A night I'll remember

By Rajai Al Himdiat, Community Development Officer, World Vision Jerusalem, West Bank, & Gaza

It was on the 10th of July last year - the third day of the Israeli offensive – that the bombing reached us. My family and I had stayed up late to watch the World Cup semi-final between the Netherlands and Argentina when we suddenly heard a loud explosion that shook us to the core. The house next door had received a 'warning' missile from an Israeli drone.

We didn't have enough time to think or plan an escape, but managed to scramble towards some of the neighbouring buildings as we attempted to distance ourselves from the targeted house. A number of warning missiles were falling across the neighbourhood, which spread confusion and terror as we desperately tried to find a safe building. My wife was pregnant at the time and she managed to shelter with my daughter, sisters in-law, nieces and nephews at one of our neighbour's houses. My brothers and I moved to another house and my parents and grandfather moved to a third house. We were not sure where to go or what to do.

All we could hear were the fighter jets streaming across the sky. A few minutes later the entire area fell silent.

Suddenly, the silence was broken by a massive explosion as a missile smashed into the big house next door that was targeted earlier. I saw the explosion and everyone in the neighbourhood stayed inside. We feared more missiles would follow - that is what had happened in other areas.

A few minutes later a number of ambulances and fire engines arrived and the scene became chaotic. People were worried that the neighbourhood would be bombarded again. This was also the first time that people had the chance to check on their loved ones, and we could barely keep up with the incoming phone calls checking that we were safe.

Thankfully, no one was injured, but we were still in shock. It hit me then that sometimes the horror and shock feels worse than dying, as the trauma stays with us. As adults, we were extremely traumatized and I could only imagine the toll this latest attack had on the children.

In the morning, there were still concerns that the bombarded house would be hit again, but we were able to regroup and left the area to stay with our relatives further away - not just for a place to stay but because we were in a serious need of close company that would help us forget the horrors of the previous night.

The days passed by.

We kept hoping that the coming days would be quieter and safer, but this was not the case. The situation kept getting more dangerous and nowhere felt safe. Even when Eid came we were not able to celebrate and visit our friends and family as we normally did. Instead, we stayed in our shelters watching things go from bad to worse.

Fifty-one days later, it was announced that the war was over, so I left and got my family, and together we went to check on our house. The destruction we saw affected our children the most. Our house needed a number of repairs due to the damage it sustained and we had to work hard in order to make it habitable again. I received a lot of support from my colleagues at Word Vision, and it was only through their help that we were able to move back into our house.

The children in my family remained in a state of shock for a while after the war. We started working with them to try and overcome the trauma; we took them out and tried to enjoy activities with them, but reminders of the war were everywhere. Every part of Gaza was in some way affected by the shelling.

With destruction around every corner, the war had consumed everything and everyone.

After a month, the children started going back to school and many were involved in the psychosocial activities conducted by World Vision. I noticed that the children slowly began to enjoy school and started becoming more active. They still do not have the same high spirits that they had prior to the war, but we are noticing that they are slowly becoming more engaged and motivated.

I am grateful that we have survived the last war, but I cannot help but feel worried about the future. As a head of a household I am always concerned about the safety and well-being of my family, but I feel helpless when faced with the harsh realities of the war. I hope and pray that we never have to go through another war again.

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