Tony Greenstein | 30 April 2024 | Post Views:

Life at War – Part 1: Learning to live with a constant fear of death

I first met Tarneem at a Boycott Israel Network Weekend School about 2 years ago. She was a student at an old established university in England and active in Palestine solidarity work.

A few weeks she contacted me from Gaza where she had returned to a very different life. Gaza was at war and she wanted me to help in raising funds for her sick mother who needed to get to Egypt if there was any chance of her living.

In England she was a student of English and I asked her to write the article below so that people can understand the life that she, her family and thousands like her are living as Israel tries to pursue its ethnic cleansing and genocidal project.

This is her story. It is a story of a living hell that the war criminals who rule in the West – Genocide Joe Biden, David Cameron, Anthony Blinken and Rishi Sunak – are fuelling with supplies of more weapons to kill more civilians.

We learn today that Netanyahu is afraid that the International Criminal Court will issue a warrant for him and the other Judeo-Nazi War Leaders in Israel.

Biden we hear is doing his level best to put pressure on the Court’s Prosecutor Karim A. A. Khan KC not to issue any because Israel doesn’t recognise the ICC. Strangely enough Biden welcomed the ICC issuing warrants against Vladimir Putin even though Russia also doesn’t recognise the court.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking and demonstrates the collapse of any pretence that international law has any meaning. Karim himself was happy to issue warrants against Putin at a moment’s notice but has done his best to delay having to take any action against Netanyahu despite the fact that children have been deliberately targeted by Israel in this war. 500 children have died in two years of war in Ukraine, 30 times that number in 6 months in Gaza. The hypocrisy of our leaders is there for all to see but their only apparent concern is for Israel’s hostages, never Palestinian hostages.

The photographs below were taken by Tarneem and depict her environment.

Enough of my observations, let Tarneem tell her story.

Tony Greenstein

I was raised in Gaza. This is the place of my childhood and youth. Every corner of this city has some emotional value for me and is associated with countless memories. I returned to Gaza from the United Kingdom after earning my master’s at Durham university, in early March to see my family, and help my people. With the beginning of this war, I am trapped in this living hell. Bombing and air raids had now become a part of my daily life. I would like to say that I am used to the constant sound of bombing and the feeling of the walls shaking, but I am not. For over six months, my family and hundreds of thousands of Gazan families live in constant fear of death. Our days consists of trying to stay alive and trying to find a way out. There are explosions and aircraft flying overhead every day. The bombings are everywhere and are getting closer than ever and sound bombs are the worst. We can think of nothing else, and we can feel nothing else. The days of the week stopped to have any meaning, I can’t tell whether it is Friday or Saturday, it is all just one long nightmare. My sister tries to keep count of the days, but for me it is all a blur.

One night, we all woke up terrified “I can’t take this anymore. I can’t even sleep anymore without jumping at every little noise.” I told my family. My brother, Ali, replied “I feel like I’m constantly on edge. It’s destroying my well-being.” The bombardments were very close to the house. They usually increase in intensity once the sun goes down: it’s psychological warfare, at night everything is more terrifying for us. 

How could I describe my home becoming a place of fear and terror? How could I take more hours and long nights of relentless bombings, explosions, and tank shelling? I was worried for my sister – she was so stressed because of the bombings that I thought her heart would stop. Her fitness watch showed 180 heartbeats per minute, and I was so worried to see her like this.I told her it would be stupid if she were to die from fear in the midst of all this! “Look! Who’s talking?”, my sister said. Then my siblings followed up with a conversation about how I turn off all our flashlights and remove batteries every time I hear a bombing.

Sister: “Did you hear that? I think it’s another bombing raid.”

Brother: “Yeah, I heard it. But seriously, does Tarneem really think turning off the lights will make us invisible to the war planes?”

Sister: “Apparently so! She acts like we’re playing hide and seek with bombers.”

Brother: “I swear, if we turned off the lights every time we heard a bomb, we’d be sitting in the dark all night.Let’s just hope Tarneem doesn’t ask us to start whispering next.”

Sister: “Oh, don’t give her any ideas!”

We laughed, knowing deep inside that this is a mental trauma that might last forever but anything to lighten the mood in this chaos was welcomed. There is no time to deal with our PTSD, it’s never post for us, always chronic.

