Since yesterday morning

israeli missile

israeli missile

I’ve never been to visit the house of a martyr before, not someone who was alive the day before. On the way I find out this is one of the times that covering my head is non-negotiable, as a sign of respect, but I can do it old-fashioned Palestinian style rather than Islamic hijab style; my hair doesn’t have to be hidden, it’s more symbolic than anything.

All my instincts are against intruding into the home of seven children who no longer have the father they had this time yesterday. But here it is a strong tradition and sign of respect. And we are showing this family that people “outside” do care what has happened – that one Australian, one Canadian, one Greek, one Englishwoman, and one American are mourning their loss.

When we arrive to the house on the edge of Jabalia camp, the men are gathering outside, and the women inside the neighbouring house, where we join them. A young woman reads the Koran, with the lovely woodwind-like timbre I have heard from other Palestinian girls reciting in public.

Salah Oakal was 46, his wife must be in her late 30s. She wears an expression of stunned patience, sitting quietly in the middle of the row of women, accepting condolences from everyone as they arrive to sit with her. Another relative, an elderly woman wearing the traditional black dress with intricate purple embroidery and a snowy white headcovering, tells E and me the story; I can’t understand more than a few words, but I don’t think she cares, she just needs to tell it.




We go to the family’s house across the street. These folks didn’t have much to start with. Crumbling concrete walls, only a couple of rooms, bedding, that’s pretty much it. All their crockery is now smashed on the floor of the kitchen, and some of the wall is missing. The wall of the childrens’ room is entirely gone, replaced for now by a blanket. Three of them were inside at the time. And the “ground to ground” missile didn’t even actually hit the house; it’s in a big hole just outside. Salah went out to water the trees, everyone explains, just to water the little trees right outside the house. He was only out for a moment. He was going to come back in to help prepare the dinner.


missile beside tree

missile beside tree



And after the impact, they couldn’t find him. They looked for an hour in the dark. They couldn’t find him because there was no electricity. They couldn’t find him because the impact had lifted him up and thrown him down. And, as they discovered when the ambulance arrived with headlights, they couldn’t find him because he was now in three pieces.

“Did you hear any firing in this area?” E asks. “From Palestinians. Because you know that’s what Israel will say.” Everyone shakes their heads blankly.

neighbour's house

neighbour's house

Next door, we visit E’s friends. Bits of their house are missing too, pieces out of the childrens’ room once again; the children apparently protected by the right thing falling on them rather than the wrong thing. Alhumdulallah, thanks be to God, says everyone.

As I said, I am not sure exactly why the headcovering goes with visiting a martyr’s house. Maybe it’s because the family left behind with little to comfort them need to feel that God is closer by than usual, and it’s only fair enough we should be dressed a bit respectfully while he’s around.

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5 Responses to Since yesterday morning

  1. emma says:

    well you’re sure doing better than me by setting this up, i think i’m doing well to be able to leave you a little message.
    Some of your mails make me laugh, some cry, the time gaps make me worry if you’re ok & some like this one stop me in my tracks.
    Anyways lots of love & keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re far braver than me! Xx

  2. Chris Green says:

    I read your messages as soon as they come in, adn you knwo we are thinking of you and everything you bring to our attention.
    Lots of Love


  3. Bob Birch says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed. It’s so important that “internationals” are there to report on this ongoing tragedy. If enough voices are raised then the world will find it harder to turn its back on these people. In solidarity.

  4. Christine Grodd says:

    I never cease to be awe-inspired by what you and other “internationals” have the courage to do in Palestine. Years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine about it, and she said that she’d love to receive these reports too, and that her whole family (5 grown-up kids and her husband) would be interested too, so I have been forwarding these “tales to tell” emails to her family ever since.

    And as if you weren’t impressive enough already, now you’ve gone and created a blog! And it looks so professional! I wouldn’t have a clue how to do that! : )

    Love and admiration to you, and deepest respect to the family you visited on this day.

    Love, from Christine.

  5. Imraan Allie says:

    May peace be with you.

    Thank you for sharing this and paying your respect to the concerned household.
    May God grant the family the strength and patience to overcome this loss.
    May God protect you and shower you with his choicest blessings.

    Keep up the good work

    Imraan (South Africa)

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