Other Voices – May 25, 2024

Yes to life – in spite of everything
Children and Israel’s war on Gaza 2006 - 2024

Child in Gaza wounded by Israeli bombing.

“This war is a war on children.”
- Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA
(United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees)

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The number of children killed and injured in Gaza every day
significantly exceeds every other recent conflict,
including Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, or Ukraine.

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Israel has killed more than 15,000 Palestinian children since October
- and many more Palestinian children are missing under rubble, maimed or orphaned.
By early April, Israel had killed
a further 114 children in the West Bank and injured 725 more.
Hamas killed a total of 33 Israeli children on October 7.
* figures as of May 21, 2024

* * *

Girl getting water, Gaza.

For most of us
our natural instinct
is to protect children

nurture them
teach them
answer their questions
help them understand
help them find their way.

But sometimes we can’t protect them

And we have no answers
to their questions.

We can’t explain why this is happening
or why the world is letting it go on.

In terrible times,
sometimes children are the ones
who teach us.

By what they do

What they teach us through their actions is
to keep living
to keep living
to say yes to life.

Yes to life – in spite of everything.

* * *

Ghassan’s shelter. Photo by his sister Marwa.

Evil is a very hard thing to understand.
Even for adults, it can be impossible.

But when it can come crashing down on you
at any moment

Any child knows what to do:

You make a little shelter under your big sister’s desk.
Where you can hide when the Israelis drop their bombs.
so you can be safe
and your teddies can be safe.

“I made this so I can run to it when a missile comes.
I take my teddy bears and dolls, so I can protect them with me.
I want them to feel safe, too.
I also keep five shekels here, so I can buy us some candy when it is over.”

* * *

Children playing on make-shift teeter-totter in the ruins, Gaza.

A broken pipe is an excellent thing.
Help me pull it free
Yes, that’s it!
Let’s put it on that piece of concrete.
Now it’s a teeter-totter!
Everybody gets a turn.
It’s fun!

* * *

Getting water, Gaza.

Water is heavy.
I have to carry it a long way
But I don’t mind
because we need it.
Maybe by the time we get back.
Mother will have found some food.

* * *

Children on camel, Gaza, 2023.

last year
when we rode the camel
along the seashore
Wasn’t that fun?
Do you remember?

* * *

Children playing, Gaza.

We can still play!

* * *

Children in Gaza.

We can’t live in our home anymore
Because the Israelis destroyed it.
But we can play hide-and-seek
And wave from the windows!

* * *

Children on swing in Gaza.

The swing still works!
Isn’t that lucky?

* * *

Boy in Gaza.

The sun is shining
And the sky is blue!

* * *

School amidst the ruins, Gaza.

We don’t have a school anymore
because the Israelis bombed it.
But we still have classes outside
And – I know the answer to the teacher's question!

* * *

Boy in Gaza playing with toys.

If you look where the apartment buildings used to be
before the Israelis bombed them
You can sometimes find toys

It’s OK to pull them out
and play with them
the kids who used to play with them

Don’t need them anymore.

* * *

Child in Gaza.

No more words.


UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East)

IDRC – International Development & Relief Fund

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)

Independent Jewish Voices

Electronic Intifada

“If I die, please publish my stories”
We are Not Numbers is a Palestinian youth project
which encourages young Palestinians, most of them
in Gaza, to write about their lives and their dreams.
They are assisted by mentors, mostly outside Gaza,
who help them develop their writing abilities.
Recently, the mentors report, they have been
receiving stories accompanied by messages that say
If I die, please publish my stories.
Please read some of their stories.

The title of this issue of Other Voices was taken from Victor Frankl’s book
Yes to Life – In Spite of Everything, which he wrote in 1945
shortly after he was liberated from a Nazi concentration camp.
Inspiration also comes from Rafeef Ziadah’s poem “We Teach Life, Sir.”
Photos are from Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza 2006-2018, not only the current genocide.

This newsletter was written by Ulli Diemer for Connexions.
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