In Gaza, my dream quickly turned into a nightmare!

In Gaza, my dream quickly turned into a nightmare!
Published : November 16 , 2023
Latest Update : March 24 , 2024


I am Shirene, 28 years old, Entrepreneur from besieged Gaza, striving to teach Arabic and empower language teachers amidst scarce job opportunities.


Last month - September 2023 - I was invited by an international organization to join an educational trip for Palestinian women entrepreneurs. I visited Germany for the first time in my life, met many inspiring women, and returned to my city of Gaza very excited to launch my startup “Arabic Mate” and achieve part of my dreams. But soon... The dream and enthusiasm turned into a nightmare of suffering!

I made many plans for October, but my only plan now is to survive this genocide and live quietly and peacefully with my family.

The entire world witnessed what happened on the seventh of October, but they never saw our suffering over the past years. The world did not know that we witnessed wars in our childhood. We did not enjoy peace like the rest of the children of the world. We saw a lot of suffering that is difficult to summarize in a paragraph or a page. I grew up.. and still, the world does not see the suffering and wars, the details of which the newspapers did not tell you. What you receive are only the headlines!

As for the details of the suffering and scenes that we are experiencing, we are the ones who can narrate them. From the first day of the war, the world believed that it was like previous wars, but they did not know that it was genocide. The occupation has sufficient equipment and weapons. They can assassinate whomever they want without harming civilians, including children and women, but they deliberately committed this genocide and collective punishment in front of the entire world and did not refrain from using internationally prohibited weapons.

gaza refugees from north to south

We have witnessed many wars and are accustomed to hearing about various types of missiles, but the ones used in this war are completely different, to the point that they leave the martyrs in pieces or burned bodies, as if they contain burning chemicals. A single missile can destroy an entire neighborhood, and this is what causes many casualties. The targeted house and the neighboring houses as well. The scene is greater than what you see on television, and the sound is earth-shattering. We hear the sound and feel as if an earthquake struck the house. The walls crack, the windows break. We feel the air pressure that moves our bodies involuntarily. No one will feel what we feel, because no one has experienced anything like it and I would not wish this experience on anyone in the world because it is very cruel, criminal, and inhumane.

The journey of movement and displacement began…


They bombed the neighborhood in which I live with explosive barrels and fire belts. We were sitting with my family and our children in a corner of the house, in order to die together. My eldest sister’s son told his mother, “Mama, I don’t want to be martyred.” What he said hurt me a lot, and that our children are living this pain breaks my heart. Living in so much fear. My family and I relocated under bombardment at night from our house to another house in another neighborhood.

We found that there was also danger, as there was no safe place in Gaza, so we moved again to another house in another neighborhood until they warned all Gaza residents to move to the south of the Strip.

flyers by israel to gazans


So nine members of my family, and eight children, and I began the exodus, but we were unable to find any means of transportation to take us to the south, as transportation is completely paralyzed in Gaza, so we started walking in the streets under the bombing, until we could find a car, but we did not find any. The bombing intensified. So we took refuge in a hospital in Gaza, where we found many displaced people there. There we saw horrific scenes that we could not protect our children from seeing, including the effects of bombing on homes containing families.

Unfortunately, we could not find a car. We remained stuck in the hospital, sitting on the floor. We could not sleep and could not enter the bathroom because it was very crowded, with many displaced people lined up in front of it. The sound of bombing was echoing in every direction around the hospital, and our children were lying on the floor without cover. We were counting the seconds and hours until daylight came. In the morning, we were able to find two cars. We started the displacement, but unfortunately, on the way, the two cars broke down and we repaired them many times. We prayed a lot for the cars to move. We saw crying scenes of people and the convoy that preceded us in displacement the previous day and which was targeted by the occupation. We arrived in the south after difficulty. We received news that our house was destroyed by severe and repeated bombing in the area.

