Two tents.
Photos by Haya Abu Nasser.

In the embrace of a recent rainy day, I sought solace in the melodic strains of a Frank Sinatra tune, its nostalgic notes intertwining with the rhythmic cadence of raindrops outside. A quaint seaside restaurant had transformed into my sanctuary. Through mist-streaked windows, I surveyed the vast sea. Conversation flowed around me like a steady stream, warmed by the comfort found in communal tales.

I was also feeling the thrill of anticipation. I was slated to depart for Malaysia on the 17th of October to pursue my studies in international relations, while continuing my role as a fundraising officer for an NGO. For years, I have dedicated myself to advocating for the rights of Palestinians, and advancing my learning would increase my impact.

Upon leaving the refuge of the café, I made my way to the library, unaware of the twist of fate awaiting me. My small sanctuary was about to fall victim to the ruthlessness of war.

When we first heard the news of the daring infiltration of Israel by our resistance fighters, we felt a flash of wild anticipation. Maybe, we thought, the world will finally pay attention to us and recognize our unwavering determination to stand up against oppression and injustice. No longer would we have live with a pervasive sense of impotence.

However, within less than 24 hours, our initial euphoria gave way to a stark realization: We were being cast as the evil ones. The voices and spin of power, driven by economic interests and political expediency, resonated far more than our plea for justice.

Makeshift tents.The fragility of our existence became glaringly evident as I narrowly escaped death two times. The first occurred when my family was ordered to leave our home by the Israeli military. Seeking safety, my family and I hastily relocated from our residence in the northern Gaza City neighborhood of Saftawi to my uncle’s home further south. The second time came when, just two days later, the Israelis heavily bombarded the building adjacent to my uncle’s house in the Al Nuseirat Camp. The aftermath was a grim scene of lifeless bodies, severed limbs and blood, strewn across the streets. Thirty of his neighbors died.

Forced to move a second time, my entire family sought refuge at my grandparents’ home in Khan Younis. Then the third blow came, a week later. The Israeli military destroyed the nearby square, claiming the lives of more than 50 people. Now we had nowhere else to go. We relocated to the UN Training Center in Khan Younis, which is sheltering more than 30,000 people on its grounds!

FirThe only shelter there is in flimsy tents, the embodiment of our fragile hopes, now dashed. Like scattered dreams, they crumbled under the relentless assault of rain. Children cried and mothers pleaded, but the heaven seemed indifferent. In the chaos, the UNRWA warehouse became a battleground, where desperation clashed with bureaucracy in the scramble for basic comforts like a tent and blankets.

We lack proper clothing to ward off the cold, an unforgiving adversary. Our displacement, which we initially thought would be brief, has stretched beyond 43 days. Bags initially packed for a temporary escape must now sustain us in what has become a nomadic existence. The sky, which once released a cleansing rain, seemed to weep alongside me when I received news of the massacre in Jabalia camp, which stole the lives of more than 20 of my extended family members. Bitterness gnaws at my soul as I long for the simplicity of safe shelter, warmth, a cup of coffee and what I once thought of as the routine melody of life.

Once vibrant markets now stand desolate and children suffer from malnutrition. However, we cling to hope, fragile as a gossamer thread. We whisper a prayer to return home, hoping our houses are not entirely destroyed. The frustration is palpable as the specter of ’48 haunts us.

Now we’re told there is a four-day “pause.” The kids are happy because they have been cooped up for weeks. But the adults? We’re afraid this truce will give Israel time to assemble more soldiers and bring in more equipment, so they can resume with renewed vigor.