Cross-posted from Wallwritings
The personal report that begins below, first appeared in the website, Mondoweiss.
This report conveys the horror of war experienced by young Palestinian college students in Gaza during recent summer weeks of unrelenting and vicious attacks by Israel.
The author, Nazmi Al-Masri, a professor at the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), writes, "This day is carved in my memory."
"As all academics in Gaza, I had given much thought to my students who were suffering all sorts of agonies and worries caused by Israel's aggression. After 40 days of atrocities caused by heavy bombardment and random artillery shelling, which destroyed thousands of houses and devastated countless families, the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) did everything it could to make use of the three-day temporary ceasefire, which was extended for five days and then for another 24-hour period before it ended at midnight on August 19th, 2014.
"They decided to resume the classes on Saturday, August 16 that had so crudely interrupted summer semester.
"I was unsure what to say to my students in my lecture class. Many agonizing questions occupied my mind, among them: Were all my students and their families safe or were any of them injured or maimed? Would they be mentally able to come to class? Were they still living at home, or displaced in some shelter? How did they feel about resuming class in the midst of such agony and grief?
"What tragedies had each of my students been through and how much were they comfortable talking about? Overwhelmed by these concerns and well aware of the deep wounds, loss, and hardship every single Palestinian in Gaza has suffered, I was not able to enter the classroom with a big smile on my face as I had always done in the past.
"I noticed immediately that about 40% of the students were absent, they could well have lost their father, mother, brother, sister. However, as is custom in Palestine I greeted my class of 40 students with the idiomatic expression used in such circumstances: 'Hello and Salam (Peace upon you all), all praise to Allah for your safety and welcome back to IUG.'
"In low, sad voices the students replied: 'Hello and Salam, all praise to Allah for your safety, Sir.'
"I continued speaking, 'Today we are not meeting to discuss a particular task or project. We're here to exchange...'
"Before I could finish, a student interrupted me: 'We want to exchange our personal experiences of war, Sir.'
"Without any hesitation I replied: 'Yes, and that's exactly what we'll do. I am here to listen to you and for us to share our experiences. Who would like to start?'
"One of the best students in class, Naji, began to speak: 'I want to talk about three of my peers who are my partners in our graduation project, which we were supposed to submit last month.' Story-telling is part of the healing process that people go through in order to recover from bereavement and grief. I automatically responded 'Please go ahead, Naji.'