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Hebh Jamal

Feb 18, 2024

I am sitting here in bed with you in my arms. It is 11:59 PM, and you are fast asleep. Did you know you sleep talk? Yes at 21 months, you sleep talk. Sometimes you just chuckle and then roll to the other side, and other times you manage to touch my face and say “mama” while your eyes are closed.

I am looking up at the ceiling fan and it’s lying perfectly still. Our vases are on the shelves- we’re not afraid of them falling. The windows are closed when we sleep. It gets chilly at night.

Then you wake up to the sound of birds chirping at our window on our clean white sheets. We don’t hear anything except the birds here.

You open your eyes and I am the first thing you see. If I am not there, you don’t panic, you just come to the living room and give me a hug.

I couldn’t fall asleep like you, however. I was too busy holding you, and thinking of those who look like you, breathe like you, related to you.

You are from a place where 21 month olds never sleep with messy hair. Your cousin told me he likes to comb it in case he never wakes up. “I want to die while looking nice” he said.

You are from a place where 21 month olds do not sleep talk. They wake up multiple times at night afraid that the ceiling fan falls on them.

You are from a place where no house has vases and the windows at night are always open. Leaving them closed will guarantee shattered glass.

You are from a place where 21 month olds do not sleep on clean white sheets. Instead, they are buried in them.

You are from a place where if 21 month olds wake up and do not find their mothers next to them- it is most likely they will never see her again.

I do not know why I felt the need to tell you this. You won’t read this letter for a decade or two. But I wanted to remind you that the place you are from, despite the proximity of death, is a place worth remembering, worth loving, worth being proud of.

To be from Gaza means that you are a child of extreme creativity. Did you know your older cousins can power a generator using just cooking oil? And your cousin Shahd knows how to crotchet the most beautiful dolls for you. A few weeks ago she made you a rabbit with overalls. You loved it.

To be from Gaza means you know how to live life, oftentimes because it is not guaranteed. It means you feel the beauty of our waters, and don’t mind sleeping on the fine hot sand. Children from Gaza don’t put on sunscreen- they don’t mind feeling the sun’s touch.

​To be from Gaza means seeing those who look like you perish in an instant. It means hearing the country where you live tell you that they deserve it. It means seeing the number of thousands of Palestinian children dead- and growing numb to it since we don’t hear their stories, know their names or see their photo collages on our screens.

Instead, we just see them wrapped in bloody white sheets if they are lucky enough to even be whole when they die.

But, my love, being from Gaza means you can understand deep love and deep hatred better than others. You understand that the talking heads’ hatred of you is not a reflection of you. Your humanity is intact and your faith even stronger. Theirs is the one that is so deeply lost.

Being from Gaza means you understand that the success of the Palestinian people, of your people, means the success of the down-trotted everywhere. From Ferguson to Mexico, to Palestine- being from Gaza means you know that justice is the most important human pursuit a person can have. Even if they dehumanize you like they do to all other Black and brown folks, being from Gaza means you know that all walls and empires fall. Eventually.

Our resilience is stronger than their hatred.

Remember Gaza, for being from such a marvelous, beautiful, creative place means you understand that it is worth fighting for. Such a place can never die.

I love you.


Your mother

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