(R. is another child I interviewed in Gaza. R. is a boy, 14)
I live in a town close to the border with Egypt. I watched a man be murdered by a rocket as he was crossing the street by his house. First he was praying, then when he was done, he started walking across the street, and that's when the rocket came and murdered him.
When the bombs fell, if we had warning, if we had time, we would go into the tunnels to hide. We are lucky because people dig tunnels to bring things into Gaza. The tunnels are round, like a dome, and they have wooden or cement floors. They are not fancy. We stay down there a long time. There's nothing to do to pass the time. The tunnels are dark, they are not nice places. We passed the time thinking that we would soon die, deep in the dark ground.
We were not able to get into the tunnels every time a bomb came because they came so often. My sister is twelve years old. She got hurt by shrapnel in the left side of her chest. She's still in bed. She's alive but it is taking her a long time to get better. One of my teachers got hit with schrapnel, too, in the legs and in the stomach and in the head. May God take care of him.
From the time the war started until now, there has been no electricity in our house. Sometimes it comes on for an hour, but it never lasts long. We can't do anything. We can't watch television, we can't listen to music, we can't use the computer. Nothing.
Sometimes before the Israelis bombed somebody's house they would drop leaflets from the sky, warning that they were going to drop a bomb so everyone should get out and run. People would run from the house and try to find a safe place. Their house would be bombed and all they had were the clothes they were wearing. They had to go to other people and say, "Do you have any food? Do you have anything to help us?"
Being afraid takes away our appetite. Our food supplies lasted longer than they should have because everyone was too scared to eat.
When the time came that there was no food left and someone had to go out for food, we would all look at each other. The one who left might be the one who got killed. Always we would hear about people driving in their cards and getting a missile shot at their car. If any supplies go short, the person who goes out to get them probably won't come back.
We would talk about anything, just to pass the time. We would talk about random things - sports, weather, this thing or that. We knew the helicopters were ready to come back at any time to bomb us. When we go to sleep we just hope that we will be alive to wake up again.
Sometimes we would scream because we were afraid. Sometimes we would fight because we were cooped up with each other and we were angry about everything going on. But through everything, we have good respect for each other. As hard as it is for us, I think it is even harder for our parents.
Sometimes we would be out playing football and we'd hear the bombs that were coming again and we'd just keep playing. Playing football gave us hope. And by that point we were feeling like we would all be killed anyway. If we were going to die, we might as well die doing something we love.
In the tunnels there would be little kids, and no matter how scared I was, if there were younger kids I tried not to show it. If you plant fear in children it stays in them their whole life, so we had to make younger kids feel that there was hope - that the night would pass, that the bombs would stop, that everything would be okay. When a little kid comes up to me and says "I don't want to die" then I have to act older than I am and make them feel better. It's hard when it's night time. There are no lights because there is no electricity, and darkness creates fear. At least during the day you can see if there is a safe place to run to.
The Israelis want us to feel small and afraid, and yes, I was afraid during the war, but I did not feel small. I felt like all of us in Gaza must be very important and very powerful for the Israelis to send so many bombs to us. I felt like I was already dead, so if I lived, I could do anything and not be afraid.
I don't think about Israeli kids. What's the point? They should just leave us alone.
What do I think the future will bring? Ask me after the next war.