A CHILD IN GAZA

By HUSSAM ELNOUNOU

(written April 2013)

It was about 7:00 pm, and I was driving my car on Al Jala’ street in Gaza City with my son Numan, 7-years old.

We were talking about school and what he had done with friends that day, and other things.  Suddenly, we saw a big light in the sky and heard a big boom.
My son jumped on the passenger’s seat and grabbed my neck.  I could feel the beat of his heart and accelerated breathing.
“What happened, Dad?” he asked.
I was shocked for a moment, just like him, but quickly realized what was happening.
It was a big explosion.
One of the cars in front of us had just been rocketed by an Israeli Apache targeting a wanted man, a policy that Israelis were using to kill wanted Palestinian activists in the occupied territories.
The smell was a mixture of dust and live ammunition.  I could hardly see anything in front of me.
All this happened in less than a second.
Immediately after that, I parked the car and grabbed my son, put my arms around him, assuring him that it’s okay, we are safe, we are safe, I repeated, do not worry, I am with you.
My son started to have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).  Poor concentration and appetite, sleep disturbances, and clinging to his parents.  As a person who works at a mental health organization, I did all possible to give him the needed support to overcome this traumatic incident until those symptoms disappeared.
A few days after the incident, Numan came to me and said:
“Dad, I want to say something: I want to be a martyr.”
Shocked, I asked why.
To me it was unbelievable, after all the care and love I give to him and his siblings, to have such a request.  It made me feel like I am a bad father, one of the hardest feelings a parent may have.
His answer came:
“What is the merit of life if you can be killed so easily, like this, without doing anything wrong?  It is better to kill than to be killed.”
I took a minute to think, then I replied:
“Son, it is good to die for your home, but it is much better to live for it.”
~~~
This piece, written in April 2014, was followed by a note that said:  Numan is now 17 and finished high school.  He plans to go to study mechanical engineering in the U.S. in the near future.
Update on Numan as of July, 2015:  Numan could not travel to the U.S. as we cannot easily leave Gaza to make the necessary visa and other travel arrangements.  This is the case with the majority of the youth in his age group.  Now he is studying automotive engineering in Gaza and hopefully he will be completing his studies in the U.S. in the future.
Husam Numan El Nounou is 48.  He is the father of three, and has a BA in Linguistics and a High Diploma in Translation from BirZeit University in Ramallah.  Husam has been working at GCMHP (Gaza Community Mental Health Program) for more than 23 years.  He considers himself a human rights and peace activist, and believes in humanity and non-violence as a mean of resistance and self-expression.  Husam would like to see Palestinians and Israelis live in peace and security one day, and he hopes that day will come soon.  However, he knows that peace must be built with justice and the recognition of the other part’s interests and dignity.  He dreams to see peace-loving people from around the world working together to achieve this goal.
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