It was the first relatively quiet afternoon when my sister-in-law Amani (Arabic for Wishes) decided to go back to our house to pick up few items she left behind when she and my entire family fled the neighborhood. Longing for company, Amani took her son Omar (16 years old) with her. Arriving at our home, they noticed that our town in Northern Gaza Strip, Beit Lahia became a ghost town since the Israeli ground invasion sent everyone running for their lives—keep in mind that they are already refugees from 1948 and some from 1967.
At our home, three people remained: my grandparents (both 87 years old) and my 22 year old cousin Amal (Arabic for Hope) who stayed behind to take care of them, since the burden of old age has taken a toll on their ability to move around with relative ease. Most of the family was against her desires to stay behind, because the house was on the frontline of the war, its entrance directly faces the Israeli forces and their "weapons of mass destruction."
Amal and Amani are sisters and it was Amani's apartment that Amal was staying at. Just a few moments after Amani and Omar arrived at the apartment, Amani went to the bedroom to pack a few items. Omar joined Amal in the kitchen when suddenly, a bullet ripped through Amal's head.
She dropped on to Omar.
As Omar described it, "I heard a loud noise and then my aunt fell on me . . . there was lots of blood . . . like a blood fountain."
Traumatized, Omar called his mom and they carried Amal's body to the nearest car and rushed her to the hospital. No ambulances were allowed or available to collect the dead and wounded from the battlefield, which is where civilians like my family reside.
Amani finally arrived at the Kamal Edwan Hospital and they quickly took her in for immediate emergency treatment. It was there that she remained from Friday until late Sunday evening in intensive care. She died. An Israeli sniper fired at Amal through the kitchen window.
I have many fond memories of Amal and now this, recanted to me by family, will be my last.
I remember that she was the only girl in the neighborhood who would play soccer with us and when we were short on players, we would ask her to be the goalie. One time, the ball hit her hard in the stomach and she said she did not want to play anymore. She had blue eyes.
Her family seems to be at peace with the thought of her passing away. In the words of her father, as he told me over the phone when I managed to get through to Gaza: "As sad as I am for losing my beautiful daughter, my pain is child's play when compared to the pain of others." He told me about a few families that lost at least five members in one hit and also mentioned that an entire block of residential homes in Jabalia had been completely "wiped off the face of the earth" . . . they've just ceased to exit.
It is only proper that while Americans are celebrating the powerful message behind the concepts of "Change" and "Hope" with the election of Barack Obama, my family in Palestine is mourning the death of "Hope." In the meantime, my sister-in-law just had a baby girl. Her miraculous timing proves to me and to that rest of the world that out of the ashes of death and destruction, new life and new hopes are reborn and restored to a land and its people. I was also told that the new baby has yet to be given a name. I would propose calling her Palestine. Is there a better name for a baby born in the midst of hardship and tribulation. Palestine will eventually get up, rise to her feet and proudly stand as the beautiful woman she replaces.