25 May 2018
I woke up from a nightmare and turned off my mobile alarm just before it blared forth. I don’t know what I was dreaming about, but I know it was a nightmare. It has been so long since I was able to sleep in peace. It’s 4 AM, the perfect time to wake up for the Islamic al-fajr prayer, but that’s not the only reason why I had set my alarm for that hour.
I went to sleep early last night, although I had many school assignments to finish because the electricity shut off. My router’s battery died, causing me to lose my internet connection, then my mobile and laptop batteries followed. The electricity had been off for 14 hours, so I went to bed. Thus, I set my alarm for 4 AM so I could charge my various devices as soon as the power came on again.
My life, along with about 2 million other people in Gaza, revolves around the electricity timetable. (For almost four months, we’ve had electricity for only about four hours a day, and lately—as the summer becomes hotter, of course—it’s only three.) Sometimes I have to decide on trivial things, like when and what to eat for lunch or visit a friend, depending on that timetable. It controls me, and I can’t control it.
I find myself thinking, vehemently, “I hate you, Gaza!” I know people teach their children to love their country and city, and so did my parents. And I do truly LOVE Palestine (or at least the concept of it), but it’s often so hard to feel love for Gaza. I want to love it with all of my heart, but too often I find myself screaming “I hate Gaza!” in my head.
It is normal to wake up every day to the sounds of the warplanes, drones, massive explosions or my twin nephews jumping and playing over me. I love them so much and I always wish them to wake me up rather than waking up to the sound of a massive explosion. #Gaza
— Abdalrahim M Alfarra #RazanNajjar (@AbdalrahimFarra) May 31, 2018
I know that Palestine’s many supporters abroad won’t understand that, so let me try to explain why I, and so many other youths here, find that scream clamouring in my brain:
I hate Gaza because more than 100 of my people have been killed and more than 13,000 others have been injured in the Great Return March, simply because they live in this prison and had the temerity to protest, trying to remind the world of their rights as humans.
I hate Gaza because it hurts every time I hear people refer to it as “the biggest open-air prison in the world.” Yet, it’s true. I’m 22 and all I dream of is to travel and discover this huge world. Other than Gaza, all I know of it is through vlogs of travelling Youtubers and stories told by my brother about his Belgian adventures. For most people, the travel tales of others are interesting; but to me, they are painful. They remind me of the limits imposed by some faceless powers to which I will never be able to make my case. They show me how handcuffed I am.
I hate Gaza when I am reminded of my ambiguous future after graduation because of the high unemployment rate among youth (60 percent!) and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade that makes it nearly impossible for me to pursue advanced studies abroad.
I hate Gaza whenever the bee-like noise of Israeli drones prevents me from sleeping at night when mosquitoes bite me in the face because Gaza’s municipalities don’t have insecticides, and when the weather becomes so hot you could almost cook an egg on the sidewalks, but there’s no electricity for even a fan.
I hate Gaza for stealing my family from me. Two of my brothers fled to other countries seeking better opportunities but have not yet saved enough money to bring anyone else. My father is still with us in body, but he worries so much about money (as a carpenter, he can get work only three or four days a month), he seems lost to us much of the time. My mother watches this in desperation, sleepless at night as she tries to dream up solutions.
I hate Gaza the most every time I eat a meal. Knowing how poor so many of my people are (80 percent qualify as living below the poverty line) makes me feel guilty about finding good food in my fridge. I can’t eat anything without thinking of the children who would die to have it.
I want to love Gaza. There is so much love behind all of those tragedies. But it’s hard to see any reason to hope for a better life anytime soon.
This article originally appeared in We Are Not Numbers and is published with permission. Photographs courtesy of the author.