The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Winning Essay “Dear Blockade”

Gaza Essay contest winner Tarneem Hammad
Gaza writer Tarneem Hammad receives award at the Gaza AFSC office.

Gaza Unlocked Blog Team, American Friends Service Committee, December 3, 2018

Tarneem Hammad, 24, was born in Saudi Arabia, but now lives in Gaza and is an English literature graduate from Al-Azhar University. For part-time work, she is an English language trainer. Tarneem loves languages and in addition to English and Arabic, knows a little French. Writing and reading are both hobbies. Tarneem wishes to help develop a public library in Gaza that looks like it came from Harry Potter stories. She also wishes to deliver the voice of voiceless people through her writing. She says, “I write because I can.”

“Dear Blockade”

Dear Blockade,

I was 14 when I first met you. You never asked me to be friends, you just took over my life. You grew as I grew. I’m writing to you because you’re a part of my life. Blockade, you’re wrong and I want you to know that you’re wrong. You make things difficult, more difficult than I can imagine. Some days I can’t get out of bed; other days I can’t stop crying.

You’re wrong because you forced me to adapt my life to the humiliating shrinking electricity schedule that could be cut for three days in a row. You’re wrong because when I made it to high school, I had to study using candlelight while mum was awake, worried at some point this candle would fall down and burn us sleeping.

My brother Ali walks around wearing a half-ironed T-shirt, knowing that people will excuse him because they know the power went off in the middle. I know that some people can afford the cost of a back-up power generator but not all.

You’re wrong because water is an essential right for all living beings, including animals and plants, but you made it polluted for us or even cut off our supply completely. You’re wrong because for some families, running water is just a far off dream.

You’re wrong because when I made it to university, I had to work 10 times harder than students all over the world using charged lanterns. I graduated thinking my hard work will pay off and I’m special enough to get a decent job. This time I was wrong, I turned out to be special just like everyone else, a graduate and jobless. I had to volunteer for two years and be exploited by managers. Then, you rewarded me with a job that wasn’t enough to cover expenses for a week. When I thought that I got a decent job, I shared my happiness with my foreigner friend to find out that she gets paid three times more salary than I, doing the same work just because she’s not living under blockade.

You’re wrong because you taught me it always hurts to be the one who survives. I survived three wars, expecting death every second and hearing familiar names dead on the news.

You caused me nightmares, you made me so removed from my feelings and so cut off from the world. I became so careless and depressed at the same time. I’d like you to apologize for ruining me psychologically.

You’re wrong because you turned seeing disabled youth in the street into a norm. You’re wrong because you made stories of death, injuries, loss and suffering a daily basis in my life.

You’re wrong because you made my passport questionable to every security crossing guard in the world. Oh, sorry, you’re wrong because you don’t allow me to travel. You’re wrong because you deprived thousands of hard-working students from their scholarships. You’re wrong because at some point we, Gazans, have to change our dreams because a very old blockade would crush our dreams as it crushed our people.

You’re wrong because you killed my cousin who waited for weeks to get a permit to receive treatment outside Gaza because you’re preventing proper medicine to get inside Gaza. You’re wrong because my neighbor and her sick son are desperately waiting for a permit from Israel to leave Gaza and get medical treatment. You’re wrong because I don’t feel safe or free anymore. As I write, I cry knowing how much you have damaged me. Knowing how I cannot be myself because of you. Please, leave and never come back.

You’re wrong because you force a little child to search through the rubble from the devastating 2014 war to find steel and stones to sell in the local market.

You’re wrong because a fisherman often returns from the Gaza Sea to his family with empty hands due to the heavy access restrictions that led to the disruption of livelihoods and a dramatic decrease in the fish catch.

As you grew, my fear grew with you.

You’re wrong because you keep tightening your grip on me and my people, from unemployment to financial cuts to water shortage to electricity cuts to wars to border closures. You’re not dear, you’re just near. You’re inhumanely wrong and I wish you to fade away quickly and unevenly. My heart and soul cry for help as I try and fight against you. Yet, I laugh and smile once in a while because I love others enough not to put them through the same misery I’m going through.

By the time you finish reading this, we’ll have both come to a conclusion about the whole thing: I hate blockade and I AM STILL HERE. That means only one thing, it didn’t kill me.

Not sure of what will happen next? Will I endure more till I die or endure more till I finally live? Nothing hurts more than waiting since I don’t know what I’m waiting for. So until I endure more, I’ll just have to dust myself off, pick up my feelings and thoughts, follow my dreams and I just have to remember how many people out there supported our cause. I hope whoever is able to end this will end you very soon. I’m still young, I still need to find who I am and why I am here. I still want freedom and independence. I still need to do what I love, I still want to rise and I still want to live.

I will work hard to get a better life and I will keep fighting you for the sake of my dreams. There is always more to me than you. I’m 24 and I wish not to see you in my mid-twenties.