Photo retrieved from Instagram @dcipalestine

How Gaza’s Children Are Affected by Israeli Apartheid

Imagine a world where hearing missiles launch and watching buildings crumble is a norm. Where seeing your parents gently wipe away your tears and steel their nerves to face another day of terror is something as normal as waking up and brushing your teeth.

Imagine living on the streets beside your broken homes and receiving the news that your parent or uncle or cousin or sibling has died and having to watch as their body is taken to the graveyard.  

It’s a world none of us can imagine, but it’s a reality for millions.

More than 60 children have died in the Israeli airstrike attacks on Gaza, Palestine.

The children of Palestine live through this each day and have, to some extent for several, become heartbreakingly immune to it.

Nadine, at the tender age of 10 years old, tries her best to explain their feelings and situation to the media.

“I don’t know what to do…I’m just a kid…I’m only 10-years-old,” she repeats, tears swimming in her eyes. The frustration and helplessness these children face is heartbreaking.

These children rummaged through the rubble left over from the destruction of buildings and homes to find fish to save and toys to savor, picking them up and dusting them off to use again. Some of them may have been left homeless, but that doesn’t mean they can’t safeguard their belongings and small bits of nature and wildlife from even more destruction.

A young boy shuts his ears and cries himself to sleep, not knowing when the constant missiles and loud bombs will stop. His siblings and friends surround him, trying their best to comfort him. Countless children end up living their lives with severe PTSD and trauma from these horrendous incidents and yet, what is being done to help them?

In fact, psychiatrist Samah Jabr, chair of the mental health unit at the Palestinian Ministry of Health, says that the current definition of PTSD is not applicable to children in Palestine, because there is no “post”-trauma period for them.

“PTSD better describes the experiences of an American soldier who goes to Iraq to bomb and go back to the safety of the United States. He’s having nightmares and fears related to the battlefield and his fears are imaginary. Whereas for a Palestinian in Gaza whose home was bombarded, the threat of having another bombardment is a very real one. It’s not imaginary. There is no ‘post’ because the trauma is repetitive and ongoing and continuous. I think we need to be authentic about our experiences and not to try to impose on ourselves experiences that are not ours,” she told Quartz.

Palestinian children, like all other children, deserve to live their lives with the security and safety that is expected of the world.

It’s a depressing thought. It’s quite difficult to understand how the deaths of children are a necessity in any situation. Children are a gift, an amanah from Allah SWT, and they should be safeguarded and treated with the utmost love and kindess. Children shouldn’t have to be used to any of this; they shouldn’t have to be good at blocking out the loud noises and flashes of fire and smoke. They should be safe and happy, living their best lives with their parents and siblings and friends and families. Some families have even resorted to exchanging their children, in the hopes that if they are bombed, at least one of them will be alive.

And yet, in some twisted way, it’s also a form of small hope. It’s a little reassuring to know that some of these children, no matter the circumstances, are able to stay resilient and bounce back, enjoy the minuscule forms of happiness in such harsh climates and appreciate what little they’ve been left with.

But it shouldn’t mean we stop doing all we can to help support and free Palestine.

Palestinian children, like all other children, deserve to live their lives with the security and safety that is expected of the world. And the fact that these children have had no choice but to become immune to the torture and sufferings, or deal with it and keep it tightly locked inside their brains and hearts, or accommodate themselves to such an environment is beyond inhumane.

We must strive to do whatever we can to help these children, to help children that are unfairly suffering around the world.

And to help free Palestine.

Read here for a list of 14 resources and ways to help Palestine and learn why you should take your activism beyond social media.

Asiya is a writer and journalist based in Brisbane, Australia.