A view from Gaza: My story with the bag

A ceasefire reached on 21 May ended Israel’s devastating 11-day military offensive on Gaza, the fourth major escalation in less than 15 years. Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s team there have not only been responding to this latest emergency, but have also lived it – experiencing the same terror and uncertainty as the rest of Gaza’s two million residents.

Here Wafa Kanan, MAP’s Community Programme Manager in Gaza, describes what was going through her mind during Israel’s latest bombardment, telling the story of her bag.

Wafa's bag.

My story with the bag began in the winter of 2008.

While the world was celebrating New Year’s Eve, the missiles poured over our heads from all sides, from the air, the land, and the sea. We stayed in our home until the tanks reached our street. We ran out quickly, carrying nothing but "the bag".

The second time was on the day after my wedding, in the fall of 2012. While my husband and I were preparing to travel to celebrate our honeymoon in Egypt, rockets again rained down on us from all sides and I found myself preparing the same bag, but this time we did not run.

The third time was in the summer of 2014 when missiles erased the features of Gaza. I prepared the same bag, and this time we fled. Israel was bombing residential towers, and we lived on the 12th floor. I ran away with my daughter, who had not completed her first year at the time, and so this time I also picked up another bag full of my daughter's new clothes. I was determined to take her new clothes with us, as I wanted her to enjoy her childhood. I carried all the new clothes with me.

The fourth time I had to prepare this bag was in the spring of 2019 when we were forced to leave the house because the occupation forces bombed the neighbouring building to our own. I carried the bag, and both of my children, and ran away.

The fifth time was in the spring of 2021, when missiles again poured out on us from everywhere. I prepared the bag and placed it next to the door, and waited in anticipation. Would I carry the bag and run with my kids this time or not?

Do you know what is in this bag?

This bag carries our memories... our dreams... our future... our achievements... our documents… our names... and pictures... and cards... If we lose this bag, we lose ourselves.

This is my story with the bag.

Wafa Kanaan

Photo: Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike in May 2021. (Credit: UNDP).

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