|Mohammed Saqqa, 13, is standing on the sidewalk at Omar Al-Mokhtar Street. Only a hundred meters away from where a bomb targeted a car and killed three people. He is trying to entice some passersby to buy the perfume and makeup which he sells.
Mohammed survived the war in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood east of Gaza city along with eight of his family members. He and his father were waiting for the war to end to go back to work in order to buy some food.
“They were very scary days. Every time we heard a bomb I jumped from my bed to go to my mother,” he tells me. This maybe gives you the impression that Mohammed is simply a child who still goes to his mother seeking safety. But this is not the truth. As the eldest son, he feels responsible. Working all day trying to get some money to feed the family has taken away his childhood. Now in his head he is a responsible man, a child no more.
“I really wish I could rest, or have some psychologist help me like other people in the world who suffer wars, but these are only wishes. Here I am, standing here from 9:00 in the morning to secure the food for my family. No one during or after the war asks me or my family ‘how are you doing?’” the 13-year-old boy tells me.
“How are you doing?” I ask him immediately.
The boy starts crying at once.
“I’m sad, scared, and tired. I just want to sleep without panic or bombs over my head.” The boy opens his heart and speaks. His crying melts the manly shield he was wearing, or feels forced to wear.
“The news was full of children who were killed, I saw their photos on social media, and I put myself in their places. I imagine that the war kills kids, and I do not want my mother to suffer like the mothers of the kids who were killed. I do not want to break her heart; I want to stay alive not torn apart in an Israeli airstrike,” he tells me.
Mohammed wishes that he was born in a different place, where he could grow normally and work when he finished school, and die when his body is fully grown.
I walk through the crowded main streets and parks in the wake of this war, which leads me to a family of six people sitting in Al-Rimal garden.
Eman Hamed, 34, is a mother of four kids, and she describes the aftermath of the war as simply a pause in the killing of Palestinians.
“The war will come back again, and again, and again,” she says.
“We are here in the park to have some peaceful times because this peace will vanish whenever Israel decides to launch a new war.”
She considers every day of a Palestinian’s life to be a day at war. “There is not a single day that passes without reading or watching Israelis kill Palestinians,” Eman says. “My 77-year-old mother always says that she has lived her entire life in wars. I was born in wars as well, and my four kids were born in war, so how could I say that the war ended?”
“The war does not end unless the occupation ends,” she says.