I asked my niece, who is three years old, where is your Barbie doll that I bought for her from Germany? She replied, “They bombed it. I don’t know how we will protect our children. We have no shelters or hideouts. Even after we were displaced to the south, we were not spared from the surrounding bombing.” It is everywhere. Truly, there is no place free of raids or bombing. The entire sector is under bombardment: hospitals, paramedics, media professionals, mosques and churches, even bakeries and malls where many people flock to get bread and food.

gaza looking for bread 2023


Imagine with me the reality of what we are going through…


Imagine... waking up at four in the morning to be the first in line in front of a bakery. (One day we woke up and did not find our mother in the house to which we had moved. We realized that she had gone to stand in line at the bakery, and there was a violent bombing in the area. We were terrified, we prayed to God to save her and return her to us safely. Praise be to God, she came back and told us about what had happened to her.) Or to walk more than 6 km under bombardment to fill drinkable or even non-drinkable water? (Two days ago, a person died because he fell from the roof of a house as he was trying to fill water for his family)

I spent two days without drinking water, to say the least. Imagine if we left our homes with nothing but the clothes we left with. We left everything behind!

Imagine...that your child gets sick and you cannot find medicine for him! (Throughout the war, our children suffer from fever, stomach pain, and skin rashes)

Imagine...you are looking for any place that has solar energy so you can charge phones and power banks. Imagine losing contact with your relatives, friends, and the world, due to the power, internet, and network being cut off. You cannot know what is happening around you. We cannot contact civil defense or an ambulance.

Imagine... that we cannot cook food because there is no cooking gas, and we can barely light firewood for cooking and baking, for fear of a sky filled with airplanes.

Imagine... that the goods that were available in the shops ran out, and that the prices of the remaining food quadrupled from their normal price.

Imagine... that I and my family were displaced eight times. We lived through all kinds of displacement, in the hospital, in tents, and houses crowded with displaced people.

Imagine... that there are thousands of people and missing people under the rubble, imagine that unburied bodies and corpses are lying in the streets, imagine the breakdown of sewage pumps and the scale of the environmental and health disaster we are experiencing, imagine the scale of war remnants of internationally banned missiles and phosphorus, imagine that all... This is our reality, not imagination.

Imagine... that we hate the arrival of night because the attacks on the Gaza Strip multiply and the terror and fear multiply. We cannot sleep, and if we sleep, we do not sleep peacefully. We hear the sound that shakes the house, the sound of our children screaming and crying from the horror of what they hear, the smell that we smell, and the smoke and dust that permeate the atmosphere in the home.

Imagine... that you see the houses next to you suddenly falling on the heads of their occupants, women, children, and the elderly. Imagine that you see the bodies and body parts of children and women under the rubble, injured and their bodies burning.

Imagine... that we are not accustomed to it. Imagine that despite all this, we wake up with the hope that this nightmare will stop, that this genocide will stop, that the world will see us and stop this war. I feel as if the world is deaf or blind, or as if they are watching a fantasy series and do not move a muscle, as if they do not have a heart that feels or an eye that sees massacres and crimes. The rulers of countries condemn, denounce, reject, and allow. All of them are slogans and speeches that were of no use. This genocide did not stop. They did not stop this even though they were capable of doing so!

No one feels what we feel because no one lives what we live or goes through what we go through...


Anyone who does not want to stop the war must close his eyes and imagine that his family is under the rubble, and his wife and children are in pieces. Then he opens his eyes and sees that this is the condition of children and women in Gaza. They claim humanity, peace, and animal kindness, but they allow war crimes to be committed in Gaza. They allow genocide. Then they celebrate on screens that they were able to bring a little aid into Gaza out of humanity.

We don't want aid; we want this war to stop sooner than later...

destroyed buldings in gaza from israeili airstrikes

Stories from our reality... Perhaps the world will move!


Do you know how many martyrs were children and women? Have you seen their dismembered and burned bodies? Did you see the injured?

“One of the displaced women in Al-Shifa Hospital told me that there are infected people with worms coming out of the place where they were infected because the medical staff was unable to follow up due to the huge number of infected people.”

