Gaza Report: ‘Hi Everyone, It’s Bisan. I’m Still Alive.’

Issue 283

@wizard_bisan1 provides regular updates on what daily life is like in Gaza as the bombs fall.

Amba Guerguerian Oct 31, 2023

Before Oct. 7, @wizard_bisan1 was the Instagram profile of a young Gazan journalist who posted videos about the daily oppression Gazans face, about Palestinian culture, about her love for travel and zeal for life. On Oct. 8, she posted an austere series of videos consisting of slides with white words on black background:

“There are things that happen in the war on Gaza that you cannot know from the news; you need to live them to understand. For example, do they say in the news that we wake up with the dust of bombing on our faces and bodies, in our eyes and on our bed, and smelling of gunpowder and dirt? … A few seconds determine our fates, so we sleep [with our clothes and shoes on] so we don’t waste any time when the bombing [starts].”

On Oct. 13, things got more dire. Bisan writes on top of screenshots of crowded streets and evacuation notices: “I can’t publish any videos! Please help us … There is no internet connection. … Me and my family are in the street and we don’t find any place to go. … the humanitarian aid zone is exactly on the border with Egypt. It’s officially the second NAKBA!”

A screenshot from one of @wizard_bisan1‘s Oct. 9 posts.

Accounts like @wizard_bisan1 have become a lifeline for those who care to follow what’s happening in on the ground Gaza. With the United States demanding that Al Jazeera reduce it’s coverage and with META banning pro-Palestinian Instagram accounts, Bisan’s reporting is more indispensable than ever — although internet connection in the bombed-out strip is becoming increasingly sparse.

She often starts her videos with the same opening: “Hi, everyone, This is Bisan from Gaza. I’m still alive.” She is able to charge her phone by using electricity from generators, but is fearful a day will soon come that run out of gas. Here are some excerpts from her recent videos:

OCT 13
Bisan posts from a crowded square:

“More updates about the evacuation… Do you remember when I said that they pushed people to evacuate from the north end [of Gaza] to the southern areas via a safe route as they said? Okay, that was a trick. That was a trick. They targeted ambulances, cars and buses on the road. … They are playing with and on us. They told us this is a safe route. Innocent people took anything from their homes and went to the southern areas, and they killed them. They literally killed them. Literally, more than 30 ambulance cars until now reach al-Shifa [hospital] and it’s not ended yet. Many people are killed. Most of them are children. The scenes are really hard. I can’t even imagine that I’m living this. I can’t imagine that this is real. I’m losing my mind. I’m losing my life. [Crying] please, do something!

OCT 15
Bisan reports from in front of al-Shifa hospital, which is crowded with people. She interviews three young boys — Mohammed, who looks around 10, Neher, who is maybe eight, and little Karam who must be four or five — that are sweeping the street:

Bisan: For who are you cleaning?
Boys: For al-Shifa
Bisan: Are you volunteering? Where are you staying?
Boys: Al-Shifa
Bisan: So you’re staying there [points to an area nearby], and you are cleaning in front of the tent? Who gave you those brooms?”
Boys: We collected them from the neighbors. Bisan: Let me see your work! What are your names?
Boys: Neher, Karam and Mohammad.
Bisan: So Mohammad, Karam and Neher are cleaning al-Shifa Hospital, the place that they took as a shelter. By themselves they are volunteering. So they’re just creating home. These are our heroes; our kids. Bravo, bravo, kids.”

OCT 16
Bisan walks around a small shaded square with makeshift shelters in it, the sound of voices in the background.

I and my family are losing our minds. We’re having illusions, w’allah, we are having delusions. Tonight I stood up at 2:30 a.m. screaming and trying to cover my nose and my eyes with with a piece of cloth and some water because I — I — I— I think I saw — I saw white phosphorus bombs and I thought they were real, and then my family tried to calm me down, and I realized that I was — like everything was like a delusion. It was not real. To — today in the morning, my sister, she’s saying “I’m hearing screaming all the day and night inside my head” and my mother is hearing raining. So what is happening? I don’t know, but we’re losing our minds. We are losing our sense. Allah, give us more patience.

