Haunting memories of last year’s Christmas in Gaza
“Last year the ghost of death passed over us. It came at the same time as the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. They were very tough times filled with fear, terror, killing and destruction. Even our Christmas tree felt the sadness that year as there was no electricity to light it,” says Hanna Mickael a Christian who lives in the Gaza Strip. Learn more about the situation in Gaza one year after the conflict
Hanna's daughters put a finishing touch to the Christmas tree decorations.
Today Hanna and his family gather around the Christmas tree making the last touches to the decorations. He pauses to talk about his destroyed home and pick up truck that once was his source of income.
Hanna is 36 years old and lives in the southern Gaza City neighborhood of Tal el-Hawa. This area saw the most aggressive attacks in the conflict. Living with his wife and four children, two boys and two girls, he remembers those days very well.
It was on December 28, 2008 that Israel carried out what it called Operation Cast Lead. Gaza was the scene of heavy fighting that destroyed infrastructure for years to come. Continuous bombing and heavy artillery left many people dead and injured and in fear.
Over 1,400 Gazans were killed in the 23 day war, including several hundred children. The trauma of the bombing left children with problems such as sleep disturbances, nightmares, bed wetting and hyperactivity.
The Caritas mobile medical team traveled around Gaza to offer psychological as well as medical support during and after the conflict. A Caritas clinic was destroyed during the war by an Israeli fighter jet.
Diana Mikhael, Hanna’s wife, says, “Our light at that time was Jesus. My children were crying instead of laughing. We experienced hunger and poverty like Christ did. We prayed so much that our lives would be spared and all I could think of was me and my family staying alive.”
In the first days of the war and to keep her children distracted, she would sing with them a Christmas song, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth”, then they would repeat it over and over again.
Hanna would like to take his family to visit Bethlehem for Christmas, where he believes true peace was born, but he is not too hopeful. Gazans who want to leave to go to the West Bank must obtain permission from the Israeli government, something that is almost impossible to get because of travel restrictions.
So, Hanna and his family will probably just stay at home. His house is decorated and the family will celebrate Christmas with lights, happiness and joy but Hanna, fears that something like last year’s attack will happen again. “I do not think we can handle another attack like that. I am happy to see my children now laughing and celebrating Christmas but I can never forget those days.”
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