My sister’s grandchildren in Gaza begged for help but I was powerless: their voices must rise above the deafening sounds of war

The tears streamed down my face as I saw the place where I lived and grew up obliterated. I wish these scenes came from far away, unfamiliar places, rather than the streets where I walked and the house that carried the scent of my family.

  • 3 months ago
  • November 23, 2023
Welcome to Orato World Media’s Op-Ed Section where we publish guest posts from influencers and individuals around the world on current trending topics and issues of interest to our readership. Today’s guest post is from Iyad Aburok, a Norwegian-Palestinian film director and writer. Iyad holds a Bachelor of Science degree in directing and acting. He manages the company Rok Art Production and has presented documentary films that shed light on the human aspect of political issues, such as “Still Alive” about Palestinian prisoners and “Death Boats” about illegal immigration. Iyad is also a novelist and wrote the book “The Norwegian Oracle.”

OSLO, Norway ꟷ I watched the wreckage of my homeland in Gaza from my bedroom in Norway early in the morning, at 6:00 a.m. It felt like watching a dear friend being destroyed. A phone call from my brother left me concerned, as he hurriedly explained, “We need to leave home immediately.” The increased shelling on the Gaza Strip put him and his family at risk. Before he could finish talking, the call disconnected.

Soon after, I heard from my sister. Her grandchildren pleaded with me for help, but I was powerless. Today, my family faces a war that has nothing to do with them, and the danger only escalates. They had no other choice but to leave the home that had been in our family for generations. They walked away from all the wonderful memories of their childhood. Every corner of that home whispered unforgettable stories. My mother took great pride in that small house, where joy and laughter punctuated the love we shared.

The phone calls from my siblings in Gaza drown me in an ocean of pain

With my eyes glued to the television screen, it dawned on me that the situation in Gaza had escalated into a devastating catastrophe, and innocent victims would pay the ultimate price. Since then, many moments broke my heart. The tears streamed down my face as I saw the place where I lived and grew up obliterated. I wish these scenes came from far away, unfamiliar places, rather than the streets where I walked and the house that carried the scent of my family.

The war in Gaza has robbed me of a sense of time and place and instead, drowned me in an ocean of boundless pain. I feel helpless and incapacitated. It is like being dead and watching my life unfold before me. I do not think that even a gifted film producer could imagine or create a scene like this.

Iyad’s nephew sent him this picture from inside Gaza since the shelling began in October 2023. | Photo courtesy of Iyad Aburok

While I am rarely able to communicate with my siblings now, my sister’s voice brims with sadness when we talk. She relays the fear that tightens its grip on her, and the sadness that invades every corner of Gaza. Power outages leave streets dim and the darkness intensifies. She tells me she is scared, and I can do nothing to protect her. When my older sister called, I could hear the shouts of her grandchildren in the background saying, “Uncle, do something for us! We are innocent.”

Their words exploded like bombs in my ears, planting another level of pain in my heart. These innocent little girls plead for mercy from humanity. When I do reach my brother, he is usually working as a doctor in a hospital. The short, interrupted calls only add to my anxiety and fear. He and his colleagues do their best to save lives amidst supply shortages, while bodies left abandoned become far too familiar.

Palestinians and Israelis who abhor violence must come together

One day, devastating news arrived that my cousin and eight other relatives died in the shelling. These innocent people, who never did anything hostile toward anyone, lost their lives. A fear arose in me that at any moment, another loved one could die. My mind became engulfed in a state of terror. All I can do now is hold onto the hope that God will grant people the patience and strength necessary to overcome these immense challenges.

As I witness the tragic effect of war on innocent people through my own family, I realize the dire need for peace. War presents a darkness that looms over our lives. Unfortunately, its devastating effect often increases division and violence. We must not fall into the cycle of revenge. It becomes malignant and endless, where those who pursue it must dig two graves. Forgiveness ultimately holds the key to life.

Iyad from his home in Norway where he has watched the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unfold. | Photo courtesy of Iyad Aburok

I believe it is through the pursuit of peace we can find a fair solution, ensuring both Palestinian and Israeli citizens can foster cooperation and mutual understanding. This painful conflict can be transformed into an opportunity to build relationships based on respect. I think that to achieve tolerance and eventually turn the page on this moment, we will need to focus on two things: equality and justice.

The process must be balanced: everyone participates equally to build a future of peaceful coexistence. All Palestinians and Israelis who abhor violence should come together in protest to reflect our sincere desire to end this and work together. Our solidarity and demand for a ceasefire and the delivery of humanitarian aid must continue also.

As I watch this war rage on, the cries of my sisters’ grandchildren pleading with the world remind me to reject violence. They beg for mercy and their voices must rise above the deafening sounds of war.

Read more stories and op-eds out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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