May, a month of tragedies for Palestinians

Gaza City - A rally in commemoration of the killing in May 2021 by Israel of the Palestinian journalist Youssef Abu Hussein (Mahmoud Nasser - APA Images)

Sarah Algherbawi

Mondoweiss  /  May 23, 2022

May has always been a month marked by tragedy and anger for Palestinians. This year has sadly been no different, even as we still struggle the process the events of May a year ago.

Since the beginning of this year, I had been planning for a long holiday after Ramadan to get some rest and spend time with family and friends. When the time for the holiday finally came though I realized that it was May. It’s not my favorite month since the ghost of May memories follow me to remind me of all the tragedies Palestinians have gone through.

I am writing this article in a time that is very difficult and painful to myself and all Palestinians. May has always been a month marked by tragedy, anger, tension, and revolution for Palestinians since we were expelled from our lands on May 15th, 1948 in an event that is known as the ‘Nakba’ or Palestinian Catastrophe.

I am in my thirties; I may not have lived the Nakba that my grandparents witnessed but I believe that my generation has experienced different ‘Nakbas’ as we have grown up and realized that we are living under occupation and deprived of our basic human rights.

Apparently, it is Palestinians’ destiny to live a new pain every May. Each one reviving all our feelings of oppression, injustice, fear, anger, and sadness.

Apparently, it is Palestinians’ destiny to live a new pain every May. Each one reviving all our feelings of oppression, injustice, fear, anger, and sadness. May keeps reminding us that we are not normal, and any normality we may have in our lives can only be temporary.

May 2021 witnessed an 11-day military escalation in Gaza that resulted in the killing of at least 253 people including 66 children, 39 women, and 17 elders as well as injuring over 2,000 people.

I remember how difficult it was to return to normal life again after the end of the escalation, it took me months to be okay again. I wrote an article to Mondoweiss titled with a question: did we really survive? I wrote about survival guilt and the daily war that we live after each war; an inner war, fighting the guilt of surviving, and attempting to return to normal again.

Now that one year has passed, and after much work, I can tell you that the answer to my question is simply — “No.” I now realize that the war is never over and that we may never survive.

The assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh

This May has been no different. To be honest, I had a good start of the month. I tried to stay positive focusing on enjoying my holiday and preparing cookies for our feast. I spent a lovely week visiting family members to celebrate the end of Ramadan and taking the children out in a short trip to a nearby zoo.

Unfortunately, the joy did not last for a long time.

The memory of the war coincided with another tragic and shocking event to Palestinians when Israeli forces killed the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who worked as a TV correspondent for Al Jazeera Channel, while covering Israeli army raids in the city of Jenin in the norther occupied West Bank.

Israel decided to end the life of Abu Akleh while she was wearing her PRESS vest and head helmet disregarding all the international laws that protect journalists and civilians.

Abu Akleh was present in every Palestinian home’s screen. She covered the Palestinian cause for 25 years and turned into an extended family member to all Palestinians. Abu Akleh is such a great loss to each one of us.

Memories everywhere

As I am a full-time working mother, I usually wait for my two children to sleep to have a hot drink and browse social media to take a break and waste some time, trying to escape from the noise and pressure I experienced over the day.

However, even this routine is becoming more of a burden recently. Every time I open my mobile on Facebook or Instagram, I am either seeing updates of what is happening in the occupied West Bank, specifically Jerusalem and Jenin, or being reminded of a sad memory from the 2021 May escalation.

I recalled the killing of the father of my friend Asma’a from university during the massacre on Al-Wahda Street in western Gaza that wiped several families from the civil records.

I saw another posts from my friend Nour who lost her brother, my friend Yousra who lost her husband and father-in-law, and my friend Bisan who was newly married and lost her house in a bombardment to her neighborhood.

I tried to escape from social media and opened my Photo Gallery to see photos and videos of my children Khalil and Saba. I had a notification from Google Photos of memories from last year, and when I opened the app and saw a video that I has been grateful to forget about. It was a video of Saba, who was about 18 months then, playing to the sounds of bombs in my neighborhood.

I was not happy to remember that video as it came after so many attempts to make Saba believe that the sound of bombs is not scary and that she can play over the sound. She was laughing but I am a mother, and I was able to see the fear in her eyes and heart.

All my attempts to feel normal again made me feel more heart broken and full of painful memories.

The next war

I’ve started to believe that I will never have a stable life again. In light of the current political developments in the ground, the next war is just a matter of time.

Israel is continuing its raids to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jenin camp and other areas in the occupied West Bank killing and arresting Palestinians. Since the beginning of this year, 40 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank, 10 of them are from Jenin. Additionally, the West Bank has experienced various individual operations against Israeli settlers.

There is a war running over the media between Israel and the Palestinian resistance. Israel threatened to assassinate the leader of Hamas who made it clear in a statement that the resistance will respond to any violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

It is two weeks since Shireen Abu Akleh was assassinated. It is a year since the last war on Gaza. It is 74 years since we were expelled from our lands. We are still trying to figure out ways to live with what we have experienced, and ways to cope, to resist, and to live again. However, this time I realize that it is only a matter of some more time before things change again. I know that we have never survived, and that we will never forget.

Sarah Algherbawi is a freelance writer and translator from Gaza