I can’t tell my kids it’s fireworks anymore. They are older now, my daughter is 15, my sons are 12, 6, and 3. Each time it happens, I can’t believe that we survived. This last Israeli bombing campaign, it shook the walls of our house. I hate that I cannot protect my children, I hate that I cannot tell them they will be safe and everything will be OK and not know if I am lying or not.
We don’t have air raid sirens here. We know that the bombs are falling once they have arrived although sometimes the Isrealis will text a warning, or send a smaller bomb before the big one arrives, they call that a “soft knock”. We don’t want war. We just want safety, but Israel punishes all of us, traps all of us.
I will never forget one specific moment years ago: I was on the phone with my mother, and the sound of explosions almost burst my eardrums as the smoke filled the room. I swung into action, telling my mother to take care of the kids, not knowing if I’d ever see them again. And yet it was just one of many days I had experienced before, and I would experience again countless times while covering the war in 2014.
People often ask me why I am doing this. The answer isn’t simple.
Every time, every job, every war, I keep asking myself if my work is worth dying for. But showing the world the cruelty of war and, most importantly, giving a voice and a face to the people of Palestine is what keeps me going. This is in spite of the terrifying dreams that invade my sleep and the utter terrifying reality of life in Gaza. Even in my sleep, I can not escape the reality we are living in.
My name is Ameera Harouda, I’m the first female fixer who’d worked with the foreign press in the Gaza Strip. Being a journalist was not a childhood dream of mine. As a kid, I dreamt of being a pilot. I was daydreaming about being close to the stars looking down at my country without seeing any borders, bullets, or bombs. But growing up, I realized that being a pilot is just a dream built upon clouds, not reality.
I faced reality, and despite all the obstacles, I became a journalist. It’s not a typical job for a woman in Gaza. But from the day I found my destiny, my father supported me. Later, my husband stood by my side no matter what challenges, persecution, or threat of prosecution transpired. I envisaged that being a journalist would give me the opportunity to fly all over the world and explore and tell the stories of the people. But soon, I found out that being a Palestinian journalist in Gaza means there is only one story to tell, and that is the horror of war.
My children are even more eager to explore the world than I am because I have encouraged their dreams. As a mother, what else can I do? But no matter how much I try to paint a picture of freedom, their daily life is lived through the lens of persecution, confinement, terror and war. Children on the other side of the imaginary border can travel across the country or fly to another one. My children can not walk safey down the street. They ask me why but I struggle to answer.
My family and I, we can not travel or see other countries. If we want to leave Gaza, we have to apply for permission. One option if from the Eraz crossing, that the Israeli’s control. I was actually able to cross through it twice before, but then the third time I applied it was rejected for “security reasons.” The other crossing is Rafah, controlled by Egypt. Hundreds of thousands apply to leave through there, but only a handful are let through everyday. And then there is the question of where to go, which country would grant us asylum, how do we start over, and how can we leave out country? We are imprisoned by so many factors within our own land, there are more than two million of us here, in this tiny piece of land. It is only my work, my reporting that can reach beyond this open-air prison and show the world what life is like for us.
It is hard to think of normal life while drones observe every single moment of your life, sending messages that we can not escape the reality of being under occupation no quiet night or day.
Currently, the situation here has become even more volatile, with talks of a new extreme escalation being expected. Being a mother, I have to balance between being an impartial reporter and having emergency escape bags at the ready. What are your children’s school bags filled with? Books? Lunchbox? My kids’ bags have emergency first aid kits and clothes to facilitate their survival in the event of missile strikes. What do your children dream about? My kids’ dreams aren’t as ambitious as mine were – they want to go to the zoo to see giraffes, elephants, and crocodiles, counting clouds from inside an airplane. Not too hard to fulfill you’d think? Still, for kids in Gaza, it is impossible.
The children of Gaza are used to the sounds of drones or missile strikes that could change their lives in a fraction of a second. All their dreams are bound with chains and padlocked shut with no key to be found.
With my work I’d like to give my kids a better future. It’s something I keep in mind every day. Working with different political currents and working with foreign journalists. It’s not the easiest job. You don’t know who can be trusted, and you need people to trust you. My work is showing the world what’s happening in Gaza. But a lot of journalists come here having their own ideas and narratives – that are often contrary to reality. And that’s why it’s my responsibility and dare I say unshakable duty to explain the situation with visual evidence and without being biased. Having the truth as my guiding light.
When the bombs fall, everyone looks for safety, but I – I go to those hottest spots to be the impartial eyes and ears for the millions. While ensuring the safety of the teams I work with, I rely on my husband to protect our kids and on God to protect me so that one day I can make my children’s dreams come true.
I hope one day I’ll be running to report about the celebrations of freedom and peace, but for now, I will always go wherever I am needed, no matter the danger.