What else should I give up to survive

Abdallah Aljazzar is a Palestinian writer of 24 years old who sends me messages via Facebook Messenger. He, like more than 2,000,000 other Gazans, spends his days trying to survive.

Abdallah, whose family of 30 lives under one roof in Rafah, the southern city, spends the majority of his days attempting to provide food for the other members of his household.

Abdallah and his siblings in this war. Abdallah Aljazzar, CC BY

Abdallah and I were paired through We Are Not Numbers. This online platform celebrates and sheds light on Palestinian stories by connecting mentors from around the globe with a young generation of Palestinian authors in Gaza, the West Bank, and the diaspora.

We Are Not Numbers, founded by American journalist Pam Bailey in 2015, was inspired by my meeting her in Gaza, in March 2009, when I travelled with CODEPINK, a feminist peace organization in the US.

Read more: The Gaza Strip − why the history of the densely populated enclave is key to understanding the current conflict

Bailey enlisted the help of Dr Ramy Abdu, chairman of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, (who also provided office space), Refaat Alareer, professor of English literature at Gaza’s Islamic University (who helped train the students), and Ahmed Alnaouq, a journalist and human rights worker, whose story about the death of his brother, Ayman, in the 2014 war inspired the project.

They believed that a nuanced, personal perspective of daily life was necessary to resist the erasure and erasure. The Palestinians themselves had to tell the story.

The project, which began in 2008, has now published over 1100 stories written by 350 contributors under the guidance of 150 mentors. The stories are a mixture of joy, rage, and sorrow. They cover topics like everyday life under Israeli occupation, loss, grief, recovery after the war, the return of Palestinian prisoners, aspirations for becoming journalists, doctors, or musicians, and more.

Refaat Alareer. We are not Numbers

Writers in Gaza continue to share their stories despite the very real fear of death.

Refaat alareer was killed by an Israeli attack in early December. He was an acclaimed poet who died in Gaza City along with his sister, brother, and four of their children.

‘If I must die’

Refaat posted a poetry titled “If i must die” to his X account on November 2. This poem has been shared around the globe thousands of times since his death. He wrote

Recently, I watched a of Refaat speaking to a Ted X crowd in Shujaiya (Gaza) about the power and importance of words. He said:

Telling stories to my children is what I do most of the time. Stories about me, my mother, and my grandmother, as well as about my kids when they were young. We also make up our own stories. I ask them to retell and tell the story. When I intentionally start a story when one child is not present, I get to watch the children retell it. The results are always incredible.

Refaat is a professor of comparative literature. He has published his writings in The New York Times, and Gaza Writes Back, an anthology containing short stories written by young Palestinian authors. Refaat also co-edited Gaza Unsilenced, a collection that includes essays, reportage and images as well as poetry.

Four We are Not Numbers authors have tragically been killed so far in Gaza as a result of this conflict. Israeli officials claim that around 1,200 Israelis and foreigners have died in Israel due to the Hamas attacks of October 7. Palestinian health officials say 20,000 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza and 300 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Mohammed Zaher Hamo was killed by an Israeli airstrike on November 24, shortly before the temporary truce began. He died along with his brothers and father. Mohammed Zaher Hamo described in an article from July how he wrote the script and acted in a play for the Islamic University of Gaza. He also talked about the joy he felt when bringing his family along to watch his work. A nearby Israeli bombing interrupted the performance. He wrote:

Our lives were turned upside-down again in the blink of an eye […] tears and fears dominated the scene at that time, not art or laughter as I had expected.

Screenshot from a tribute paid to Mohammed Zaher Hamo on the project website. We are not Numbers.

An Israeli bombing on October 14 killed Yousef Dawas. Yousef Maher Dawas, a student of psychoanalysis, was killed on October 14.

Mahmoud Alnaouq was murdered on October 20. Mahmoud was a talented writer who worked as an outreach officer for the think tank Pal Think for Strategic Studies. Mahmoud had recently been awarded a scholarship for a Masters degree in Australia.

Mahmoud, in an article for 2019 published on We Are Not Numbers, wrote about Hashem, an aspiring Gazan musician. Gaza, Hashem said.

It is not only wars, destruction, and death. Many talented people in Gaza wish to share their stories and showcase their talent.

Huda Al-Sosi is a mother of 2 and part of the new cohort of writers. She was passionate about learning the craft and art of writing. Huda’s compassion and selflessness are described in a tribute on the project website.

On Wednesday, December 13, Palestinians in Rafah (Gaza Strip) salvage their belongings following an Israeli strike. Hatem Ali/AP

Read more: 10 books to help you understand Israel and Palestine, recommended by experts.

White, silver, or gold?

I am a documentary artist who uses video, photography, and sound to explore social and environmental issues such as climate change and the legacy nuclear testing programs. I’ve always believed that art can reach people in a way other forms of communication may not.

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