Tuesday 28/11/2023

Many of the residents of Khan Yunis inside the European Hospital returned to their homes during the ceasefire, and only the people of the north remained in the tents.

Tuesday 28/11/2023

The Angels of the Oven

Many of the residents of Khan Yunis inside the European Hospital returned to their homes during the ceasefire, and only the people of the north remained in the tents. A few days without hearing sounds of explosions, but not allowing us to return to our homes diminishes our sense of life. Life has returned relatively to the people’s faces. Some went to cut their hair, despite barbers being available on the hospital grounds the whole time, but the feeling of calm prevails over people’s actions. Others came to visit their relatives. Today, all my aunts gathered at the hospital in one place, except for Nadia, who remains in Al Shuja'iyya until this moment. The presence of family in one place gives you a sense of familiarity, and pushes away your feelings of alienation. 

This aggression has earned me a new nickname. Aboud, my grandfather’s son from his second wife, or in another story, my uncle Aboud, the child with Downs Syndrome. Aboud is a very naughty child who loves to eat a lot. He eats without feeling full. Many times, he steals what is in your hand and walks quickly to the corner of the classroom to eat it alone. But he does not steal anything from me. He stands in front of me and then calls my name and says, “Give me”. 

Aboud gave me a name that was new to me but old to him. One of our relatives named Abu Esam used to sell potable water from a large truck. Abu Esam would come to my grandfather’s house to supply them with water, and Aboud would call out to him, “Esam sweet water”. When Aboud and I met in one classroom because of the aggression, he started calling me “Esam Sweet Water”. Aboud didn’t realize that there was an Esam in northern Gaza who did not leave his home, and another Esam who left his home because it was bombed. Perhaps his lack of awareness is a blessing from God that nobody except Aboud experiences. 

I started teaching him how to help his father with his wheelchair, moving him from one place to another, and he [Aboud] began responding to me. The most striking thing about him is his high flexibility. He can open his feet in the form of the number seven (“٧” in Arabic) while sitting on the ground, and bend his foot behind his neck. Although he doesn’t stay quiet at all, we sleep to his voice and wake up to his voice calling out the names of all of those present. 

A few people prefer to finish their work at night these days, because at night there is less pressure of people, especially during the truce. I went with my aunt to the mud oven and we began baking. A short time later, my cousin grabbed a piece of metal and began hammering it against another piece of metal that was planted in the ground. My aunt shouted at him saying, “Don’t bang like that because the mud oven has angels”. At that moment, I remembered my grandmother in Al Shuja'iyya, in our house, while in her youth, when we would bake in the oven and she would say the same thing to us, “Don’t bang on anything when you are near to the oven”. But this was the first time I heard about the angels of the oven, and each time my question was met with a lack of satisfactory response. The mud stove has a special place in our lives, even if time has given us an alternative. 

On our way back to the school, I found my new friend sitting by the door of his tent. My friend Tariq works in the Holst Cultural Center in the Gaza Strip. This center has a big theater, and Tariq is responsible for the lighting. We spoke about the world of institutions and the work we did before the aggression, and working with children as a creative writing facilitator. Tariq’s face gives you hope that there is something coming. You don’t know what it is, but it’s beautiful. He told me that we would work on something together after the aggression, that we would meet at Holst, as if he was completely confident that we would return. I told him, of course we’ll do it, as if I am confident that we will return.  

November 28