OCT 17
Bisan reports from her tent city. We see an outdoor kitchen, a pick-up truck-turned closet, makeshift tents, people selling bread and many people milling around.

“So, in this way I can tell you that we are people who deserve to live. [We] are creating new ways and trying to make it suitable for living, everyday, in every phase that we are going through. Despite that, we don’t know if we’re living until tomorrow or not … we are just trying to make the shelter or the hospital, as safe and as suitable as we used to [be] in our streets and neighborhoods and homes. So here are people selling bread, selling any other goods like snacks, like juices, making drinks, and some people are shaving, are barbers now, but open-air barbers. So, no one could deprive this people, their right to live and the right to live safely in their country, in their homeland. Whatever they do, whoever they were, and whoever’s support they got — it’s just our right to live, as Palestinians in Palestine, eating bread.

OCT 23
Bisan reports from under a tarp. There are sounds of air raids overheard.

Hey everyone, I’m still alive. And I want to tell you about my biggest fear. So my biggest fear is not to die. Actually, I’d prefer to die than living all of these nightmares, continuous nightmares. My biggest fear is to live, after all this war, to live and face the reality that our cities, our homes, our homeland, and everything is destroyed — our beloved ones, our friends and relatives are killed. And the fact that we don’t have work, and we have to deal with a lot of humanitarian crises and people are facing winter — winter is coming. People are without homes, without food, without fuel, without electricity. The infrastructure is destroyed. There are no schools, universities or anything — we have to rebuild everything and to rebuild our motivation to live and our mental health. And that will take years and years. I mean, it’s really terrifying. How could we live after this? There are people who are killed, and we still didn’t know. How could we face this? I really still didn’t know. It’s just the 16th day of the war. And we’ve lost around 5,000 souls and tens of thousands of buildings.

OCT 25 (morning)
Bisan reports from a bombed-out building with a bulletproof PRESS vest on. She walks around pulling objects from rubble.

Oh hey everyone. Another home was bombed in the most crowded area in the Gaza Strip and in the world, of course. So the narrative is talking about bombing the terrorists’ homes, so let’s see what the terrorists look like. [Picks up a ladies’ fan] that was given to a mother or a wife. [Picks up round metal object] remains of a rocket; it’s very heavy. [Picks up a purse] that’s a handbag, a beautiful handbag. She maybe went for a wedding or a party. [Bends down and leafs through a small children’s backpack] look at this; look at this! So this beautiful student, little one, was trying to learn some English. [Picks up a dusty, ripped photo] And look I found this … it’s a photograph of someone’s graduation.

A toy, some of their mattress, clothes. So if these are someone’s who is a terrorist, let me know how the normal homes look like …

OCT 25 (night)
A video title “No electricity in Shifa’a hospital,” filmed in front of the Al-Shifa hospital. One building is illuminated, but most are just columns of dark windows.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health talked about the whole system collapsing, and they talked about the [lack of] water and fuel. Today, at the Shifa Hospital, the central and the largest hospital in the Gaza strip in the north and the south, collapsed, or at least started to collapse after the electricity cut off suddenly, while there are operations, intensive care, newborn incubators. [Pans from one lit building to a few dark ones] So the electricity is here, but not here.

OCT 27
Bisan reports straight into the camera not long after taking a shower.

Do you knwo that I’ve been struggling for almsot a week to have a shower? And finally I could. … [I can’t accept] to not find a place to have a shower or to sleep or to have some privacy, or even to cry. [Crying] all my wishes now and all that I want is to stop this war. … I know that we’ve lost a lot of beloved friends and relatives, places and homes and everything, but at least we’re alive now, so just let usgetbackto—ortrytogetback—orfindaway to get back to our lives. We lost enough, I think; we lost enough, I think; this is satisfying for the occupation; it’s enough; just leave us alone.

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