Have you seen hospitals that perform operations using cell phone lighting and use vinegar for sterilization? Have you seen the number of cancer and chronic disease patients and newborns in incubators? How many pregnant women and how many children were born in the war?

I do not know if you see or even imagine the scale of the humanitarian and environmental catastrophe to which the residents of the Gaza Strip are exposed!

Did you see the extent of the destruction caused by the occupation in all civilian facilities and banks, causing all services to be cut off? Have you seen the number of displaced people in schools, hospitals, and tents? Have you seen Palestinian alienation and the humiliation of displacement?

displaced families in gaza from north to south

“One of the recently displaced mothers recounted what happened to her on the displacement road, or the “safe passage,” as they call it, where one of her children asked her: “I’m tired while I’m holding my hand; if I let them down, they’ll stab me?” They also told me that they saw body parts thrown in the road.”

How I thanked God because we were displaced early. I also thanked God because I was not married, and I did not have children. I will not bear all of this. I see the suffering of my married sisters with their children, and their many attempts to relieve their children and provide for their basic needs despite their weak capabilities and the bad situation. We have eight children, the eldest of whom is Azmi. He is six years old, his sixth birthday is on October 27. He asked his mother to celebrate and bring gifts as usual, and she told him that if the war ended, we would do it.

Our youngest child, baby Yumna, is four months old. She smiles at us a lot and gives us hope with every smile. I feel that she realizes that the scenes are different. I took pictures of her during our exodus to the hospital, where she was looking at the people around us, squinting her eyes as if wondering what was happening? Who came up with these? where am I? What is this huge number of people? Why are we here? what's going on? The place, the scenes, the people, and the surrounding environment were different!

Yassin is also an eight-month-old infant. Before the war, the doctor discovered that he had premature closure of the fontanel, delayed growth, auditory and visual response, and laxity in the muscles and spine. He performed many x-rays, and the doctor asked that we perform some tests that, unfortunately, are not available in the sector. Gaza, so he referred him to the West Bank, but the war prevented him from doing so, and his older sister Salma was also sick and needed follow-up and treatment...

Every day I see my sister’s sadness and fear for her two children. They need to follow up on their health condition and complete their treatment abroad. I see my sisters apologizing to their children every day: “I am sorry that you are experiencing these circumstances.” The happiest moments I live with them...

When I open the photo gallery on my phone and call them, “Who wants to see their photos?” They compete to see who will sit next to me and be closest to the phone. We browse through our pictures before the war, and together we remember the house and the memories in it and the occasions on which we took these pictures. I often test their memory: “Where is this picture?” “Whose bed is this?” “Where is this street?” I hear this sentence from them: “We want to go.”

I also tell you about my mother, who recently told us about her intention to perform Umrah or Hajj, and that she had previously intended to save a little money so that she could perform Umrah, but unfortunately, under these difficult circumstances, she spent all the money she had. I felt very sad when she told me that. I prayed to God to protect us and save us so that I could fulfill my mother’s desire to perform Umrah.

This is my story to date! God willing, tomorrow I will complete it for you...

Support Shirene and her family in Gaza today ... donate now


[Update] On the sixty-seventh day of this war...


I thank God who has spared us from death many times. I can't describe what has happened during the past days and weeks; the events are beyond expression or words. Each day surpasses the previous in intensity as the war becomes more ruthless, bombardments persist, dangers increase, and safety is nonexistent everywhere. Our living conditions are tragic, our health is catastrophic, and winter, feared by all, has arrived. We left our house in prayer clothes without any winter clothes for us or our children. Rainfall prompts prayers for an end to this nightmare. no warm shelter or sufficient food. Crowded into shared rooms with other displaced individuals. We received no aid—neither cash nor in-kind assistance. Even flour...

home in gaza 2024
Our homes in Gaza - Shirene 's Lens

I do not know if the aid is not for the displaced, so to whom?

we find We witnessed canned goods being sold at exorbitant prices, flour vanishing from the market, and our funds depleting in the first month of the war.

