Life under the drones

(Majdi Fathi - APA Images)

Noura Selmi

Mondoweiss  /  August 17, 2021

Israeli drones are an ever present part of life in Gaza, and serve as a trigger for painful memories of war.

Israel never misses a chance to ruin Gaza’s mornings. After the 11-day war stopped, drones kept hovering in our sky. Then, they disappeared for a while. Or to be more accurate, they rose higher in the sky so their truly awful buzzing couldn’t be heard. However, this morning I woke up to the horrible buzzing. I knew it was the drone but it was too loud to sleep. I hid my head under the pillow. Useless. Why should I start my morning like this? My ears try to avoid hearing it, but my head is trying to process it. 

Minutes later, I gave up and opened half an eye. My mother was sitting in the corner of my bed, “The buzzing drills into my head,” she said. What are they up to? Is this a sign of another war ? “God forbid,” my mother said abruptly. She was able to hear my thoughts and responded as if I uttered them. In Gaza, when it comes to war, we all share the same thoughts and fears.

The morning brought back memories of several painful situations that happened during the war. It was a reminder that the morning, which is supposed to be bright, was a little bit more merciful to us than the night. At night, the bombardment was heavier. It’s all black. Darkness. No electricity. The WIFI connection is barely sending a message. We were night owls. We used to sit still in the living room. No single breath. Just the bombing and us.

We had a WhatsApp group chat, for friends and family, to check on each other. If we send a message and everyone responds, we feel a little bit comfortable. They are all alive. But if the opposite happens, we start getting panic attacks and checking the news. What if they bombarded their house?

My uncle lives in Sweden; he witnessed three wars. He kept sending us messages and phoning us all night long to make sure we were still breathing. One time, he sent a message to us that read, “I wish I was in Gaza; at least my heart will be less heavy. I can’t do anything in my life. I stopped going to work. I am following the news all the time but everything is horrible.’’ After the war, we all agreed to start a new WhatsApp group and delete that chat. We all know how harsh it is to read old messages. Especially if it was about an unpleasant event.

There was a night when the bombardment was heavier than ever in Rafah. When I checked the news and Twitter, there was nothing written about it. The news about Rafah only said, “Heavy bombardment in Rafah.” Fine. We all know that. There is a bombardment in Rafah, but where? Who died? Who did they target this time? Is there a family that needs help under the rubble? What is happening? The press couldn’t reach my city. I panicked and went to every media member I know and I even tweeted that if we died, no one would know that we are dead! “We need coverage now!” We only knew the specific location of the bombardment two hours later. 

“They destroyed our house before, I don’t think they will do it again. Right?” A serious question from a 25-year-old girl who knows the answer but is trying to comfort herself. My mother mocked me. She replied later nicely that since we are here in Gaza, you need to expect everything.

Because of the drone buzzing, Israel brought these horrible memories into my head this morning. While I am writing this, the drones are still hovering. Every day. 

Yesterday, my paternal uncle and his family visited us. And of course, talking about the war is a topic we can never miss. His daughter was explaining to us how they were in two wars, not only one. “People were living one war and we were living two wars. My mother was a bomb in the house that exploded every single minute. We are already nervous and frightened but she was more than that. She was yelling at us all the time and expecting the worst scenarios ever. When will it end? We should leave the house now. We can stay at my sister’s house until it is over. Will there be a truce? That is what she was doing all the time. She made us more nervous than we already are.”

My friend Rawan told me the other day that she and her family are getting ready to leave Gaza. The reason is easy to figure out. Her father used to refuse the idea of leaving his house and Gaza. But after the last aggression, he told his family that they should get ready to travel to Turkey. She told me “My father never wanted to leave, but when he saw his grandchildren and their fear in the war, he decided to take all of us to live with our relatives in Turkey.” I joked with her and told her to put me in one of their pieces of luggage and take me with them. I looked at the ground, and thought, if what I am doing is useless here in Gaza, maybe I should leave to another place since every dream I am building will vanish with a rocket. 

Here in Gaza, we say goodbye to the things we love — to dreams, hopes, and friends we can’t blame for trying to find a safe place. 

Well, I know that one day I might travel as normal people do. But first, here in my loveliest place ever, in my country, I will haunt a dream until I catch it. No matter what. 

 Noura Selmi is an English language graduate and a writer in Gaza