Get involved!

Take the lead!
Support the cause!

The heartbreaking choice Gazans must make: Stay and die together, or separate and lose loved ones

The heartbreaking choice Gazans must make: Stay and die together, or separate and lose loved ones

Join the discussion

We’d like to hear from everyone! By joining our Readers' community, you can access this feature. By joining our Readers, you join a community of like-minded people, thirsty to discuss shared (or not!) interests and aspirations.

Let’s discuss!

Life Marginalized Groups Basic Rights Children

Sunday 5 November 202306:50 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

هل "الموت مع الجماعة رحمة"؟ أهل غزة يجيبون

Mahmoud Darwish, speaking on behalf of all Palestinians, once said, "We love life, if we find a way to it." This statement has become their motto under all the constant death and bombardment, and whenever the death toll rises. However, today, Palestinians have the right to ask: Does life reciprocate this love for them?

Centuries before this poem, the people of historical Palestine shared proverbs that favored death as a collective fate over individual death in times of great calamities, like the one Gaza is experiencing today. One such proverb says, "Put your head between these heads and call the executioner', while another goes, "Death with the group is a mercy".

Collective death with the group is definitely not a mercy. It is genocide, annihilation, massacre, and a war crime, but it certainly is not mercy, at least not for those who remain alive to witness the loss of their loved ones.

In one room

To understand the nature of Gaza, one cannot measure it like other cities. We must understand the relationship between the architectural structure and the social structure. Due to the limited building spaces and the scarcity of public services such as sanitation, water, and the water network, one large family, often consisting of siblings and their families, tends to build a single building and distribute the apartments among themselves.

Karim Abu al-Roos, who lost many of his family members in Gaza in a single day, says that the one who survives his entire family's death, dies in another way

So, when one building is targeted, it's natural that most of the victims are from a single family, as has happened with the al-Za'anin family, the Abu Qouta family, the Abu Hilal family, and dozens of other families.

But is this really normal? To wipe out entire families from the civil registry?

This is what happened to the family of the writer Karim Abu al-Roos that resides in Gaza. He lost his family in the shelling: his sister, her two daughters, her baby, her husband, and many other members of his extended family in a single massacre named after his family. We asked him if he believed that collective death with the entire family is truly a mercy, and he told Raseef22, "In the context of Gaza, what is happening is truly mass death. Every family in Gaza has lost either family members or the entire family. People used to gather in one place, in order to live together or die together."

He concludes, "The one who survives his entire family's death is dead in another way. Death hurts the living, not the dead."

The psychological dimension of collective death

There is a tremendous psychological aspect to this choice, which goes beyond the human emotions we experience in our daily lives and everyday problems, to options no human being should be forced to make, like parents arguing over whether it's better for them to separate their family and send its members to different places – so if one child dies, the other survives – or for everyone to stay in one place and die together.

Psychiatrist Esmat Hosso tells Raseef22 that the main reason for choosing to die together is solidarity, love, and not wanting to grieve for one another. She adds, "It's a rare form of support that happens in moments of death, seeking a common destiny with a genuine motivation of love and not wanting to grieve if just one person remains alive."

"Mass killing creates a different psychological state. Imagine the love that comes from an entire family embracing each other while facing death at any moment. This isn't ordinary love; it's the utmost level of protection parents can provide for their children"

As for whether the choice to die with their children goes against the parents' instincts, she answers, "Of course, the parents' instincts drive them to protect their children until the end, under normal circumstances, as it would be going against their natural instincts. In such a context of genocide, this becomes the norm: to give them the last and greatest dose of love, the strongest embrace, and protect them from orphanhood."

Hoso points to the importance of recognizing the role of faith and belief in alleviating the difficulty of choosing to die with the group. The family's belief that they will be relieved from pain, fear, and torment and will move to a better place after death plays a significant role in facilitating the moment of collective death.

She says, "To understand this moment, we must try to imagine the extent of love that comes from the entire family embracing each other while under shelling and facing the possibility of death at any moment. This is not an ordinary kind of love; it is not an ordinary moment of emotional connection, but rather it's probably the utmost level of protection that parents can provide for their children."

She explains that mass killing creates a different psychological state, one that cannot be compared to ordinary death, especially when death becomes the rule, not the exception.

No it's not mercy... It's massacre

Poet Fatena Al-Ghorra, who lives in Gaza, tells Raseef22, "The phrase 'death with the group is a mercy' is indeed very painful. At first, I thought it was true, and I have heard it from many people these days in Gaza. It means that I will not end up alone and have to live with my pain if my family dies. This idea solidified in my head during this war, especially when we see one person who has survived the bombings and destruction but is the only one left from his/her family."

She then goes back to wonder: Is collective death with the group truly a mercy? And for whom?

She says, "When only one person from a family survives, it means that his/her family will live on, and he/she will be a living testament that this family and these lives existed, and they had stories, memories, and lives to tell. This is also a mercy."

Poet Fatena Al-Ghorra: "When only one person from a family survives, it means that his/her family will live on, and he/she will be a living testament that this family existed, and they had stories, memories, and lives to tell. This is also a mercy."

She adds, "Despite all the pain associated with the idea of loss and losing a significant number of your family members, or all of them, having a witness to this horror to narrate what happened for me is a thousand times more merciful. People must still have a voice despite all the pain and suffering. We are living through unimaginable horrors, and we know there is no safe haven, and we can only say, 'God, please save even a fraction of our people'."

She points out that many families do the opposite and its members are distributed in various places, so that if some die, others will survive. "Dying with the group is the disappearance of the group's story, the group's history, and the group's legacy. Gaza must have people who speak out, bear their own pain to become witnesses, and tell what happened."

She recounts, "Two days ago, my niece asked me if I wanted to drink water, and I said yes. She brought me a glass of water, and I started crying because the water was cold, and I couldn;t bring myself to have it. Who else will tell these stories other than us? Who will be there for Gaza except the witnesses who will remain and bear the pain to tell what really happened?"

We've normalized our lives with death

Jihan Mahdi, a mother of a 5-year-old child, has changed her place of residence three times since the beginning of the war after her new home was destroyed. She says, "I know the difference between the two choices. When the family is new and the children are young, the mother and father embrace their young ones so that they could all die together. But families whose members are older and have independent houses distribute themselves across different homes so that if a brother or sister dies, he/she will find an uncle or aunt to take care of the children."

"The difference is that families with young children embrace them until death, while older families decide to spread across different areas, so if a family dies and their children survive, they will find an uncle or aunt to take them in" – Jihan from Gaza

She points out that orphaned children have become a major problem in Gaza today. The young ones whose entire families have died face the issue of being discharged from hospitals without guardians. "Who will take care of them? Hospitals also need beds? Sometimes no one identifies the children, especially infants or those with disabilities, and they have no second or third-degree relatives, or they have already been displaced," she says.

She concludes, "We have normalized our lives with death and pain. We don't write our wills because everyone knows what is expected of them. But orphanhood in Gaza is not like orphanhood anywhere else in the world. Orphans here will not find someone to embrace them and die with them the next time, and most likely, the orphan will die alone if he's not in the arms of his mother and father, in a corner of a room in the next bombing."

Join Join

Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.

Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!

Real strength: Engaging with those whose opinions differ

At Raseef22, we challenge conventional thinking and invite all voices to join us in instigating change. The winds of change will only blow once we succeed in highlighting the positive and necessary impact of respect, tolerance, freedom, and openness.

Raseef22 is unwavering in its commitment to upholding journalistic standards rooted in integrity. 

Website by WhiteBeard