Rachel Coghlan is a researcher at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership, was in Gaza undertaking research in early 2020, and continues to support palliative care teaching programs for undergraduate students there. She has written this to her friends and colleagues in Gaza who have urged her to share this piece, bringing together the harrowing phone calls and messages she’s received in the past few days, during the escalating conflict with Israel.
To my friends Mohammad, Hana’a, Khamis, Reham, Mohannad, Mahmoud, Ahmed, and all the rest,
We are painting our house. We are getting ready to sell. The amount of falling debris from old paint and masonry landing on my precious personal items and soft furnishings has me a little anxious. It’s a total bomb site, I yell at my husband, metaphorically speaking. Someone to blame for disturbing the status quo.
A few months ago, weeks ago, even mere days ago, you would have laughed at me for having conniptions over such a minor event. You don’t know bomb sites! you would chuckle and tease, before offering some sage advice about getting through it and being nice to my husband. You are forgiving and thoughtful and you find humour in the mundane and the extraordinary. Some of you would probably also offer some practical advice about masonry and paint I’m sure – you are always so resourceful. You find humour because it’s all you can do to keep on hoping.
You are not laughing now.
Yours are the real bomb sites and the real reverberations of bombs and the real colour blazes of bombs lighting up your night sky.
What’s the point of a metaphor when it diminishes the horror you endure? How flippantly we use such a term.
When our painting blitz started, we didn’t realise it would be so disruptive to our ordinary lives. There was too much dust and drop sheets covering furniture to allow us to sleep in our beds. We jumped online, booked a hotel apartment, packed our wallets and some clothes and our toothbrushes and a few children’s books and toys. We quickly evacuated, metaphorically speaking.
Yours are the real evacuations of war, with Palestinian police escorts and sounds of horror all around and no time to pack your child’s comfort blanket or your wedding photos, time only to check the ID cards are in your pockets where you put them to keep them close. You evacuate to seek less dangerous places – the Red Cross hospitals, the United Nations schools.
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