Asma Shaker

War from every direction: a diary
Asma Shaker

(1) Windows onto the rain

An explosion close by. Very close by: the walls are shaking.
The sound of glass shattering. Deafening crashes. All sorts of things are getting scattered everywhere.
Thick black smoke, fire engines, ambulances rushing around deliriously...
A little bit of agitated rain. Open windows separating my stupor from the blaze that the bombs started.
An hour and a half of burning and smoke, a bombed building collapsing into a pile of rubble on the ground, lots of broken glass, buildings mangled by fire, and traces of leftover white foam in the street.
The street has no pavement...weeping freezes over in the cold night wind.
In the morning I wake to the sound of my father fixing plastic bags over the windows instead of glass.
The sky pours with rain.

(2) An Imaginary Raid

Everything shakes - the floor, the door, even the plastic on the windows. An chronic, dizzying nausea permeates the air during every raid.
A formation of F16 planes flies over: right there - just above us. It marks a dead-straight line of smoke, tearing up the whiteness of the clouds.
‘It’s a pretend raid,’ says my father, as we tremble like we’re sitting on little earthquakes.
‘They’re just messing about. I reckon they’re just little planes training...don’t be scared.’
Then a different type of bombardment: successive tremors, air pressure and noise making everything convulse...the sound of explosion after explosion, it can’t definitely can’t just be the wind.

(3) Turning Circles

We crowd round the news, our gazes fixed anxiously on the strip of writing that repeats itself across the bottom of the screen. It loops round and round, again and again, the presenter’s face quakes during the bulletin, the sound breaks up, that droning sound keeps coming back too until it consumes the broadcast entirely.
Breaking news - yet again:
‘The Israeli army announces the beginning of ground operations in the Gaza strip.’
I stir the sugar into my cup of tea. I keep stirring it, and it doesn’t dissolve. The television lights up.
A hurried message reaches me: ‘Pray for the resistance fighters: your five brothers have gone...over there.’1
The tea gets cold, the droning goes on...the strip of news winds across the bottom of the screen; the reporter is saying, ‘It seems that the next few days will be worse than...’

1. To the border of the strip, to fight.

(4) Leaflets for Sale

The end of the day...
It wasn’t a pretend raid, or an imaginary one, or a bombardment either: it turns out they were ‘benign’ planes, peaceful ones, dropping paper bombs, like pretty little twinkling fragments, glimmering in the sun-beams and the last of the fading light.
They float down slowly onto the roofs and the streets, hang on pylons and electrical poles, get caught on wires.
The clamour of little boys playing in the street nearby; one of them has gathered up the fallen pieces of paper, in curiosity, and threaded them onto a string. He runs along, stamping his feet on the ground and shouting “leaflets, leaflets for sale.”
The rest of the boys chase him, snatching them from his hand, tearing them up...and laughing.
Dark clouds loom...

She glanced at the half-open door, and opened it a little wider onto the street. The sky was grey, and clouds were massing in the distance.
The little girl flexed her tiny delicate toes, stared up into the sky, and smiled. She ran joyfully to her mother, pulled her over towards the door by her hand, skipping and jumping in delight at her very first discovery of that huge expanse towering above her. She turned, on the threshold of their home, and pointed at a low cloud:
‘Look! Look! Allah’s coming down to us, he’s coming to see us!’
Her mother trembled, hugging her little girl fearfully. Full of dread, she shut the door, and stammered out a muddled and indistinct Quranic recitation, which she didn’t understand.
She turned to her daughter, kissing her on the forehead, her voice scared:
“That’s a cloud, it’s not Allah: we can’t see Alllah.”
The little girl was sad; but she didn’t stop staring at the sky, wide-eyed.

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