Not knowing how long it will last makes this nightmare even worse. I will ask for some help later as it is impossible to do it now and, to be honest, I do not have time for it at the moment. I, now, spend my time caring for my mother, she is going through a lot more, but we support each other as much as we can. My beloved mother, 66 years old, needs urgent medical treatment. She requires two CT scans yearly for her upper thigh to monitor her condition, but she hasn’t been able to receive any since October 2023. Unfortunately, even if the war in Gaza were to end, the necessary medical facilities and procedures would still be lacking. To make matters worse, there is no PET scan available in Gaza either. Her condition has been worsening, and she has been experiencing excruciating pain in her leg. We have managed to obtain some painkillers and vitamins, but the lack of nutritious food and essential medicines in Gaza is putting her health at serious risk. I am extremely worried about her, and I need to get her out of here.

Another day filled with the relentless sounds of bombing and airstrikes. I lay still in bed, my niece Mary sleeping beside me. With my seasonal allergy, I couldn’t help but sneeze. Little did I know, this sneeze would evoke a heart-wrenching reaction from Mary.

Instantly, Mary’s hands shot to her ears, her eyes tightly shut in a futile attempt to block out the cacophony of noise. Panic surged within me as I feared I had disturbed her sleep, but her mother’s calm voice reassured me otherwise. “Mary thinks your sneeze was bombing,” she explained softly, her gaze filled with a mixture of sadness and resignation. “She does that every time there is bombing while she is sleeping.

The trauma inflicted by the constant barrage of explosions weighed heavily on us all, even seeping into our sleep. And for Mary, so young and innocent, the horrors of war were incomprehensible, yet painfully palpable in her instinctive reaction to the slightest disturbance.

As I lay here in the darkness, listening to the distant rumble of explosions, I can only hope and pray for a future where peace reigns and the sounds of war are nothing but a distant memory.Nevertheless, I find relief writing about my experience. The greatest source of support in these times is the messages of love and hope that I receive from people who know me and knows the reality about Gaza. Just realising that there are people who reject all the atrocities happening in Gaza makes me hopeful that things will get better one day. There is nothing more terrifying than seeing your loved ones suffering and your hometown being destroyed.

Every morning in Gaza begins with uncertainty. Our so basic and so earthly human desires are our suffering and today is no different. With each passing moment, I am reminded of the harsh reality of life in a war-torn city. My mind races with the endless list of tasks that should be completed each day. One pressing dilemma is always water. Our tanks on the roof are empty, and the thought of another day without a drop of water weighs heavily on my mind. Water is needed for cooking, drinking, for a quick sponge bath and some essential laundry, which feels like some great extravagant luxury. A normal visit to the toilet must be planned, pre-planned, and precisely thought out so that one does not spend more water – it’s a constant balance between normal human urge, maintaining one’s sanity, and losing it all in a jiffy.

We need water in our tanks, but to pump it up, we need a water engine. And that engine needs fuel, which is scarce and expensive. Perhaps we can run the engine on electricity, I think to myself. But alas, electricity has been a luxury since the war began. Luckily, we have solar panels, a rare blessing in these troubled times. However, on cloudy days like today, there’s not enough sunlight to power the engine. In the end, we are left with no choice but to rely on the one precious cylinder of cooking gas we have. It’s a meager supply, one that we waited in line for hours to get. But in this unforgiving world, every drop of water is worth its weight in gold. This means that we’ll cook using firewood today, because we need to save the resources we have. Every day is a day of choosing your new priority. Is it water? Is it charging batteries and phones? Is it food and cooking?

As I write this, I can’t help but wonder what tomorrow will bring. Will it be another day of impossible choices, another day of fighting to survive? So many close friends have been killed, will it be my turn tomorrow? Only time will tell.

Before the war I used to buy bread, now I make it. Before the war, I used to come back from work to home, and then I would relax on my bed and talk to my mum about my day, now it is not just boredom – it’s anxiety, tension all the time. Before the war I used to have a group call with my international friends, now I struggle to search for a good signal daily to update them about my situation. Before the war I used to have a hot shower and sleep to release the fatigue of the day, now there is a lack of gas, lack of water, a symphony of relentless bombing and drones hovering over my head all night long.  

Every day is Gaza is a battle against food shortages, sanitation crisis, and blackouts, andon top of all this is the ever-present fear of death. It’s been half a year since this nightmare began, and the situation gets worse every day. People in Gaza die each day because of shelling, bombing and due to the lack of all basic needs – food, water, healthcare. Innocent civilians struggle through unbearable conditions and hardships every day, every hour, and every minute. Yet, amidst the chaos, there remains a glimmer of hope. And so, we press on, facing each new day with courage and determination, uncertain of what the future may hold.

You can donate to my mother’s evacuation fundraising campaign through this link:

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Tony Greenstein

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