Get involved!

Take the lead!
Support the cause!

Memoirs from Gaza: A first sip of cold water

Memoirs from Gaza: A first sip of cold water

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!

Opinion Marginalized Groups Basic Rights Children

Monday 20 November 202305:58 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

يوميات من غزة (3)... "بكيتُ حين شربت ماءً نظيفاً وبارداً لأول مرة منذ بداية الحرب"


Messages to Lamar

“Would you like a cup of water, Auntie?”

You know how much I like drinking water, Lamar. You used to tease me about how often I drink, so there's only one answer to your question.

Sleeping in hallways among strangers

It's been 12 days since we've been at the Al-Quds Hospital, Lamar – your grandmother, grandfather, myself, and some of your uncles. During this time, I haven't had a sip of water to restore my sense of humanity. Our options here are either tap water, unfit for drinking, or unfiltered well water. Yet despite the danger, people line up to fill their water bottles and containers. Sometimes, your cousins wait in line for hours just to fill gallons and a few bottles.

I was blown away when I finally did touch that first cup of water, Lamar. Oh, how sweet it was, my dear. A cup of cold, filtered water feels like a miracle today in Gaza. Just the touch of a paper cup was enough to transport me to a faraway paradise. I cried for my broken pride and dignity. Why should a cup of cold water move me? Why should it bring tears to my eyes?

I was blown away when I had my first cup of clean water since the start of the war. Oh, how sweet it was. Cold, filtered water is a miracle today in Gaza. But with my first sip, I cried for my broken pride. Why should a cup of cold water bring tears to my eyes?

The cold hit my chapped fingers, triggering a silent stream of salty tears. After 12 days in the hospital, lying in a narrow corridor before strangers, my bones have stiffened. You see my dear, I sleep on the floor, with only a woolen blanket separating me from the cold floor.

A paper cup of cold water

I cried because the water was cold. Does that warrant tears? But, as is often the case for those who are more prideful, I cried silently.

A few tears fell, gathering on my chin, before falling into my paper cup. Their taste didn’t bother me. My hands remained, gripping the cool cup. You know the cold – the kind we savor in the countries we travel to, those we sought safety in. There, it is free.

Strange eyes surround me, asking questions I don’t understand. It bothers me when people's eyes are on me. But here, we are exposed at all times. We are subject to questions, open for gossip and silly chatter, with no luxury of privacy

The cool water hit my lips, as it does during extreme Gaza summers; this summer is especially long. The water made its way down my throat, carrying more salt into my eyes. I look down at the cup and the remaining water, to hide my fragile state and avoid the questions they will surely direct at me; I do not have the energy in me to talk about the reasons for my tears.

Strange and curious eyes surround me, asking me questions I do not understand. I don’t even know why they're directed at me. You know, Lamar, how much it bothers me when people's eyes are on me, and how aggressive I can get when I catch a curious gaze. Yet here, we are exposed to each other at all times, subject to questions and silly chatter. We are open for gossip and interpretations, with no luxury of privacy.

My skin and the sea water

Did I tell you that the skin on my fingers has started to peel a little? Did I mention that the water we wash our faces with comes directly from the sea? This is no metaphor; even the water that comes out of the tap carries the foam of the sea, the taste of the sea, and the smell of the sea. This way, I can touch and inhale the sea of Gaza every day.

Another sip of cold water. I let it pour into every corner of my mouth, to remove the taste of salt, before letting it slowly and smoothly trickle down my throat. My eyes shut as I absorb each sweet and cool moment of those water droplets.

Missiles fill the sky like birds, making it impossible to distinguish night from day, despite what your watch may read. But these are birds of metal, not flesh, blood, or feathers. They breathe from their mouths, canisters of hell, and reduce homes to piles of ash

Birds of metal

A short break. Let me share the meaning of these short breaks, my dear Lamar. Well, missiles and artillery flying over our heads – that's what it is – heavy birds that your generation does not know of yet, and perhaps has never heard about. They fill the sky like massive birds and make it impossible to distinguish night from day, despite your watch confirming: It's three in the afternoon.

But these are birds of metal, not flesh, blood, or feathers. They breathe from their mouths, canisters of hell, and rain down on homes, causing them to fall to the ground, reduced to piles of ash.

After passing through the nearby Al-Abraaj Street behind us, your uncle's wife told me, "The buildings have turned to ashes, Fatina. There are no stones or rocks there, just ashes. What kind of explosives turns buildings into ashes?"

American missiles sound like metal plates falling from the tenth-floor, a sound that sends shivers down your spine, while Israeli missiles descend in a single strike: “Booom!” But don’t worry–the kids here assure me that when our time comes, we won't even hear these sounds

I imagine that when the war began, I used to reassure myself by asking your cousins about the sounds of the shells, “What kind of missile or shell is this?" The children would smile in response, outwardly reassuring, but beneath it, there was a sense of mockery of their Belgian aunt, who couldn't distinguish between the sounds of the missiles and artillery shells fired by American and Israeli planes.

An American missile sounds like grinding metal plates as they tumble down from a building’s tenth-floor, an eerie noise that sends shivers down your spine. Meanwhile, Israeli missiles descend in a single strike: “Boooom”... But don't worry, Lamar, for when our time comes, we will not even hear the sound of the missile. The kids here have assured me, and I am telling you.

My headscarf remains unchanged since the first day of the war. It is a black scarf, dotted with embroidery. The more I learn about Palestinian embroidery, with its unique charm, the more it captivates me. Perhaps one day, I'll tell you more about it

A Persian cat

I don't want you to get bored with too many breaks, but this is one you will enjoy. This time, the break is not because of shelling, but a small cat, with thick, dark gray fur, in deep pain whenever it is touched. Even water and canned meat does not interest her. She is one of the many cats that have fled their homes during bombings, and judging by her color and Persian breed, she is someone's little baby. How many people’s babies have been harmed by this war?

Imagine that my hair has become a ball of wool. The hair you love because of how soft it is, is now a tangled ball of wool. The scarf covering my hair remains unchanged from the first day of the war – a black scarf, dotted with embroidery. You know how much I love those contrasting embroidered lines. The more that I learn about our Palestinian embroidery, with its unique charm, the more it captivates me. Perhaps I'll tell you more about it in a future message.

My brother's wife tells me, "The buildings have turned to ashes, Fatina. There are no stones or rocks there, just ashes. What kind of explosives turns buildings into ashes?"

Back to the cup of cold water. The coolness traveled from my fingertips to my heart, calming my trembling nerves, increasingly fraught with every bombardment. But nevermind, what matters most right now are those remaining droplets of cold, filtered water, pouring into me, like the promise of a faraway dream.

Who is Lamar?

Small, beautiful, intelligent little Lamar is my brother's 11-year-old daughter; she is my niece and friend, by my side on cold nights of distant exile. She loves many things in life, and most importantly she wants to live, not just exist. She once said to me (in English), "I don't want to just exist, I want to live."



* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22



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!

WhatsApp Channel WhatsApp Channel

A platform for the brave, bold and courageous

We in the Arab world have long avoided addressing a large number of taboos. This has left our hope for change teetering on the brink of despair.

At Raseef22, we fearlessly scrutinize certain delicate concepts and highlight the journeys of the courageous individuals who have dared to challenge the corrupt status-quos.

We seek to provide a platform where brave and honest voices are heard, undeterred by efforts to silence or censor them.

Website by WhiteBeard