Weeping for the children in Gaza

May 3, 2024
Injured Palestinians, Including children are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Dair El-Balah Injured Palestinians, Includ Children are brought to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Dair El-Balah for treatment following the Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on March 02, 2024. Photo by Omar Ashtawy apaimages Dair EL-Balah Gaza Strip Palestinian Territory 020324_Dair_EL-Balah_OSH_005 Copyright: Alamy/xapaimagesxOmarxAshtawyxxapaimagesx

For the past seven months, life as I knew it has stopped. The enormity of the genocide in Gaza inhabits me. My short nights of interrupted sleep are bookended with hours at the computer combing the news of Gaza. Meal times are now brief moments to gulp tasteless food. A sentence or a photo triggers enormous pain. I feel there is a flood rushing towards me and all I have is a spoon. If this is how I feel, in my safe, comfortable home in Sydney, how do Palestinians cope?

Friends with whom for years I have gone to watch movies about the Holocaust and to whom I have lent books on the suffering of Jews in Nazi Germany and elsewhere, do not say a word about Gaza. And their indifference cuts me deeply. One says she tries to avoid politics. Avoid politics? I wonder how she would feel if it were Belfast that was being bombed. I remember her anger at the suffering of Ukrainians. And I think ‘Children of a Lesser God’.

I read the horrifying facts and figures and try to imagine how I would have coped if I were in Gaza. If I had to evacuate my home, what would I be able to quickly salvage? How would I feel If I returned to find my home erased, and with it all the memories of 49 years lived there? If I were ordered to walk eight kilometres, would I be able to do it? How would my husband manage with his hip pain and walking stick? How would we cope without clean water or food? How would I feel if our son was killed by a sniper?

Over 14,000 children have been killed in Gaza by Israel’s bombs and snipers and others are buried under the rubble. The surviving children suffer unspeakable horrors. 14,000 children murdered. How can people treat this as a mere statistic? How can they read it and move on? How can they avert their gaze? I think of the unnamed children behind the statistic and their short, undocumented lives. The play that made them happy, the love that made them feel safe, their fears, their dreams and their hopes. I read of strategies and tactics, of leaders’ meetings, of political announcements, of think tanks, and of powerful interests. I try to comprehend the relationship between those grown-ups’ activities and the horrors suffered by Palestinian children. And it eludes me. It still sounds like a dystopian novel. What political interests can lead to children collecting the body parts of murdered parents and siblings? What strategies can justify blowing children’s faces off? Or starving them?

I try to imagine the pain of the Palestinians witnessing the suffering of their traumatised children. The sense of being utterly helpless to protect their children must be overwhelming. It is no longer a case of the periodic ‘mowing the lawn’ to be endured until it passes. This time the whole garden is to be uprooted and razed. Their previously besieged and precarious world has been bombed to smithereens.

There have been so many distressing images from Gaza. One image lives in my mind. A little girl rushing behind the body of her dead mother, weeping and beseeching her in Arabic to” Get up mother. Get up”. I wade through the words of politicians about the “conflict’ and think of this little girl and all the other children whose world has fallen apart. I see the headlines in the mainstream media and I am dumbfounded. How can they lead with trivialities? Until the slaughter in Gaza stops, shouldn’t the headlines scream about it, daily? I watch the confected exasperation of Biden and I think ‘You can stop this apocalypse now’. I read our politicians’ words and watch their inaction, and mourn the loss of Australia’s sovereignty.

In happier times, knowing my love of all things Italian, my friends used to joke that, with me, all conversations lead to Rome. Nowadays, everything in my life leads to the children in Gaza. I go for a walk with a water bottle and I think of the little children drinking dirty water in Gaza. I open my fridge and think of hungry children queuing for hours to get meagre food rations. I do the laundry and think of children living in the same clothes for weeks. I step into the hot shower and I think of hundreds sharing one bathroom with cold water. I get into my warm, comfortable bed and think of the children of Gaza sleeping on the floor in makeshift tents.

And I weep for their children of Gaza. Children who are wondering whether they will be alive tomorrow instead of thinking “When I grow up, I would like to be..”, children who are searching for wood so that Mama can make a fire, when they should be at school. Children who want their legs back. Children who have seen countless dead bodies instead of hearing the adults discuss whether they are old enough to be taken to ‘grandpa’s funeral’. Children who are worried about waking up under the rubble instead of worrying about an overdue homework assignment. Children whose laughter has been extinguished.

In the middle of all the darkness and despair of the past seven months, I have been enormously comforted by the writings of all those wonderful independent journalists, scholars and historians. They have kept the eyes of the world focused on the crimes committed against the Palestinians. They have analysed, argued, reminded, explained, and rebutted. For me, they are, and have always been, the only hope that one day we will see peace with justice. For the Palestinians and for all other oppressed people. My gratitude to them is immense. As is my gratitude to all those brave Jews who have continued to support Palestinians, risking being isolated and smeared by their own community. When I see them marching with us at the weekly rallies, I am truly awed and heartened.


Sawsan Madina was previously Head of Television SBS

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