(This is an extract from my novel, Gaza Weeps, recently published on Kindle at Amazon).
Death will overtake you wherever you may be, even in high towers.
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.
Just before we reach the tunnel the distant buzz from one of their accursed drones forces us to take cover in the rubble of a building previously destroyed in one of their airstrikes. Mustafa wants to try and shoot it out of the sky, but that would reveal our position and we order him to do nothing and remain quiet. Mustafa possesses the courage of a stallion but the sense of one of old Samir’s donkeys and we will have to keep an eye on him.
Five days and four nights we’ve been here and still they don’t come. They instead attack us from the air like cowards, pouring their hatred down on the heads of our villages and towns, killing our children. God be praised, is there nothing we can do except wait? It feels sometimes that we are fighting a giant machine instead of men. The Zionists own the skies, the sea, even the air we breathe it seems.
But then we have our sacred cause of freedom which gives us courage and, Inshallah, we shall be victorious.
Hamza, thankfully, has stopped talking. And even if it’s only while we eat our ration of dates and bread and drink the tea brought to us by the young boys who work as our messengers, it’s a welcome respite from his constant chattering. Hamza like Mustafa is young and inexperienced. This is their first experience of combat and I recognizs in the bravado they exude in an attempt to conceal their fear. They keep telling me how excited they are to be given the honour of fighting the enemy, of how happy they are to have been selected for martyrdom. I have heard such talk before. There is no shame in being afraid to die. There is only shame in allowing your fear to conquer you. We shall have to watch Hamza in case, like Mustafa, he does something rash and get us all martyred before we get a chance to confront the Zionists.
Even so, we mustn’t allow ourselves be be impatient with them. We were all like Hamza and Mustafa at one time, interested only in fighting without thinking. Too many of our brothers have sacrificed their lives far too cheaply out of the same desire. Things have improved now that some of us have received training from our Lebanese and Iranian brothers. The discipline it has brought to our ranks gives me confidence.
Every day the Zionists bring more tanks and guns up to the border. When will they enter? When will we get the chance to make them pay for oppressing and killing our people; stealing and occupying our land? Five days spent listening to the explosions of their bombs and missiles, the roar of their jets over our heads is enough. Our commander doesn’t think it will be long now. They cannot attack us from the air forever. Sooner or later they will have to come and fight like men. And when they do then we will see.
Before we left the assembly point at Bheir Younis, our Imam told us that all the jets, helicopters, tanks and missiles in the world cannot crush the human spirit in the service of a just cause. As long as God is on our side we shall prevail. Many of us have been martyred, yes, and many more will be martyred before the day of victory comes. But what is death to a Palestinian? We are a people for whom death remains as close as the next breath. Ever since the Zionists invaded our land it has been this way.
No, the death of one Palestinian is of little consequence when compared to the life of Palestine. This is what the oppressor cannot understand with their western clothes, cafes and bars and decadent lives. They are happy to kill for luxuries and comforts but less willing to die for them. Else why fear us like they do? Else why attack us from the air and cower inside the protection of tanks and bulldozers? Why?
But better not to think of them now. Soon enough they will come. Then I will think of them. Then and not before.
Why are we still waiting, freezing our asses off in this god forsaken place?
Jacob says the assault has been delayed again, after they found more mines on the approach. We have to wait for them to be neutralised before we can proceed. Be nice if the colonel would tell us what the hell’s going on though. Who planned this operation anyway? Some clown in Tel Aviv, no doubt.
Rabbi Solomon gave one of his sermons earlier, reminding us of the many periods in our history when the Jews faced extinction. He described this operation as yet another battle for our survival. He’s right. It’s about time we taught those terrorist dogs a lesson. For too long they’ve been firing rockets at our towns and people in the south. And for too long we’ve stood back and done nothing meaningful to stop them. But soon — soon these savages will pay a price they will never forget.
I cannot lie though; I am more nervous than I care to admit. I’ve never experienced combat and though anxious to get started, I don’t mind admitting to being apprehensive about what might be waiting for us. Benjamin, next to me, thinks it’ll be a piece of cake — just a mopping up operation after the air force gets done bombing the shit out of them. I hope he’s right. I hope that all we have to do when we go in is count the bodies and bodyparts.
Crazy to think just three weeks ago I was in Haifa on vacation, drinking cold beers on the beach. Before leaving to report for duty, Rachel told me my old man had called from the States and passed on his love. When she told me I shrugged it off, more concerned over him managing to get my number than anything else. I wish now I’d taken the opportunity to try and patch things up between us. We haven’t spoken since Rachel and I moved to Israel three years ago. I wonder how things are back in Brooklyn? I bet nothing’s changed in the old neighbourhood. Nothing much, anyway.
It’s just gone nine. Simon will be tucked up in bed sleeping. Poor little guy had a cold last time I saw him. Hopefully by now it’s gone and he’s back to himself again. Only nine months old yet the way he’s grown you’d think he was three. I love going round to Rachel’s to see him. Soon as this shit is over I’m going to focus on meeting someone new and having more kids. I’d like to have three more. Yes, three more sounds about right.
Anyway, shit, I’m freezing my ass off here. What are waiting for? Let’s get going and get this over with. Come on.