I’m posting below a testimony by “Nancy,” a Palestinian living in the Chicago area who is a friend of a member of my congregation. This oral testimony was given during the height of Israel’s military bombardment of Gaza, where most of Nancy’s family lives.
As you read, all I ask is that you resist the temptation to become defensive. Please don’t discount her testimony as mere propaganda (I personally do not doubt the veracity of her account). Please don’t dismiss her pain with “It’s very sad, but Hamas started it.” As difficult as it might be, I believe it is critically important for us to look into our own hearts and consider our responsibility for the staggering human cost borne by Gazan civilians over the past several weeks.
Click below for Nancy’s story – but one of thousands…
My name is Nancy and I am a Palestinian immigrant from Gaza living in the United States. I hope that you will read this carefully and consider what you can do to help. Thank you.
Every day I try to call my family in Gaza. Some days I get through and we talk, but most of the time I cannot get through at all and am frantic with worry.
This is what I hear directly from my family in Gaza: Ever since Israel imposed the economic blockade in 2006, life has been hard. Since the elections that brought Hamas to power, they have always told me they did not like Hamas. They saw Hamas as extremists, and were frustrated with their ideology and the divisions they caused among our people. Several of my younger siblings attended a United Nations school and sought visas to go abroad for their university studies. Only one was successful in getting out.
One of the main problems has been getting food, and the lack of electricity and gas. International food aid is sporadic and so they depend on a garden to provide ongoing sustenance. At one point they had nothing, and told me that they were eating weeds.
Last year – before this current war – an Israeli bomb hit my brother as he sat outside with my father in the garden. Israel said it was targeting Hamas militants in retaliation for rocket attacks, but there had been no militants nearby nor was anyone firing rockets from around there. My father was not injured, but my brother’s face and body were badly burned. He lost his nose and his vision in one eye. At that time, they were angry with Hamas for making them vulnerable.
I tried to find help for my brother. Some Jewish Americans told me about an NGO that quickly got permission to bring my brother into Israel for medical treatment. But my mother refused. She was afraid my brother would be tortured into becoming a collaborator for Israel. This made me very sad.
When the current bombing first began my family felt afraid that they were going to die. The borders are closed and Gaza is very small, and there are no bomb shelters. They never knew when the bombing would start or where it would hit. They started running to schools and mosques—places they hoped Israel would not bomb.
Last week my young nephews, my sister’s children, were hit by missiles without warning as they were picking tomatoes in their garden. Their father went out to get them when he heard the explosion. He found one completely blown up with pieces of him everywhere and the other partially intact with his intestines outside of his body and his arm blown off. He carried his son to an ambulance. We’re told that he was taken to Egypt, but don’t know anything more.
After a few days, the Israelis started dropping warning leaflets, maybe 5 to 10 minutes before they start bombing. Now that schools and mosques have been hit, there is absolutely no place for shelter. They give you just enough time to think that you are probably going to die no matter what you decide—stay put or run to a school or mosque. My brother says, “they want you to run like a rat in the street and die there.”
Last week during a brief call with my brother, he told me that my parents and other siblings were separated from him as they all ran for shelter during a bombing. He thought they were probably among the dead. My brother couldn’t leave the shelter to look for them.
For several days after that I tried to call my brother to find out if he found anyone alive or dead. I was able to get through two days later and he told me he finally found them at my sister’s home, which is already roofless due to bombing but it is better than their home, which is now rubble.
I was told that Israelis are going house to house and rounding up many of the males. My family says that all they can do is tell the Israelis they are not Hamas and hope for the best. They told me that if a male goes to pick up food, often he doesn’t return. They say the Israeli soldiers are afraid too, and sometimes they just shoot anyone–women and children too.
My brother and sister spoke of the many bodies in the street. According to Muslim custom, dead people are to be buried within 24 hours but they are afraid to leave their homes. There are drones overhead and maybe they would detect movement.
Food is growing more and more scarce. My father said, “if we are not going to die from bombs, we will surely die from hunger. The children are asking for food and water and there is absolutely nothing left.” But no one is willing to go where food relief might be distributed. They are a scared it’s a ploy to kill more people. They have no electricity, no gas for the stove, nothing–they are cold and hungry.
My father keeps repeating that they will surely die of starvation. He says it will be better than going out and being bombed and surviving without a limb, or unable access to medical attention and suffer a slow painful death.
In my family, they are all in agreement that it is a war of genocide against the people of Palestine. Before they wanted nothing to do with Hamas, but now they support Hamas, because it is “defending us.”
I am paralyzed with fear and anxiety about what my family is going through. All told, so far, three family members have been killed, and one brother is missing. My aunt was hit with shrapnel, and she is in critical condition, and my brother-in- law is in critical condition with phosphorous burns. When I last spoke to them, my parents wept, saying that they were happy to hear my voice before they die.
Though I am far away from the violence, my life now revolves around it. I have missed several days of work this past week and my children are too upset to go to school. Sometimes I want to go back and be with my family and starve with them. I have so much guilt about being here. I came here as a bride. I never wanted to leave my home.
My two oldest children keep asking about our family in Gaza who they remember quite well. When they see me crying, they begin to cry so I decided to try to be strong. My oldest son has not been eating and is not able to focus. I tell him and my other children that their grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are OK and that I speak with my father everyday and he sends his love and we will see them soon. I tell them this so they can function, but they are not buying it.
It is so hard to be strong for them. It seems like there is nothing I can do to help.
Click here to donate to the International Rescue Committee’s efforts to deliver urgently needed supplies to hospitals and other centers providing humanitarian aid to Gazan civilians