By Hajar Masoud
One World Vision Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza employee, Hajar Masoud, tells her story of survival, perseverance and hope during the time commonly referred to by Palestinians as 'war'.
This is her story…
“I knew that Gaza would be different that night. The sudden political events that had happened warned people the coming days would be difficult.
“During the first war, “Operation Cast Lead,” which occurred in late 2008 [and] early 2009, I was pregnant. I was seven months pregnant, and I used to speak to my baby all the time. I would tell my child that his father and I would do our best to protect him and give him the best life ever. But now, I realize that life can sometimes be harder than one can ever expect.
“Four years have passed since that time, but that night, [November 14th, the first night of the most recent operation] I felt all the memories rushing back, returning as clearly, as if I was living it all over again. But this time it was different. I am a mother now, and my 3 and a half-year-old, son Alaa’ lived through his first war. I decided I should tell him that this night we would hear a lot of fireworks, but that everything would be fine. It was as if my heart was crying, just knowing that I could do nothing to protect him. I could just be with him.
“That evening [when] the bombing started. My husband was very worried. He checked the house constantly while I was trying to hide my fear by playing with my son. Suddenly, Alaa’ looked at me with his lovely smile and told me, ‘Mom, it’s okay. These are fireworks. Don’t worry. I am here to protect you; I am a strong man.’ I always knew that he is my angel and God gave him to me and my husband to give us hope and happiness. This is what children are. They are angels of hope and happiness.
“The next morning, we decided to leave, as [our] home is located in a border area and we knew that if this conflict continued, there would be damage to our home [like] during the last conflict. “We quickly packed a small suitcase, waited until the bombing calmed for a while and swiftly moved to our friends’ home in a safer area. It was a 30 minute ride but I felt as if the road would never end. I was praying the entire way and asking God to protect my family and keep them safe.
“Eight days passed and all my thoughts were with my child and other children who had to live through this horrible experience. I made phone calls to some of the children in our World Vision North Gaza Area Development Programme, and they were all terrified. I kept praying that this would all end soon. During this time, I received continuous calls from my colleagues in Gaza and the other offices- calls that gave me a lot of support and helped me overcome these hard times because I knew there were people praying for us.
“When they announced the truce, the next morning we returned home. We were the first people to return to the area. I saw lands bombed, trees destroyed and homes damaged, but we were just glad everyone our neighbourhood was safe. My parents were the first people I asked to see. No words can describe my feelings when I saw them and knew they were safe.
“My entire neighbourhood began working and rebuilding the damage done. I was happy to help my husband who was trying to fix the broken windows and doors. But despite all the destruction, I was so glad that everyone is safe and that we finally returned home..”
Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s recent military operation in the Gaza Strip resulted in the death of 163 Palestinians, 32 of which were children, and injured over 1,200 others. Six Israelis were also killed due to rocket fire. World Vision Jerusalem-West Bank-Gaza seeks to impact the lives of over 200,000 children through its programs and directly benefits the lives of over 168,000 people in 117 communities throughout the occupied Palestinian territory. With Area Development programmes in North and South Gaza, World Vision works with 44 community based organizations and schools to empower families and children to become agents of change for a better future. World Vision seeks to ensure that all families and children are cared for, protected and participating.