Crisis in West Bank and Gaza: A bedtime story for Rafiq


blog by Saaed Al Madhoun, CARE Program Officer in Gaza

On Thursday night, we have received a pre-recorded call from the Israeli army which told us to evacuate our houses. My neighborhood is close to the beach so it is not a safe place.  
But I wasn’t able to evacuate at night because we could have been targeted. Everyone who walks the street, every car here can be a target. I have a three-year old son, Rafiq, and a daughter who is just five months old. Her name is Lana. It was a very hard decision to stay in our house, but what was I supposed to do?
This Friday morning, we got the chance to evacuate to my brother’s house. He lives in a more central part of Gaza city which is less vulnerable to attacks. During the ceasefire of five hours on Thursday, we were able to buy some supplies and groceries. But of course we could not take everything with us. We only took two bags, clothes for the children, some milk and some diapers for our little girl. I also took one of Rafiq’s favorite toys so that he feels a little reassured.
We are eight people in this house now, four members of my family, my brother, his wife and child as well as our own mother who lives with him. Rafiq, my son, cannot sleep at night. “My neck and my hand are feeling sick”, he tells us. My wife tried to massage him. Rafiq always asks me, “Why do they attack us? Who is it?” I do not have answers. So every time we have electricity, I let him watch children’s programs on TV to distract him. Unfortunately, the kids’ shows are interrupted by news quite frequently. I make sure to quickly change the channel then. 
A few hours ago I spoke with one of my neighbors and they said that some people still stay in the area, or they only send women and children away. So far, my house has not been attacked. But who knows what will happen? My wife is under enormous stress. She told me: “I am not afraid for me, I am afraid for my kids.” 
Every night, we tell Rafiq a bedtime story. This week on one night, he actually wanted to reverse roles and he told me a story. It was one that my wife had told him the night before and he made it sound like it was his invention. This really made me laugh. Tonight, I will try and find a story to make him happy. Something about playgrounds or cars, his favorite games maybe. Rafiq cannot go to sleep without holding my hand. I try to stay with him as long as possible until he falls asleep. 
We will stay at my brother’s house for the next days if the violence does not stop. There is a small supermarket next to my brother’s house, but stocks are running dry. For now, we have water left for two to three days. But if the fighting continues, it will become very difficult.
During yesterday’s attack, they targeted the electricity line and up to now, we do not have electricity. Water is also short in supply. “I give my son everything that he needs. I don’t want him to feel that there is a war. They are children, they need everything. I would rather go thirsty myself than making him ration his food or drink. It is the holy month of Ramadan so I am fasting during the day. 
I have 10 colleagues from the CARE office here in Gaza, everyone is hibernating at home or staying with relatives. One of our colleagues has a Canadian passport and he was able to evacuate a few days ago to Amman, Jordan. 
What I am hoping for now? I am hoping for a ceasefire. Not in the coming few days, but much sooner, within the next hours. And that we will not see any more people dying. I hope for us to be able to live in peace.

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