28 days without food flour. Efforts to obtain flour from schools for displaced individuals were futile. Alternative attempts to buy wheat proved difficult, as milling it required waiting for days under threat. Cooking rice, a scarce find prompted a child to innocently ask about missing meat. Our children crave familiar foods and sweets, now absent from the market.

Canned foods seem an alternative, but they require bread for satisfaction. Gathering firewood for baking and dealing with smoky fires becomes a necessity. Even water for drinking is scarce, with the available water being unfit for consumption. Health issues arise, adding to the challenges. We hope for an end to this ordeal, relying on divine intervention to change our circumstances for the better.

displaced children in gaza
How our children sleep - Shirene's Lens


Regarding the ceasefire

it served the grim purpose of counting the dead, finding the missing, opening mourning houses, and allowing displaced people to visit each other. We cannot return to North Gaza, unable to see what remains of our homes or memories. Fear of a breach in the ceasefire looms, and the struggle continues.

In a moment of ceasefire, volunteering to distribute winter clothes highlighted the hardships. Transportation challenges, long lines for gas, and the smell of burning oil pervaded the air. Witnessing the destruction, I wished to see the sea, our only relief in Gaza. The suffering of displaced individuals, packed into every inch of this land, made me feel like I was in a surreal movie or dream.


I must be in a nightmare, and soon we will wake up from it.

On December 23, my family, consisting of 11 members and eight children, was displaced for the ninth time from Nuseirat Camp to Rafah. We ended up in a shelter with no real refuge. We spent a night outdoors and another in one of the International Organization's tents in a displaced people's camp. Upon arrival, our children clapped and cheered, calling it the "Snow City" or the "Sea," thinking the sandy hill resembled the sea or the animated snow city they'd seen. It was nerve-wracking to see our children playing in the unclean sand, believing it to be beach sand.

We slept a night in these tents, and early in the morning, we were expelled by the project supervisor busy setting up tents for his family. I argued with him, stating that the place was unfit for us or our children's health, contrary to what their organization claims. Our children couldn't relieve themselves properly, and sleeping in tents on contaminated sand was impractical. We attempted to set up another tent, leaving our children outdoors at night, waiting for the tent to be completed. We didn't finish before midnight; it was an exhausting night.

refugees in gaza - children
Children sleeping on the floor - Shirene's Lens

The tent's poor-quality nylon tore easily when touched, shaking violently in the strong wind. The camping area was contaminated. We covered the ground with whatever we had, yet we still didn't feel warm. Condensation drops fell on us. We woke up to find holes in the sand, crawling with insects and reptiles, causing us great shock.

We then took the children out of the tent, and a neighbor approached, asking about a child complaining of cold to his mother all night, saying, "Mama, I'm cold, cover me." She expressed deep sadness for us.

We found wastewater and an exposed sewage system next to the tent. My sister’s child “Yassin” cried all night, and we didn't know the reason. In the morning, the child experienced a sudden fainting spell and seizures. We rushed to the nearest hospital, crowded with tents and people. Transportation was challenging. The child was transferred to different hospitals, facing difficulties due to the war's intense bombing and ground invasion.

Shirene's Lens

Doctors requested the child to stay overnight, but due to the hospital's overcrowding with war injuries and the intense influx of martyrs, they couldn't provide a separate bed for our child. They wanted him to share a bed with three other children, but my sister refused, fearing infection for her child. Yassin, not yet nine months old, was supposed to travel for further treatment abroad, but the war hindered their medical journey. We couldn't even register their names in the patient list due to favoritism and corruption, claiming priority for war-wounded individuals. Our right to treatment was denied as if we were not human beings.

woman at gaza beach
Shirene in her element

I share this story not to seek sympathy but to raise awareness about the dire situation in Gaza and to ask for your support. We need immediate assistance to rebuild our lives and shattered dreams.
Help me raise awareness about my startup “Arabic Mate”. 

Support Shirene and her family in Gaza today ... donate now

* The article is translated by Hana'a, Shirene' s Friend

**The pictures are selected from news sites and are expressive to bring the novel closer to the reader.


Most Popular