Often, I wake up thinking, this can’t be true – did we really survive it? How did we make it through the 51 days of bombs and missiles dropped by Israel on Gaza last year?
Then I think if only these thoughts were nightmares and not the reality of long hot summer days spent in Gaza, where F16s roar overhead, drones buzz above us and tank shells crash into buildings nearby.
For the 1.8 million survivors living in blockaded Gaza, dreams of freedom and days of peace are not yet here. Palestinians are trapped, both by Israel’s military occupation and the painful memories of loved ones killed last year.
On the anniversary of Israel’s war, fellow Gazans are reflecting on what happened 12 months ago. It was not an earthquake or tsunami that flattened the coastal enclave – though sometimes I wish it had been so we could rebuild it with the compassionate aid from abroad, like in other disaster zones.
But it wasn’t a natural disaster. It was Israel, again, inflicting $6bn worth of damage on a people under siege. One year on we face a grim reality: homes have not been rebuilt, people are hungry, health and sanitation is falling apart, and unemployment among youth (half of Gaza) is expected to reach 60 per cent by the end of 2015.
The homeless still depend on friends and relatives, renting apartments if they have access to money, or living in cramped huts after sheltering for a year in UN schools. In Khuzaa, people are reminded constantly of the war by the odour of sewage that leaks under the walls into their rooms, through pipes blown up in Israeli attacks.
Many of Gaza’s internally displaced used to run farms. Rearing livestock, harvesting crops and living in houses with well-tended gardens on land they owned; they were better off than most people here. Now, one year on, those who used to give charity to others are desperately in need of it themselves. They have little left but their dignity.
I wish I could hold on to the memories I have of people in their gardens, sipping coffee and eating freshly grown fruit. But every day they fade; Israel’s war erases them. Soon, I fear, I will just have memories of last summer: the woman screaming, the child crying for help in a broken village, the doctor who turned his home into an emergency care unit for those barred from reaching hospitals by Israel’s military.
For those outside, the war is recorded history. For the people of Gaza it’s an ongoing experience, a trauma that will endure for years, and likely be passed to our children’s children.