was sad. She stayed sitting in my room crying while she nursed my baby sister. When I asked her why she was crying she said that we would not be able to buy new clothes this year because all the stores were closed. I understood (I am almost 9 years old, you know) so I surprised her. I went to my closet and pulled out my dress from last year’s Ramadan and I dusted off the pink paddy leather shoes Mommy bought me on my last birthday and I told her she can stop crying because I don’t mind wearing old clothes, even if they don’t match. But she cried even more. I think I know why she was crying. The neighbors were playing with fireworks all night and day, even though Ramadan was only in its first week. Usually fireworks happen only at the end of Ramadan and they are scary, especially at night. I’m glad there are no fireworks here.
Anyway, just as I was putting my Eid clothes back in the closet something happened. I felt like I was swimming, but I wasn’t. The water did not feel like the bathtub, it was warm and sticky. When I glanced down I think it was red too. The last thing I remember is looking up and seeing the light fixture in my room. It was falling, coming straight at me. I know this is not making sense, because ceilings don’t fall, but I swear that was what it looked like.
Next thing I knew, I was brought to this nice place. I love it here, but I really miss Mommy and my baby sister. I wonder why they did not come here with me. Mom would love it. We have electricity all day and night and the stores never close. Really, I’m not joking. In my home here, I can drink water right out of the faucet any time I’m thirsty. One of my friends told me that when I get a little older we can even go on trips far, far away, even to Jerusalem. I’m not sure where that is, but I’m sure I’ll be able to ride a plane for the first time ever to get there.
I want to tell you so much more, but I’ll have to write again later because I need to go now. My two newest friends, Hadar and Issa, are bringing their bikes to take turns in giving me a ride. Can you tell Mommy to send me my bike? I also forgot my toothbrush in the rush to get here so I need that too. Tell her not to send me my Eid dress and shoes. I want my baby sister to wear them for Ramadan next year, because I doubt the stores will open anytime soon. One more thing, please: tell Mommy to empty my piggybank, and send all my savings to The Palestine Children Relief Fund because I’m sure that many of my friends who did not come with me are going to need a lot of help.
After going for the bike ride I’m coming back home to take a nap. I was so happy that I found the CD here with the same exact song that Mommy use to sing to me every night at bedtime.
So see, I’m fine. Really, don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves.