My name is Lama El Banna, I live in one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the Gaza Strip. When Israel bombs Gaza I suffer.
Gaza: The world’s largest open-air prison, yes this is my city.
Surviving my first air-raid
I recall a time when I was twelve years old. At exactly 12:00 p.m., the voices of war crescendoed. I was at school and my dad arrived suddenly to take my sister and me home. Above, in the sky, was a barrage of missiles, while the noise of ambulances bellowed below. For the first time, I saw dead bodies in the streets. At home, we checked the news for updates. It was war. It was not the first war on Gaza, but it was the first one for me. And it would not be the last.
I was scared. Everyone was fleeing to safe houses. We rushed to my grandfather’s house. From that moment on, everything turned upside down. The schools, institutions and shops were closed. We ran out of food. We only survived by eating oil and thyme. The explosions stopped after a month of fear and suffering.
After that long month, people returned to their homes. Some found their homes intact. However, others didn’t find anything. Their houses were completely destroyed. Everything had changed. Fathers lost their children. Kids lost their mothers. The economy was completely destroyed.
After the war ended, I was afraid to go to school. Luckily, our teachers rehabilitated us psychologically and socially. Day after day we were able to live our lives naturally despite the presence of pain in every home. I finished seventh, eighth and ninth grade with high grades.
I began to understand the meaning of the war and how it affects people all over the world.
Israel bombs my community again. And again.
One day, at 4:00 p.m. we again heard the voices of war. Of Israel bombing us again. Despite lasting only a few days, this war was very difficult. During that time we stayed at home and didn’t leave until peace returned 8 days later.
This was not the last war of my childhood. When I was in high school, the war came for a third time to Gaza. We were terrified when a warplane bombed our neighbour’s home. Again, we fled to my grandfather’s house. In his house, more than 30 people took shelter. The situation was very difficult. Every minute, we heard the deafening sound of explosions.
When Israel bombs, there are a lot of casualties. We lived in horror for 50 days. One day, we heard another explosion. This was very close to my grandfather’s house. My father and my uncle rushed out to see where the explosion hit. Everyone said that it was a cautionary rocket aimed at a high building.
All my relatives were scared. If we had to abandon my grandfather’s house where would we go? All 30 or so of us? In spite of our terror, we stayed in my grandfather’s house. We didn’t have any other place. Suddenly we heard another explosion roar. The house shook, moving right and left. We were sobbing.
My dream to become a doctor
My dream became to help the people in Gaza. To treat the broken bodies and help terrified families. I know of the constant risk of sudden death. Although, before I was twelve, I had never witnessed the effects of violence up close before. But now I could see everything in front of my eyes. Within the first few days of the war, I found myself thinking about studying general medicine to stand with my country in these situations to help the victims of massacre.
Oh! It felt like being in the middle of a theatrical production. I saw blood. I felt the pain in the eyes of women and fear in the faces of children. To whom could I show these images that are not merely images? And to whom I can share what we need?
What if every painful experience in your life was actually sent to benefit you, to make you stronger, to make you better, to make you wiser?
I can’t forget this day at all. When the war ended after 50 days, I was able to recover enough to enter the twelfth grade for “high school.” At the beginning of this year, I was frustrated for many reasons. My friend died and my relative’s house was destroyed. Despite these things, I decided to take steps forward and supported my younger sisters. I’m the oldest sister, so they need me to support them psychologically.
I passed this year with the high grades of which I was dreaming. Ten days later, I received a grant to study in Germany. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go. Israel prevented me. They did not want us to improve, to grow and to build a happy life with our family in our country.
I lost this opportunity. And now I am studying dentistry in the Faculty of Oral and Dental Medicine at Al Azhar University. The obstacles did not end. For my university studies, the fees, books and tools cost a lot of money. I cry most of time because I want to be a successful person.
Yet I am so happy that one day I will be able to support people and do something for my land and my country.
Tired but strong, I believe that to grow you must suffer.
This is my story that I have lived through in Gaza. It is not just my story, but there are many students who are suffering and hoping for a better life.