Blog: As terrified children fled the warplane, my desperate cat outran them all

12 décembre, 2023

Unable to find food for his children or his family pet an Islamic Relief aid worker* describes the heart-breaking exhaustion of civilian life in Gaza, where even playing hopscotch means risking death.

These few days since my last blog have been very hard. As I write, the sound of shelling in the background is non-stop.

We are living in the same tragic situation, surrounded by death and fear. I see pictures of families torn apart, of houses demolished, of men taken hostage, of people uprooted from their homes, and of dead children. 

I am trying to think of any possible way to save my family, but I do not see hope. No light at the end of this darkness. 

I want to leave Gaza as soon as possible. But I do not have dual nationality. No state wants to save me or my family. No country in the world would accept us as refugees. No-one cares about any Palestinians in Gaza. 

Children risk their lives just to play in the streets of Gaza

Nobody in the world cares about Palestinian children, my children, being deprived food and water, being deprived of play. Yes, hard as it might be to imagine, my dear readers, our children cannot play. Even before this latest nightmare, Gaza had little to offer children in terms of playgrounds – but the kids played happily in the streets. Now, they’ve lost even this, as I saw with my own eyes yesterday when my kids and the neighbours’ kids – about 30 or 40 children – gathered in our street.

The girls draw a hopscotch game and the boys brought an old football. The street sprang to life with the wonderful hubbub of children at play. Suddenly, an airplane screamed in the sky. Every child ran for their life, scrambling to get indoors. As I made sure everyone got inside, I noticed our cat running the fastest, and jumping up and across the children’s shoulders to save his life. 

In the house, there is little to do. My brother managed to get a Monopoly board and showed the older children how to play it. They spend hours playing – that game never ends. They also get to watch some cartoons on my daughter’s tablet, powered thanks to our solar panel. Their favorite thing to do is staying awake all night talking, enjoying a girls’ night together. But that rarely lasts long, as bombing and airstrikes intensify overnight. 

Why is Nutella, salami, and salt banned?

The younger kids feel bored, especially as their older siblings and cousins want their own space and a break from the little ones who don’t understand the games or nag at them. My daughter is only 8, but she’s managed to get herself a place with the older kids – they always include her in their gatherings.

But my son is younger and more of an introvert. He is constantly with me and his mother. And when he gets bored, as he does every night, he starts asking for food. So he goes to his mum, asking for a sandwich, speaking in the classic Arabic that he learned from dubbed (voice subtitling) cartoons. It’s funny: most of the kids in the house now talk the same way as my son – he has got all of them speaking like him.

However much he asks for food, we have none to give – including and especially bread for sandwiches. I encourage him to go play with the other children, but he insists he wants to play video games instead. He spends lots of time playing video games. Worried about his eyes, my wife tries to get him to stop, and we push him to play with the other children to develop his social skills.

But still, at night he wants food. His favorite is Nutella, but finding this sweet treat in Gaza is nowadays like finding a diamond. His second-best thing is salami, which is also impossible to get here anymore. Strange, I keep saying, why these items are not allowed into Gaza? How would that affect Israel’s war? Why is salt not allowed? Maybe because it would give some taste to the bitter life that we live?

I can’t explain hunger, even to our cat

It is a sad reality that I can’t provide my family with food – not because I don’t have money, but because there is no food. The markets are empty. I can’t explain that to my children. Not even to the cat. 

When we adopted the cat, we promised the vet who gave him to us that we’d take good care of him. And we have tried: My mum and sisters treat him as a member of the family, he eats with us and stays with us. Some of the children were afraid of animals, but now they all carry the cat and cuddle him. Everybody tries to feed him with whatever is available. 

He was used to eating canned and dry cat food. Now, whatever he finds he eats. As we live in a rural area there are plenty of flies and insects that he chases all day. I never seen him catch any of them, but as a young cat, he is still trying. He hasn’t given up.

Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence

We humans are so tired. We are resilient, but we can’t bear any more of this unfair situation in which we’re forced to live. We are exhausted and hope to see an end to this war, which is heaping misery upon misery on mostly civilians. 

Fighters are supposed to make every possible effort to avoid civilians, but in this war the heavy burden is laid on our shoulders. We have fled our homes, left all our belongings behind, lived without food, without water, without communication, we have lived in fear, in horror, and endured the tortures of the war. We had enough of all this. We want this to end now. 

Please, my readers, put pressure on your governments to bring about an immediate and lasting ceasefire now. 

As tanks reach southern Gaza, an Islamic Relief worker* faces the heartbreaking dilemma of whether his family, who have nowhere left to go, should flee yet again – or stay and pray to be spared.

Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague and others mentioned. Read the other blogs in this series here.

Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. The information was correct as of 10 December 2023.


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