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January 2024 Issue [Readings]

We Were the News Today

From journal entries by Maram Humaid, an journalist in Gaza, written during the first week of the Israel–Hamas war.


I’m the mother of two children, one of them a two-month-old baby. As confusion filled my mind, I started putting my children’s clothes into a bag along with our IDs and passports, a routine I’ve developed during military escalations. Following a brief, tense discussion with my husband, we decided to evacuate to my parents’ home, which is in a safer area of Gaza. Outside on the street, we saw neighbors with luggage also heading to safer places.

I was relieved when I arrived at my parents’ house and was greeted by a cheerful chaos. My three married brothers had also come with their families to seek safety and the family gathered around the television. While watching the news, I thought of Israel’s response. How violent and dangerous would it be? I thought of my family and my children, especially my two-month-old son who would be living through his first war. I held my baby as we sat down for dinner and shared our thoughts on the day. But after the first bites of our meal, the Israeli bombardment began. The sound of explosions announced the beginning of a long, terrifying night. With pale faces, my family and I smiled at one another and said what has become a customary phrase during periods of escalation: “Let the party begin.”


Our own home was made uninhabitable by an Israeli missile.

We all stayed up late at my parents’ house, huddled together in the dark, listening to the sounds of our city being bombed and our people being annihilated. Finally we went to bed, out of fatigue, not because things had quieted down.

Less than half an hour after I closed my eyes, we were woken up by a terrifying noise. I picked the baby up right away, not really thinking. My body knew we had to get out, and everyone else did too. All of us were running. Within seconds, the air was so thick with dust and the stench of gunpowder it was unbearable. We heard our neighbors shouting and crying, though we couldn’t tell what they were saying. We couldn’t see anything, our eyes full of dust, debris, and shock. This strike was much closer than any we’d ever experienced, the ringing in our ears seemed to echo in our eyes. How close was that? Whose home was hit? Stumbling onto the street we looked in the direction that our neighbors were running toward. The building that had been hit was a four-floor apartment building just one down from my parents’ home, a few meters away. We saw rubble on the street, but not much else because the police asked us to get back in the house. They weren’t sure if that was a warning missile or the main attack. If it was a warning, that meant that in about fifteen minutes, a bigger, more evil missile would land on the same house and obliterate it.

My family trooped back in and gathered on the ground floor. We looked at each other silently, some eyes glittering with tears. Our nerves were stretched so tight I half expected to hear them shriek within my body. Would there be another attack? We heard the sounds of ambulances. Who had been hurt? How could there possibly be a missile anywhere in the world that was bigger than this one, I wondered. How were humans supposed to endure something that horrible?

After enough time had passed and the dust in the house had settled a bit, we heard people moving around outside and decided to venture out ourselves. On the street, dozens of people had gathered around the fallen building, the dazed residents staring at the rubble that replaced their home, history, memories, their very beds—all gone. We went back inside. There was nothing we could do outside really, so we went back in to look around at our dust-encrusted home and belongings. Dozens of messages and calls from friends and relatives started coming in to ask if we were okay. My sister said wryly: “We were the news today.” She’s always been known for her dark humor.


I no longer believe we will get out of this alive. Each day we wake up in a different house. Now there are forty of us here. It feels as though the missiles are following us—getting closer with each strike—and we are running out of places to run to.

I prayed Fajr, the pre-sunrise prayer, and then lay down beside my two-month-old son as he slept. I couldn’t smell his skin or his hair through the stench of gunpowder, the smoke and dust that seems to permanently fill the air. It was just a few minutes later that the windows blew in, covering us with shards of glass. Instinctively, I covered his tiny body with my own. Then I grabbed him and ran, all the while crying out for my eight-year-old daughter. “Banias! Where is Banias?” I pleaded as everyone ran, all of us calling out for our children, for our parents amid the mayhem. When I found her, she was crying and shaking. My husband and I took turns hugging her to comfort her as best we could, knowing that there was so little comfort to be found.


Last night, things were quiet for a few hours. We thought that perhaps a short ceasefire had been reached, but we didn’t have any internet, so we couldn’t confirm. A little later, a cousin managed to catch an internet signal and shouted happily: “Al-Qassam has released a mother and her children!” That raised our hopes. If Hamas’s armed wing had released a hostage and her children to the Israelis, maybe this goodwill gesture would at least bring about a pause in the relentless attacks. We all rushed to him, huddling around his mobile to see the news ourselves. Connectivity was still bad, so someone dusted off an old radio and fiddled with its dials until we got some reception, but even the radio station didn’t seem to have much news beyond the hostage release.

The mothers uttered sighs of relief and sent up quick prayers that the war might end soon or that a ceasefire would be reached. We started getting the kids ready for bed. We set up the mattresses on the floor, making sure to drag them well away from the windows so shattered glass wouldn’t hurt our babies if a bomb landed close enough to blow them out.

“I don’t like it,” said my sister-in-law about the tense calm around us.

I didn’t say anything, still trying to connect to the internet to see what was going on out there.

“Let’s have a coffee,” she said suddenly, probably trying to break the tension, and got up to go into the kitchen.

I followed her in and stood with her as the coffee bubbled. As she poured it into two cups, I rummaged in my bag for some biscuits to share.

We had only had a sip or two when a massive explosion hit, then a second, then the third.

“It’s back,” she said, practically tossing her coffee cup on the table next to mine as we rushed to check on our kids.

We spent the next few hours in complete darkness as the booming seemed to grow louder by the second. With no internet, we didn’t know where the bombs were landing. The internet and power outages must have been fairly widespread, because even when we caught a bit of signal there were no updates to be had on messaging groups, no news, no updates. They say no news is good news, but for the people of Gaza under war, no news can spell the end.

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January 2024

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