Gaza: ‘If I’m afraid, what is it like for the children?’
I wasn’t surprised when I was told that a car in Gaza had been destroyed by a bomb. There was a nervous buzz in the streets and I asked someone what was happening. When he told me I shrugged sadly. It is common. I thought no more of it.
But it hadn’t really begun then, not yet. Further news stories came in and I knew that it was the start of something else. I was shocked, saddened, frightened. All of these things, and more.
What ran through my head…I thought of my mother, who we were trying to send to Egypt to visit relatives. I thought of my wife, and what might happen to her.
Do we have enough food?
I thought of the Save the Children team here in Gaza, knowing without a doubt that they would want to continue working, despite the danger.
My wife ran to the fridge – her first thought one of practicality – did we have enough food to survive the next few weeks? She knew it would be too dangerous for us to leave, and that even if we could, all we would see would be an endless line of empty, shuttered shops.
Bombs started falling that night. I was in overdrive. I was talking to the team, checking they were safe, talking to our HQ, talking to family, friends, agreeing what they should do, where should they go.
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Of course, there are no shelters in Gaza, so their choices were limited. We were planning what emergency response might be needed, trying to predict what might happen next, what would need to be done.
By the time I fell into bed it was morning, and I only slept for an hour or two. That pattern has continued for the last few days, and the entire team is exhausted. We talk constantly every day, monitoring developments and assessing what children and their families need, planning how to get it out to them.
I feel fear
When I think of the future, I feel fear. I feel fear and I am a 34 year old man. What is it like for the children who live here in Gaza? What is it like for their parents?
I was with a mother comforting a child yesterday while the airstrikes intensified. The child was asking what the noise and the sudden light from a nearby bomb was.
“Shhh”, she said, it is only lightening, you have heard it before, you are safe. But, the child said, there is no rain, how can it be just lightening? The mother just looked at her child and hugged him silently.