I love eid. And Fesikhs. They’re the traditional festival food of Palestine. Baba is buying them right now. I stare at it, longingly. Hurry up, hurry up, shopkeeper. Someone pokes my head from behind.
“Patience fatty,” it’s Ali, and his mouth and chin are covered in chocolate. He’s my five-year-old brother. I’m two years older than him.
“Oh I’m fatty.” I say sarcastically. “How much eidi did you get?”
“Four dinars.” he tells proudly.
“I got five.” I say. “I can’t wait to meet grandma.” We’re gonna have guests at home today. There’s a party.
“Come on,” Baba says, “let’s go.”
We walk home, through what Mama calls “the blood-stained streets of Jerusalem”. I used to ask her what she means by it. She told me, the Israelites kill us like Hitler killed Jews. I asked her why they want to kill us and why did Hitler kill Jews. She said whatever twisted words they all use, the reason is always oppression.
I am glad to see everyone. Especially grandma, I throw myself into her plump arms. Her embrace injects sweetness in my blood. She is my only blood relation alive. My parents were killed when Israel attacked Al-Aqsa.
“Look I brought you gifts,” she says. I accept it gratefully. Then I run along to play with my friends.
We play hide and seek and then have a race. I don’t win. Khadeeja wins.
“You cheated!” Ali says. “You shouldn’t have ran so fast.”
We all laugh. “That’s how racing works, silly.” Hamad tells him. But we are forced to have another race and let him win, because he gets upset.
By the time we return to the living room, I am wet with sweat and dirt. Mama is sitting with some other women talking and laughing. She spots me and exclaims, “Oh! Look at you how did you get so dirty?” She picks me up and takes me to the room to clean me up.
“You naughty cutie,” she says, smiling, “let’s hurry and then we’ll go for lunch.”
I say “Yeah!” in my head. I don’t deny that I’m fat.
And that’s when the air strikes begin.
Our house shakes. Booms threaten us. Mama doesn’t wait; she picks me up and runs to the living room. Where a moment ago there was a happy party going on, there is a disaster. Everyone’s panicking, bumping into one another. There are grave, anxious faces stained with tears.
More blasts. More cries.
Mama looks for Ali and Baba, but they’re nowhere to be seen. Still holding me, she dashes out. I start panicking now. I’m crying. I can’t breathe, I can’t see. Everything’s shaking. There are more blasts. Please stop. Please! I didn’t do anything to you. I didn’t hurt you. Why d’you wanna kill me?
Mama stops running for a second, breathing heavily. I look around and all I see is just one question. Why? Why is the building on fire? Why is that man half torn, leg feet away, hand dangling, but still alive? Why is the woman sitting there numb, has she given up? Why is the other woman screaming? I can see her dead child there but why? The whole place is in ruins. Why is mum trying to run? I can still see my house! There! Why is mum running, I need to go back to my home. I scream and scream. She isn’t listening. I kick my legs and jump away from her grasp.
I don’t listen to her, I run towards that street. I don’t reach it. There’s a blast right in front of my eyes. Stones and shrapnels hit my arms and face. My eyes are clouded with dust and smoke. They burn.
Am I dying? I am in pain, I am bleeding. But I can’t see where. I don’t know where.
I am with my Mama and Baba. At my old house. I’m not crying, I’m not crying. I watch the younger me live happily, knowing her dreams as well as fate. I make wazu with my Mama while I keep bombarding her with questions.
“We are going to the big mosque, mama?”
“Yes.” she tells me, gently wiping my face with a towel. “We’re going to the big mosque to pray and make dua. What dua did I teach you?”
“Ya Allah! The Magnificent and The Merciful please guide us and bless us. Please protect all the people in the world. Ease the pain of the ill and the worried. Please make us good people.”
“Good.” Mama says.
As we walk to the mosque, I keep asking them, “Twenty rakats, we pray twenty rakats of taraweeh prayer?” Mama and Baba keep saying yes and telling me more.
We only pray eight. After that they attack us.
. . .
I am in the mosque, when I open my eyes. I am in Al-Aqsa. Mama is praying beside me, her face is teary.
The rest are dead. They are all dead! I cry, I do all I can not to scream. Not to make noise in the mosque. I put my whole fist in my mouth. My whole body is in pain. My face is bloody.
“Ya Allah! Help us!” I cry, because in the hour of death our foolish minds finally accept the fact that no one has any power except Him. No one cares for us. No one can help us. Except Him. The rest I can’t utter. So I fall into prostration. I press my forehead to the ground. And I hope he understands the rest. He does. He looks into my burning heart. He never leaves the oppressed alone. Maybe he’ll call us to him and let us enter Jannah.
Mama finishes her prayer and comes to me. She hugs me and we both cry a lot. We cry in silence but a hundred words and moments pass between us.
After a lifetime there’s voice and that breaks us apart. There are loud voices, someone marching in with heavy boots. People screaming once more. Soldiers.
“Why did you do this?” I scream to the soldiers. I scream to the men I see on TV, wearing suits and sitting in a luxurious room. The people behind all of it. The people condoning it. “Did I ever hurt you? Why did you start this? WHY SHOULD WE DIE?”
And despite all my screaming and all my expectations of their screaming, I hear a calm, almost mocking reply in my mind.
“Because I said so.”