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The Earth Is Closing In On Us

Laila El-Haddad Apr 29, 2006

The shells keep falling. They’ve gotten inside my head, so that it’s not just my house shaking but but my brain throbbing. It’s like someone is banging a gong next to my ear every few minutes, sometimes five times a minute, like last night. And just when I savor a few moments of silence, it starts again as if to say, “You’re not going to get away that easily.”

We went to sleep to the rattling of our windows and invasive pounding and after-echo of the shells. We sleep as they fall.

We pray fajir, and they fall again. We wake, and they are still falling.

When they are closer, when they fall in Shija’iya east of Gaza City, they make my stomach drop.

And I want to hide, but I don’t know where.

The Earth is closing in on us.

That’s the thing about occupation – it invades even your most private of spaces. And while the shells were falling inside my head, they also killed little Hadil Ghabin today.

A shell landed on her home in Beit Lahiya, shattering her helpless body and injuring five members of her family, including Hadil’s pregnant mother, Safia, and her 19-year-old sister.

My headaches seem inconsequential when I think of little Hadil. Sometimes people here say they prefer death to this existence; you’ll frequently here at funerals: “Irta’at”… she’s more comfortable now anyhow – what was there to live for here?

The Earth is squeezing us. I wish we were its wheat so we could die and live again.

That has become our sad reality. Death provides relief.

Sometimes it feels like we are all in some collective torture room; who is playing God with us this night, I wonder? When I look up into the sky, and hear the shells, or see the faceless helicopter gunships cruising intently through the moonlit sky, I wonder, do they see me?

And when the shells start falling again, I can’t help but imagine some besidehimself- with-boredom 18 year old on the border, lighting a cig or texting his girlfriend back in Tel Aviv, “Just a few more rounds to go hon… give it another whirl, Ron, its been two minutes already.”

Sometimes, when I’m on edge, I might just yell out and wave my arms at them.

Do they hear me?

We decided to escape this evening to my father’s farm in central Gaza, where we roasted potatoes and warmed tea on a small mangal, as we listened to thikr about the Prophet on the occasion of his mawlid from a nearby mosque, under the ominous roars of fighter jets, patrolling the otherwise lonely skies above.

“Where are you heading off to?” asked Osama, the shopkeeper downstairs.
“Off to the farm. We’re suffocating,” I replied, Yousuf tugging at my arm …
“Mama… Yallah! Yallah!”
“Wallah Laila, we’re not just suffocating…we’re asphyxiating. I feel I can’t breathe anymore. And my head is pounding and pounding. All I hear is BOOM BOOM now.”

The Earth is closing in on us.
And little Hadil is dead.

This came to CounterPunch.org via the Rafah sister cities project, Olympia, WA.