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Temporary forever

[ 2008.12.30 ]

Jawad Harb ©CARE

Jawad Harb  (C)CARE

Jawad Harb is a Palestinian living in Rafah, Gaza, with his wife and six children. Harb has worked with CARE since 2002, managing a program supporting women's centres in Gaza. Since the conflict began Dec. 27, Harb's program has stopped operating because of the constant bombing.

December 30, 2008
"While the Gaza strip is currently facing some of the toughest challenges in the Palestinian territories, I'm writing my own very personal story. But it is also the story of 1.6 million Palestinians living in Gaza.

The 28th of December, 2008, was a day to remember. It was 4:30 p.m. I was sitting with my six kids at my house which is 500 metres away from the Egyptian border. The darkness was surrounding us like a monster, and a few candles were lighting our path to the kitchen and bathroom. It was a moonless night full of unpredictable, unknown fear. I was telling my kids stories to distract them when suddenly it was like an earthquake - six consecutive air strikes shook the house up and down. The house was like a piece of paper swinging in the air. The kids were screaming, running in all directions, seeking to escape the chaos of the airstrikes. It was uncontrollable panic every where.

What made the situation more complicated was the screaming of kids all over the quarter. It was the only thing you could hear after the airstrikes. All the children in the neighbourhood ran downstairs to the main road, crying and screaming in such away I have never witnessed in my whole life. The street was full of parents trying to find their kids and bring them back home. Among this chaos, I barely gathered my own children and went back home.

We sat again in darkness in and I started talking to them again in an effort to calm them down. Yazan, my 12-year-old son suddenly asked, "Dad, are we ever going to live in peace again? I like to climb, I like to swing like a monkey... and I like to fly like a bird, why can't we play like those children we watch in kids' TV programs every day?"

A burning teardrop rolled down on my face, and all of a sudden, I was not able to say a word.

He continued, "Isn't it Christmas holiday now dad? Are we not supposed to have a party and eat some cake?"

As I was trying to answer him, another air strike shook the house again, and this time all of my kids snuggled to me like small birds, my body was grabbed by small hands everywhere, and I wished that moment I had ten hands to hug them all, because this was exactly what they needed.

The last thing I said to them, with pain: "This is temporary."

My 16 year-old-daughter replied, "Dad, yes, it is temporary forever."

*CARE has been active in relief and development in the West Bank and Gaza since 1948. Since the onset of the current outbreak of violence CARE has been providing food and medical supplies to Gaza hospitals and the Red Crescent Society in Gaza. CARE is pleading with all sides to stop the fighting and allow full humanitarian access to Gaza.