Bells and Bombs
“We try hard to make the best of the little of we have. But our dreams stand at the closed gates of Gaza Strip, they can’t come in and we can’t go to them.”
Bells and Bombs is a first-hand account of the lives and dreams displaced by the Palestine-Israel war.
In this post, our guest blogger this week, Laila Barhoum, narrates her life from the Gaza Strip and the despair with which her family continues to live war through three generations.
To begin, let me tell you how blessed I am that I live in an extended family (which is very regular in Palestine) where we have my grandmother from my dad’s side, and before passing away we had our grandfather. Elder people and the stories they share about their journey in life always fascinated me.
My grandparents got married in 1947, in Beersheba in Occupied Palestine ( now Israel). I know that date even though they don’t have a certificate that says so. How I know is simple; their elder son, my uncle who was born in their first year of marriage, was one year old when the Nakbah (forced displacement by Israelis forces) happened in 1948, they were forced to leave their land under the threats of death, especially after my grandfather’s brother was shot dead. They left thinking that it will be temporarily, but temporarily lasted for 66 years.
All the families were relocated across several areas in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and we landed up somewhere along the south point of Gaza Strip. My grandparents always tell us about life before our forced-migration, and the fondest memories and best stories are from their daily work of sheep-breeding. In Beersheba, families took great honor in the sheep herd they owned it was used for trade, and milk and meat. It was even used to pay the bride’s dowry. Up to this day, my grandmother cries about her herd being stolen by Zionist forces in front of her. In remorse she exclaims, “Wallahi (I swear by God) the sheep which was borne with my own hands kept looking at me with such sad eyes when she was being taken away on that truck.”
My grandmother has 2 sisters and 2 brothers and she was the one responsible of taking care of the herd. Every day she would go with her girl friends and their herds around their village for the sheep’s grazing and water. The girls would sit and have lunch- mostly vegetables, bread and fresh milk- and they would spend time chatting and singing. Nowadays, the closet my grandmother gets to her memories is when she watches drama series on the TV which shows the way life was back then. I would sit with her and watch, while she explained to me: “See, this is what our house was like” and when a scene with herds comes, her eyes glow and she smiles to the sounds of the bells around their neck. She often raises her hands to the sky and says ‘if only I can have a taste of that fresh warm milk of my own goats’.
My grandmother keeps our stories alive and the stories always start with 1948 when they had to leave their lands.
By now you would think that after all these years my grandmother and others likes her would finally get some peace, but with all the madness that still goes on, she always says, “What a life we are living, it is always from one war to another” and she keeps wondering if we will ever finally have peace.
We weren’t with our grandmother when she migrated from Beersheba, but we were all together, the innumerable times we have had to evacuate our house because which were regularly under air-attacks, because we lived close to the Palestinian-Egyptian borders. At one point our family was separated because of the house of our relative, which we went for as a shelter, was too small to hold our big family.
Violence has been taking different forms through time and our generation is losing its life for it. Growing up in an occupied country teaches you to take violence for granted as a never-ending cycle- it begins with walking to school under the Israelis’ guns to sleeping under drones and air strikes.
For a minute let’s forget about the strikes, bullets and death, and consider the political and economic siege imposed on the Gaza strip. With increased rates of poverty and un-employment and the closed borders which makes travelling in and out of Gaza an impossible mission, and with the electricity which would be cut off every couple of days for at least 8 hours, our generation and the coming ones aren’t holding high hopes for the future. We try hard to make the best of the little of we have. But our dreams stand at the closed gates of Gaza Strip, they can’t come in and we can’t go to them.
To live a war since childhood is something but to live through a war that even your grandparents lived since their youth is another. We never had the chance to share memories of sheep breeding but defiantly share memories of war and violence.
My grandmother might never see her home land again, but her stories will stay with us and one day I will tell my grand daughter about a beautiful young lady with blue eyes looking to the horizon and swaying with the songs of the bells from her herd.
Laila Barhoum from Gaza Strip-Palestine has worked as a teacher for two years. She is a graduate in Poverty and Development from the Institute of Development Studies, UK. Laila currently works as a Business Development specialist in a local NGO in the Gaza Strip and engages with issues such as conflict, agriculture, poverty reduction and business development for hardship cases in Palestine.