About Dr Majdi:
Dr Majdi Ashour is a Palestinian native of Gaza, a physician and a Fulbright scholar who achieved his Masters in Public health in the United States. He lives in Gaza City with his wife and two year old daughter. He is a long-time personal friend of mine, and one of the kindest people I know.
Being lucky in Gaza!
Personal Note by Dr. Majdi Ashour
I left the clinic where I work at 11:20 am in order to attend the defense of a Masters dissertation of a friend of mine which was scheduled to be held at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society building in Gaza. I got into a usual 7 passenger Mercedes’ Taxi .
While in the taxi on our way to Gaza, we heard a huge explosion, then we saw 2 huge Mushroom-like dust clouds going up into the sky. The taxi driver decided to change his direction from Salah Eldin Street to the Sea shore Street to reach our final distention in Gaza City. We were not sure what was up. The taxi driver turned the radio on alaqsa radio station – Hamas radio station. The radio declared that there was an air strike by Israeli air forces. One passenger began shouting that all traitors should be killed or transferred to Ramallah. The taxi reached a junction near the Palestinian Red Crescent Building which was blocked due to an air strike to a buiding neighboring it.
I crossed on my feet the ruins of a destroyed building as the taxi could not cross it. The building which was hit by Israeli Air Force’s F16 fighters was the ex-headquarters of the Preventive Security Forces which was seized by Hamas militants in June 2007.
When I reached the Palestinian Red Crescent building where the defense of the masters thesis was to take place, I noticed the damage incurred to the building; the windows and the doors were broken as a result of the destruction of the neighboring buildings; the grounds of the building and the hospital were covered by shrapnel from the broken windows.
Before entering the building , my eyes captured the frightened face of a woman looking for her daughter who had left her school during the air strikes. The air strikes took place around the time the children were leaving schools at 11: 30 am. At the entrance of the building I met the brother of my friend and his masters thesis supervisor. I shook hands with them; they told me that air fighters had bombed dozens of localities and more than forty people were reported dead at Gaza hospitals. I asked immaturely but naturally whether the dissertation’s defense would take place today as scheduled; they were reluctant, but the supervisor responded with confidence that it should. They left to inspect the office of the supervisor and to make sure that windows were not damaged.
I stepped up to the hall where the defense should take place; I shook hands with my friend, his wife and two daughters. My friend expressed his readiness to complete the task and defend his dissertation even in this atmosphere and without the new fashioned PowerPoint presentation, electricity, and the luxury of a full hall of audience and the expected celebration. The masters thesis of my friend is about the role of NGOs in providing health care services in Gaza Strip. I commented trying to show a sense of humor that his topic is highly political and so is the atmosphere.
An external examiner came to the hall carrying an envelop him, we shook hands with him. After a while, the university supervisor came with the brother of my friend. He told us that the internal examiner tried to contact him by the mobile unsuccessfully; he received a missed call from his home phone. I suggested that we could try to reach him using the land line of the hospital. The supervisor agreed to my suggestion. We went to the hospital. The hospital entry was crowded and the emergency room was oversaturated by dead and injured. We were told that the hospital had received 8 dead. We asked to use the phone of the hospital receptionist. The supervisor called the internal examiner, who was unable to reach the building where the defense is scheduled. Therefore, the defense was postponed.
I was told that 40 synchronized air strikes had taken place all over the Gaza Strip, of which 2 targeted a police station and a fire station in the suburb where my apartment is located. I realized that the 2 huge bombings that I saw while in the taxi on my way to Gaza were in the small suburb where my apartment is located. I became anxious; tried unsuccessfully to call the mobile of my wife; phone the land line of my home but no answer from home. I became more anxious.
I called my brother who lives in the neighborhood where the Red Crescent building is located, he told me that he is okay and that he called my home several times but no one answered. I walked to his home. He, the lucky, has an electricity generator at home. We watched the TV painfully and clicked on the internet explorer to know what was going on. He told me that the windows of the apartment of our other brother who live in the same suburb where I live, were broken after the air strikes. I tried to call home several times unsuccessfully. By the end, I succeeded in reaching my; she told me that she went to the neighboring apartment which has the windows damaged. She and our daughter were fine but horrified. The windows of our apartment are okay.
I phoned my parents, brothers, and uncle. Every body is alive and physically safe. I excused myself from my brother and left his apartment. I bought some candies for my daughter and took the taxi home.
I entered home; my two years old daughter smiled, then smartly showed me that she has learned a new phrase: “Ana Khayfa Baba” – ” I am afraid Baba”. I hugged her. My wife told me that we have only 4 pieces of small pita bread. I responded angrily that bakeries are run of cooking gas and wheat. She told the 4 pieces are enough for me, the hungry, and the daughter. I asked about her; she told that she will make stuffed eggplants. I went to the grocery store.
On my way to the grocery store, some of my neighbors were standing on the terrace of the building. I shook hands with them and congratulated them on their personal safety. They told me that almost all the windows of the buildings of the suburb where we live were damaged and only those of the few luckies were not. We exchanged ideas and thoughts about the unpredictable life and future of Gaza. One said this is the beginning. The second expressed his belief that they are interested in weakening the governing regime in Gaza but not liquidating it. I responded that we are expected to live in this way for decades. Another one, who is known to be a Fatah employee, said that it is better to live under Hamas rule than under a direct Israeli occupation and added that some Iraqis were interested in getting ride of Sadam regime but when USA troops came to Iraq, it killed over a million and a civil war was exploded. I excused myself and went to the grocery store; bought pretzels and eggs.
As unusual, I fried potatoes, onion, and eggs. I took a modest but delicious lunch with my daughter and wife. As the electricity was cut, I have nothing to do with my computer or the TV. I took the Arabic translation of Milan Kundera’s L’Ignorance, which I started reading yesterday by the kerosene light yesterday evening, to the bed to have my usual afternoon nap.
I got up before 5 pm, I lit the kerosene light and got back to Kundera. I took my dose of coffee and cigarettes. I played with my smart daughter and spoke with my wife. I completed reading the novel before 8 pm.
My wife went with our daughter to the bed. I had nothing to do except waiting for the electricity.
The electricity current came back at 9: 20 pm. I switched on the TV. I turned the TV to BBC arabic, Al-arabia, Al-Hurra, and Palestine TV Channel and also to Aljazeera, which I have ignored since the seizure of power in June 2007. The TV channels tell that more than 230 were killed and more than 700 were injured, among them serious cases. One TV channel showed a Palestinian leader donating blood to the injured in Gaza. I smiled; it is better to keep my O negative blood for an unexpected more dangerous emergency.
I got away from the switched on TV to the computer to type my personal notes about this bloodiest day in Gaza.