Mark Pearson, Photojournalist
Operation Cast Lead: A Mothers Story from Gaza
By Mark Pearson
February 17, 2009
IT WAS DARK and Jehan couldn’t see anything, although she could sense something happening outside her apartment. Jehan, a mother of five children from Jabalia a populated town just North of Gaza city, had been woken when the firing started. All the children went into her room and she could hear the building shake. Too afraid to move, they lay totally still while shells exploded blowing out the electricity, water supply, and telephone junction box in the building; immediately putting everything into total darkness.
For what felt like an eternity, there was a lull in the explosions. Jehan looked out of her window to see the whole area had been surrounded by tanks, bulldozers, and shadows of heavily armed soldiers. Then shots were fired at her window, the children started screaming with fear. Orders were given to her from a loudspeaker on a Merkava tank in both Arabic and Hebrew, “You have fifteen minutes to collect your things and leave the building immediately.” I told the children to get dressed and pack what they could carry, it was pitch black, we managed to pack hardly anything in the suitcase. My husband and I walked outside the building, search lights almost blinded us, then we were told to leave the area. We walked for hours with hundreds of other families into Gaza, where we were told to go to the UNRWA school. The conditions there were terrible, but we were frightened and needed to take shelter. We had only been there for a week, then it was bombed.
We stayed in the school for three weeks, not sleeping for the sounds of F16’s, and bombs going off. One night my daughter asked me, “Why has the sky turned white Mummy?” My seven year-old daughter wets the bed now, the children could not understand what was happening.
Eventually, the IDF withdrew and we went back to our house in Jabalia. When I saw the state of it, I nearly had a heart attack. There was nothing left, everything had been burned, sandbags covered the windows, and there was anti-Arab graffiti on the walls. Some rooms were scorched black and scarred with bullet holes, hundreds of ammunition shells all over the floor. I suppose we were lucky that our house had not been bulldozed, like some of our neighbours.
Mark Pearson is a professional photojournalist