This is the most hard experience which anyone can face to wait and watch the missiles fall on your house. #GazaUnderAttack
— Jehad Saftawi (@Jehadsaftawi) August 23, 2014
This tweet from Gaza stopped me in my tracks this afternoon. For a moment, I put myself in this man’s shoes, standing on his street amid piles of rubble, watching for the missiles that will demolish my home. Waiting, watching… for weapons targeting my home.
His staccato dispatches tell of a harrowing day thus far. The Al-Zafer Tower crumbled to the ground. This stood 7 meters from his tower. Neighbors got calls from Israel telling them their building was next. He evacuated – with only the clothes he was wearing. And then this tweet that arrested my attention… watching and waiting for the missiles.
I try to wrap my mind around the scene on his street. Two heavy airstrikes this morning. A residential tower (11+ stories by my count) demolished. Body count unclear as dust and debris still cling to the air. Little in the neighborhood looks familiar now.
And they’ve called you, or a handful of you, to say your next. Truth or threat? The effect is the same – you run out with your life and what bit of hope you can still muster. Now you watch and wait for those missiles. You most-likely will see your home destroyed before nightfall. If not, you sit and know that your sense of home as a safe place is already in the ash heap. Your one pair of clothes might as well be sack cloth.
Jehad Saftawi is a Palestinian photojournalist living in Gaza. Soon he might be homeless. It is only by a very thin thread of tweets and photographs that we are connected at all. But while he is standing on the street, I am standing in lament alongside him and his neighbors.
Lament seems to be a perpetual posture these days. I bend under the weight of sadness, the sight of our brokeness. I cry tears for my children and the children of mothers I do not even know. I worry after the welfare of a photojournalist and his neighbors. In such moments I glimpse the deep fracture that I imagine cuts to the molten core of the earth… and I groan with all of creation.
This gut-wrenching groaning is the closest I come to feeling a kinship with nature, these times I sit on the earth’s floor and know we are shared substance in our anguish at the state of things. I’m learning what the earth knows – we are pulling this world apart with wars. I lay prostrate on the ground, mourning in tandem and waiting for redemption.
The longer we fight, the less we farm, the further off is The Feast. This, too, Creation knows.
I roll over onto my back and look beyond the clouds and field of blues. I dream of airstrikes averted because the jets have been converted into agricultural aircraft and are on a hydro-seeding run right now. I dream of useless missiles now only valuable for their metal, now melted and refashioned into shovels, quick hitches and rotary tillers. I dream of plantations of shalom as far as the eye can see… Creation redeemed.
Why is this the way for me? Lament and imagination connected like the inhale and exhale? But I cry and dream. I lament and imagine. I watch and wait for missiles even as I envision weapons transfigured mid-air.
We watch and wait for more than missiles. We watch and wait for transformation… though it feels a long way off on days like today.
“How lonely sits the city that once was full of people!
How like a widow she has become…
She weeps bitterly in the night…
But there are none to comfort, none to comfort, none to comfort.”