(written June 2013)

It was a red-letter day that will not be forgotten until I embrace the sands of my grave.

March first, 2004, and my first day of the second term at the university, 7:30 in the morning.
I was awoken by what sounded like thunder and heavy rain. Only they were the sounds of a different type of thunder and rain: they were the bombs, missiles, and shooting coming from the Israeli army base situated close to my home in Eastern Gaza.
I managed to get out of bed without waking up my brother who was sleeping in the bed next to mine. I went downstairs and shared a simple breakfast with my mother, while talking for nearly half an hour. I spent another half an hour in front of my closet, choosing the newest, most fashionable outfit for this special first day of school.
“Mom! Did I bring my phone downstairs or did I leave it up in my room?” I called out to her.
“I haven’t seen it here, darling, it’s probably upstairs,” she replied, “but be careful, the shooting is still like heavy rain out there. Crouch when you get your phone and come quickly downstairs!”
“No worries, Mom. This kind of hot rain is not new for us,” I replied, sarcastically.
I opened the bedroom door to find my brother awake. With half-open eyes, and still lying in bed, he too advised:
“Don’t approach the window, and crouch! It’s been raining bullets and missiles outside for nearly an hour without a stop.”
“Don’t worry, Brother, I am just getting my phone,” I replied.
“Get your phone and leave!”
“Okay, I’m leaving.”
As I picked up my phone I noticed how smelly and stinky the room was and went to open the window. Did not even get the window half opened… and…
That was the sound of my body landing on the floor on the opposite side of the room.
My brother jumped up to see me lying on the floor half dead, with my arms opened wide. He took the longest time to understand the situation. With a strong voice that drowned the sound of the shooting outside, he asked dozens of questions:
“What happened? Speak! Say something! Have you been hit? Speak, come on!!!”
He was in a state of panic, asking the same questions over and over, and moving around me like a dancing bee.
The only response I was able to give him was to stare back. After some time he noticed that I was wet. His face got yellower and yellower with anguish. I was getting redder and redder with blood.
I had gotten an Israeli sniper’s bullet in the left side of my chest.
An hour later the local news channels and newspapers reported me as a martyr.
“An 18 year-old boy named Baher F. Al-Dabba was killed by the IDF in East Gaza this morning.” People started to gather for the funeral rituals and give their condolences to my family.
Then one of the doctors who was present screamed: “He’s still breathing, he’s alive, get him to the operation room fast!”
Everybody was saying to themselves, “He is not going to make it, the bullet is right in his heart, he was like a log when he was taken to the hospital.”
The surgery lasted for more than five hours. It was an emergency surgery with 0% guarantee of success. I stayed in the ICU for nearly one month. When visits were allowed, and visitors asked me what had happened, my answer was:
“It was a gentle drop of rain.”
On my way home from the hospital, another wave of shooting was in progress. I asked my father to take me somewhere else. My father shut the windows of our house with concrete, to help me overcome the nightmare and return to living normally again.
And I did, indeed.
Baher-F.-BaherBaher F. Al-Dabba is 29 year-old, married, with three adorable daughters. He lives in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Eastern Gaza City that was bombed and nearly leveled to the ground in the Israeli attack on Gaza in summer 2014. Baher studied English at Al Azhar University in Gaza City, and has been employed by United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as an English language teacher and a TV lessons presenter. Currently (2014-15) Baher is studying TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) for international educators at Nazareth College of Rochester, New York.
Baher’s dream is to see his country, Palestine, become free, so Palestinians can live their lives as most other people of the world do. “I am almost thirty years old, yet it’s my first time to make it out of Gaza.” He says. “I hope I will get a scholarship to continue my PhD, so as to better serve my people in Palestine.”
During the 2014 Israeli offensive on Gaza, Baher worked in the central operation room of UNRWA. He was responsible for reporting UNRWA fatalities. Baher lost twelve colleagues. He reported their death with tears and sobs.
As a resident of Shuja’iyya, Baher and his family had to evacuate and live elsewhere for sixty days. Two hundred people from his street were killed in one day. When Baher and his family returned to the neighborhood, they were shocked to see the entire neighborhood in ruins. Surprisingly, their house was still standing, though partially uninhabitable.
1 Comment
  1. veronica@veronicaentwistle.com'

    HOw powerful and resilent you are! So inspiring.

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