A mother’s Story
The mother is a young woman. She is a student in Iceland but she is a long way from home. Her home is in Gaza City: the largest city on the Gaza Strip. Her husband and her two young children remain there.
Mother: Can you imagine listening to the shriek of missiles and rockets every night? Can you imagine sewage flowing freely through streets that are crowded with desperate people? Can you imagine being a prisoner in your own city: blockades and grim faced soldiers at every border? Can you imagine bringing up young children in this environment?
I don’t have to imagine. Neither do my neighbours, my friends, my family. This is the reality of Gaza City in 2019: a reality that for a brief period I have escaped. But I have left my heart behind.
Israeli Politician: The Palestinians hate Israel. They want to destroy us entirely. We have to protect ourselves and our children. This is our land and we have the right to live here.
Palestinian Politician: The Israelites hate Palestinian people. They want to destroy us entirely. We have to protect ourselves and our children. This is our land and we have the right to live here.
Israeli Politician: The people of Gaza are terrorists.
Palestinian Politician: The people of Israel are tyrants.
Mother: Can you see the problem? In Gaza, we are terrified. Often, we only have electricity for up to six hours a day, there is not enough running water and 70% of our available workforce are unemployed. Eighty percent of our population are impoverished. Our children are dying from avoidable diseases, malnutrition and as collateral casualties in the violent conflict that continues to rage.
In Gaza City there is a giant, white surveillance balloon above our heads. We are constantly watched. Are there eyes in your sky?
It’s very difficult to get out; I’m one of the lucky ones. (She stops and bows her head.) Although sometimes I don’t feel so lucky.
The borders between the Gaza Strip and both Israel and Egypt are closed. Armed guards keep us safe. The Erez Crossing is the pathway to Israel.
Israeli Border Guard: You are not allowed to leave Gaza unless you have a permit. You do not have the right permit. Get back or I will shoot you.
Mother: That way is closed. The other option is Egypt. The Rafah Crossing.
Egyptian Border Guard: Yes you can cross. But it will take six weeks for us to arrange your permit. (He scratches his nose and smiles) And we must arrange a co-ordination fee. Three thousand dollars. Per person. (He laughs).
Mother: The average wage in the Gaza Strip for those few lucky enough to have employment is four hundred dollars a month. We have to feed our families and keep our children warm.
(The mother is reading and taking notes at a desk.)
Mother: My husband and I must work to make our lives better. We cannot rely on anybody else.
(She is approached by a university professor who has a proposal for her.)
Professor: This is a project that might suit you and your skills. The successful candidate will spend months living and studying in Iceland. You will learn a great deal and I think that you will have more choices in the future as a result of this project. (They pause).
But, I am sorry: this possibility is only open to one person; you will have to leave your family behind.
(The mother takes her husband’s hand.)
Mother: I have to take this opportunity; we may never get another. This will give us a chance to make contacts and gain experience outside of Gaza City. I will not be whole without you but I promise that I will return as quickly as possible. I hope that our future will contain more open doors and green fields than armed checkpoints and exploding shells. I love you.
Husband: I understand. I know you are not leaving us and that we will be together again soon. This could be a chance for us to change our futures – maybe even to leave this prison in which we live. I don’t dare dream about a life for our children without the barbed wire, the bombs, the snipers and the suicide vests. But maybe…
Child: Mama. Where are you going? I don’t want you to leave.
Mother: My darling. Mama has to go away for a little while but I will ring you and we will speak using the internet as much as I can. I will think about you both every single day and I promise that I will sing you songs and we will play games again very soon.
Child: Why can’t we come with you?
(Mother places head in her hands and there is silence. The children and husband step away and leave the stage. She lifts her head.)
Mother: I am here but I am not here. My body is in Reykjavik but my soul remains in Gaza with my husband and my children. Last week, twenty four of my neighbours were killed by shells and rifle fire sprayed by the gunboats and the warplanes. I know that if we stay in Gaza then our lives will forever be scarred by tragedy, by despair, by pain.
I know that, ultimately, the choice might not be ours but at least I’m trying to change something. Surely, you would do the same?