By Aya Alghazzawi
We were all so excited. Ramadan was coming to an end, and preparations for the Eid al-Fitr holiday were underway. As the eldest daughter in my family, my parents sent me shopping with my sisters for new clothes for Eid, while my father went out to bring ingredients for sumaqiyya and feseekh.
Meanwhile, Israel was undergoing its ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at 28 Palestinian families – 500 Palestinians – in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, intending to replace them with Israeli settlers. It didn’t stop there. Following protests in Jerusalem, Israeli occupation forces stormed the al-Aqsa Mosque and brutalised worshippers.
Instead of celebrating Eid, we spent 11 days terrified by warplanes and drones hovering overhead at low altitudes, devastating Gaza.
I was desperately anxious throughout those nights, despite my attempts to get some rest. I moved to my younger sister Areej’s bed, holding my pillow tightly as if hugging a baby. My heart was racing so fast, I felt it would explode; my lungs were gasping for air, and I had difficulty breathing regularly. I had constant pain in my stomach, and I felt like I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
My other sister, Rawan, clung to my mum, panicking, while the youngest, Raghad, sought refuge in her lap. We made sure to stay in one room so that, if killed, we would die together, and not have to mourn one another. We even kept our cat and her kittens with us in the same room, but the cat was so terrified by the incessant explosions, she left her babies to hide in one of the corners.
There was nothing we could do but check the news on our phones before the batteries died, as we had only four hours of electricity per day.