Burn Another One: Part Four
A story by Fathima Begum
Adeela enjoyed the light breeze that she knew would turn into a heavier, drier wind later on in the hot summer day. She nibbled on sweetened cheese, and some pistachio nuts that her friend had managed to steal away from his father who had just returned from a trip to Egypt.
Treats like this were rare for them. Adeela sighed and wished that she could pause moments like this, when it was calm and deceivingly peaceful. From the rooftop that her and her friend sat on, they watched as people went about their daily lives, some loitering around with nothing to do, no job to go to. Others were busy marching to and from the Mosque all day, to attend the congregational prayers, and to fill their days with all that they could do to beget God’s mercy upon them. Others left their homes early to travel to work, and would be back by early afternoon.
Adeela sat in silence and imagined living somewhere far away from here. Although Gaza was her beloved home, she knew there were places where school was always open and safe to go to, and people had good jobs, lots of money and could buy whatever they wanted. She didn’t want to be rich, but she wanted for her family to be safe.
She had heard that they’d soon be expecting foreigners, charity aid volunteers, to come to their village. It had been arranged that they would live with them, and work alongside them, at the olive tree orchards. She couldn’t wait to meet them.
Her father and his friends had discussed over dinner last night that they be here as early as the following week. Adeela hadn’t been able to eat, her excitement had caused her appetite to disappear so she had left the bread and seasoned vegetables for her mother to eat and had skipped to the neighbours to quickly share the news. With people falling ill because of severe food shortages, the good news was welcomed by everyone, with just a seedling of doubt. Lots of people from all over the world tried to get into Gaza to help them, but few ever made it through the security gates they were encased by.
A week later, the village welcomed the twelve volunteers who were from an organisation called Helping Hands Here. They parked their three Land Rovers right by the big fig tree just outside the village, and were welcomed by the entire village. Adeela’s grandfather shook their hands individually; seven men and five women, and they all trudged through the dirt paths to get to the largest house in the village where they would stay. Adeela pushed and shoved her way through so as not to lose sight of the foreigners. They looked worn out but still cheerful, pleasant.
They rested for a couple of days. Meals, though modest in portion, were sent to them from people’s homes, freshly cooked. Adeela took a potato salad, made with great care by her mother, and sent over with strict instructions not to touch it while taking it over to the foreigners. They were gracious, and shared the packages of rice, oats, potatoes, coffee, and nuts that they had bought with them.
On the third day, they set off early to the olive tree orchards, and were joined by most of the villagers, even the lazy ones who hardly ever went out to harvest.
The day flew by, as they worked hard to plant seeds in soil that was fertile. The recent lack of rainfall worried them, as they knew it would be harder for the trees to grow and survive.
Only two days later, seventeen members of the occupying forces – the IDF – turned up. Adeela counted them as soon as she saw them heading towards the orchard, in their crisp uniforms. The leader of the charity organisation introduced himself to them, while everyone else watched. Adeela felt fear run through her veins and she hid behind her grandfather. One of the men in uniform held up a pile of papers, and pointed to it furiously. The foreigners all crowded around their leader, and the men in uniform stood behind their leader, guns in hand. Voices were raised. Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot pierced through the air, and they all ran in different directions. Adeela’s grandfather grabbed her little hand, and she felt him drag her through the crowd.
She screamed as she hit her head on a stone as she fell, and felt herself being hoisted up, lifted into the air, and perched onto her grandfather’s shoulders in one swift movement. She saw the chaos, and she saw that the men in uniform had dragged all twelve members of the organisation back to their vehicles. As they did so, they shoved men out of the way who angrily tried to stop them, and Adeela heard several gunshots. She covered her ears as her grandfather walked slowly out of the way, and kept walking until they were away from chaos.
He breathed hard while Adeela cried, and then he collapsed to the ground. Adeela screamed when she saw the red liquid, her grandfather’s blood, pouring out of him, through his clothes. She grabbed at him, panicked, but he shoved her off and motioned for her to get help. She wiped her eyes to clear her vision, as tears rolled out uncontrollably. She ran as fast as she could back towards the orchard, and after desperately yelling for help, she managed to gather together three men who ran back with her to where her grandfather lay.
As she followed them carrying him back to their village, she muttered with every breath: ‘God, please don’t take my grandfather away’.