Our friends at Arabic Literature (in English) have just posted this moving piece.
Gaza-based writer Hedaya Shamun writes — although her writing rituals have disappeared — about the world she sees around her in the first and second nights of “Operation Protective Edge.” Translation by Ghada Mourad and Tyson Patros:


By Hedaya Shamun

Gaza City / Wikimedia

Gaza City / Wikimedia

All the writing rituals escaped. I possess nothing except a lead pencil and a piece of white paper, even though I am wary of the word lead. I want a pencil of life because life is now so dear in Gaza, and there were so many who insisted on plucking it like a flower whose infanticide they hastened. Especially those small flowers because they are beautiful; the hands snatch them and do not let them live. Our children became flowers stripped of their leaves, colors, and nectar. I feel anguish.

All the rituals of writing escaped after the soul slipped out of the body. It was so simple. While she was preparing her family’s breakfast she and they were all buried under the rubble of their home, without any warning. In this way the nymphs and their families depart the earth. In Gaza everything happens suddenly. She runs and runs all of the time looking for something lost; you always feel that you are being pursued and that eyes are watching you.

All the rituals of writing escaped. Sometimes they love you to death and other times they hate to death. The only sin you have is that you are a Palestinian man or woman expelled from her land in the villages of occupied Palestine to become a refugee in the Gaza Strip. Gaza is a mixture of life of all refugees; it is the taste and the scent of Palestine.  Now they grill their flesh. They cut their hands and sometimes their heads before they shut their eyes. Talking has exhausted me. I do not wish for you to see Gaza as anything but a rose. A rose maintains her head and her leg and her roots and, most importantly, she still has her fragrance. Talk has exhausted me, and I have forgotten the rites of writing.

But she is a rose whose delightful fragrance wafted with the sea of blood that restored your senses and your love and perhaps your hatred.

We used to run all the time and we grew tired of our running…our screams…our wailing…so that we came to turn a blind eye on our daily pain. You all slaughtered Gaza, you all reaped from her heart and you shut your doors and ears in her face. You saw that she is a black spot on your beautiful lives and she has become a burden on your hearts and wellbeing. Before the aggression all of you contributed to her disappointment and you perceived the nourishment of the small children as begging. You said what had not been said about her, but every time she would remind you that she is greater than calling you out on your sins. For who among us is sinless, O gentlemen? But she is a rose whose delightful fragrance wafted with the sea of blood that restored your senses and your love and perhaps your hatred. Some have expressed this hatred and some retreated and some turned a blind eye and some unsheathed their strength to extract her nectar with the hissing of the Israeli warplanes.

I forgot the rituals of the story and how grandmothers tell tales. I forgot the beginning of the aggression because we did not feel at ease for one day. We have always been aware that eyes are watching us, watching our whispers and silences, and even our attempt to gather our wounds. We oftentimes quarrel as the cage has become too narrow and suffocating. The eavesdroppers and watchers were numerous. We were running before the aggression and we still run during the aggression, and we do not know whether or not we will ever stop running.

How will we return to life its splendor after the bodies of the young are stolen? He carries his body in his hands and needs no coffin. His hands have become a coffin for his child shrouded in white cloth. He walks with his head high and his tears flowing. But he is lucky that he is still alive to pay his child the last honors. Entire families were buried in their homes and no one remained to pay them these last honors.  It is so simple. In this civilized world of international rights and conventions and the right to life and the right to housing and the right to education and the right of expression, these rights are not for Palestinians but for someone else…

She forgets an elderly person and she forgets her own heart in the corner of the house. 

Who really cares about women running in prayer clothes, the ones at hand when they escaped from the black hatred descending upon them from the top of a rocket shattering her dreams and making them a morsel appropriate for suffering and oppression and pain. She carries a child; she carries a bloody heart; she carries pain. She forgets an elderly person and she forgets her own heart in the corner of the house. She is afraid to look back so that she does not see her loved ones imbued with their blood. She runs and keeps running without end because if she stops she will never run again.

There are no spaces for life. No place to return. All of Gaza bids farewell to herself every night and congratulates those who remain alive the morning of another day. They inspect their bodies then run their hands over the living. They close their eyes then open them, and once again call the members of their families one by one…so that the memory of their names does not fail and their spirits do not disappear. Who cries for whom? The unlucky are left alone to survive without a family as it was martyred in its entirety.

I shall not reveal to you what the little fairies tell us every dawn and every night to make us smile before we go in for a nap while we are still running…running towards life.

I have no more words, for all the rituals of writing have collapsed. In Gaza alone the story lives despite the occupation and Palestine remains vibrant in the heart of those who departed and those who remain alive.

July 11, 2014


Continue reading here.


Translator Ghada Mourad (Gaelle Raphael) is a PhD student in Comparative Literature and a Schaeffer fellow in literary translation at UC Irvine, working on (post)war literature in the Middle East and North Africa. Tyson Patros is a PhD student in sociology at UC Irvine.