North Africa, West Asia

Memoir of a war survivor

A Palestinian tells of a life that is death before death in Gaza.

Sarah Algherbawi
2 August 2014

My name is Sarah, and I am a Palestinian citizen. I turned 23 on the nineteenth day of the third war against Gaza I’ve witnessed in the last five years of my life. And to make it clear – I’m not a terrorist!

I’m writing this piece after watching the Al-Jazeera documentary film Al-Fajer Massacre, describing one of the most savage massacres that took place in this war. I am heartbroken now for all that has happened to those innocent people, who lost everything: their beloveds, their memories, their homes...‘everything’ is the only word that can describe the size of their loss! Everybody cried while watching the film, my entire family did.

I live in the centre of Gaza, and until this moment, neither my family nor I have physically been affected by this brutal war. This is the twenty-first day of war, and it’s not much different from the last twenty days. The same things are taking place every single day. I wake up to follow up the latest news, the new updated number of martyrs and wounded, the new places being targeted by Israeli forces, whether everyone I know is still fine and alive.

Then we all keep waiting for what’s coming next. Where and who will be the next target? It might be me, or my whole family! Or we might be lucky to survive from the random missiles that target nothing but civilians! Nothing is certain, and all the possibilities are present. Yes, it’s that simple.

Watching others’ death, pain and loss is not far from death itself, on the contrary, many days passed and I die more than once a day, the size of pain that survivors suffer from is much larger than the pain you would feel in the final death. I imagine how would I feel if I lose those people I love, how my life would look like without them.

What if I die? How would my mother feel about that? How others can carry on in their lives without their families? I just can’t imagine and I’m pretty sure even those who have already lost their beloved ones don’t have any idea of how they would keep living without them and I bet that they all wish if they died with them.

Nothing is more difficult than death in this place but life. I think those who died “martyrs” are the luckiest! Lots of us are keep telling ourselves: unfortunately, we’re still alive.

Even in times of peace and ceasefire, life here is not rosy. Palestinians’ life in Gaza has always been tragic. We’ve been living under siege for more than seven years. The siege killed the dreams of thousands of people, the dream to study, to get medication, to see relatives, to see the other side of the world – if it is even right to consider Gaza as a part of this world – and much more than I even can count.

We were already dying before this war was launched, before any of the preceding wars took place. We are dying slowly; our crime is only being Palestinian citizens. We lack the simplest necessities of life: water, electricity, borders, and infrastructure…with endless consequences.

Even those Palestinians who are living outside Gaza and the West Bank, they’re dying every single day, more than once, because our land and homes were once stolen…but for sure it’s not forever! Peace and stability are the dream and obsession of every Palestinian, of every human being on this earth…not terrorists.

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Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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