By YASMIN H. AL MASRI
(written September 2015)
I have never imagined that a human heart could beat as mine was beating that day.
It was during last summer’s war on Gaza. Shelling had not stopped that night. Our minds, hearts, ears, every single part of our bodies was exhausted. My family and I were expecting death at any moment. Though it was inhumanely hot, we slept in our formal clothes, our bodies and hair covered. In the morning we listened to the radio and were relieved to hear that a cease-fire would take place for two hours. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to sleep; it had been days since I was able to sleep without the sound of the damned rockets exploding. For more than a month, there was at least one rocket an hour, and those were just the ones we could hear exploding in our neighborhood.
I had been sleeping for a little bit when the sound of a huge explosion woke me up. I smelled gunpowder, and the smell made me think black thoughts. I ran madly around the house to make sure that my parents and siblings were okay. I moved from one room to another, counting them. My little sisters were crying hysterically. The seven floors of our building were trembling. We were all staring at one another trying to understand what had happened. We had lived two fierce wars before, but it was the first time we were seeing death in front of our eyes.
Our apartment building was fine, but the building across the street was simply gone! A building that was similar to ours, seven floors, four apartments on each floor. We could have been living there, or it could have been our building that was targeted. Millions of ideas wandered rapidly in my head. Later we learned that Israeli forces had violated the cease-fire and killed three wanted men.
A week passed. All we could do was watch TV and count the number of martyrs. After 51 days, a long-term ceasefire was signed. Returning to our normal life seemed like going to heaven. I began to consider each activity I was engaged in as a blessing. Going to university, attending classes, gathering with my family and friends were like gifts from another dimension, precious beyond what I had wished for.
It is difficult for me to imagine that there are people in the world living their lives comfortably without worrying about a rocket or a missile. To live in peace seems like a miracle to me. Yet, I live in a war zone, and the war is damned. But it has added more meaning to my life — it made me recognize that each moment in life is a blessing.