Sleepless in Gaza: Living under the Drone

I was so exhausted yesterday I swore that nothing, nothing, would keep me from going to bed at a decent hour.  I ate my dinner, put on my pajamas, and crawled under my fluffy blue blanket. And then it started. A loud humming sound. It grew louder and louder, like the offspring of a killer bee and a Boeing 747 was flying toward my apartment building, and then pulled away, and then returned  again. I tried to ignore this sound. I pulled my blanket over my head and stuck my head under my pillow.  But they only grew in number; now there were many of them. I reached onto the floor from under my blanket for my ipad to see if the internet would provide any information on to what the hell was going on in Gaza; I checked Haaretz and Maan news, but no word on this strange sound.  I finally got out of bed.

“What the f!!k is that sound?” I asked my flatmates.

“Drones,” they replied.

“Is this normal?” I asked. They nodded.

I went back to bed and unsuccessfully tried to go back to sleep.  The sound of aircraft and loud noises overhead were not new to me. I grew up 15 minutes from an airport.  I spent the last 3 years in a section of Los Angeles where the police department regularly uses helicopters in police chases.  Last year, a fire started in the apartment next door to mine, burning through our shared roof and wall–I slept through the smoke alarm. Sleeping is one of my talents.  Last night, I could not sleep.

I tossed and turned, thinking of those kids in Beit Hanoun, close to the border, who I had picked olives with last week and how scared they must be. What do parents in Gaza tell their kids to allay their fears? Were my Pakistani and Yemeni counterparts having similar sleepless nights?

Anyway, I must have slept, because I awoke . . . to the sound of drones.  It was 6:30 a.m., and I again checked the internet. Israeli drones over Gaza were not newsworthy. I got up. I attempted to write. The sun rose overhead, but the drones did not leave. I had a meeting with some university students at noon; the drones were still there.

“We could hear them during class,” said one.  I asked them if this was normal.

“Oh yes, they’re here all the time. It was really bad during Ramadan,”  she added.

As I write these words I can still hear the drones above me.  I shouldn’t complain. A mother living alone with her four daughters in Khoza’a (south Gaza, near the border), where I got shot at on Friday reported hearing Israeli Apache helicopters and the booming of Israeli tanks all night yesterday.  Of course, this isn’t newsworthy.  Even Palestinians in Gaza think its normal. I was telling one of the university students who wants to be a journalist when she graduates that she should write about this stuff, how when Israelis suffer from shock it makes the front page but no one knows that Palestinian kids get shot at while playing or walking to school in Gaza.

She seemed to agree with me. “We in Gaza, we are shocked when they don’t shoot at us,” she said.

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