Writing as bombs fall, in both Gaza and Tel Aviv

A young writer's blog from Gaza: missiles and phone calls from the Israeli Defense Forces

Last week’s review of “The Book of Gaza” in the Guardian called the writing “uneven,” but praised the book overall as “a fascinating series of snapshots into a culture at time of crisis.” The anthology of short fiction by Palestinian writers was published in July by the British nonprofit Comma Press.

The Guardian review singled out Najlaa Ataallah for praise for her story "The Whore of Gaza.” Born in 1987, Ataallah is an engineering student. The protagonist of her work of short fiction is a 33-year-old virgin who “muses on her sexuality and the adulterous relationship” in which she’s involved.

Now Ataallah and many other contributors to “The Book of Gaza” have been writing missives from Gaza as Israeli bombs fall on the territory. Ataallah’s blog is being translated into English, and offers a day-by-day account — often breathless and desperate — of living in a war zone and in the presence of death. 

On “Day 13,” of the siege, the electricity was once more cut off, but Ataallah (her name is spelled differently on her blog) found that her cellphone was still working. It rang with a message from the Israeli Defense Forces, she wrote. “To the residents of the Shojae’ya and Zaytoon neighborhood, you are requested to evacuate your home immediately, and leave towards the middle of the city,” the message said.

Ataallah’s response: “You become silent but you are screaming inside, ‘Damn you, bastards! Where will we go? Where will we go under your gun machines, jet fighters and arsenal? Are you going to let us leave in peace?...’”

During a six-hour truce she decided to “go out to the streets and observe people. Banks are open, so people can withdraw their salaries. Maybe I could go witness this little happiness!”

Ataallah’s most recent post found her seeking shelter in a hospital courtyard, but finding misery there. “The yard of the hospital is like a morgue that wraps everyone inside with a white coffin and does not bury them, but tortures them to the last drop of blood,” she wrote.

Fifty miles to the north, in Tel Aviv, the distinguished Israeli writer Amos Oz sat in another hospital. He was recovering from surgery, and at one point was urged to take shelter from the missiles being fired from Gaza, according to a report in the Jewish Daily Forward.

Oz’s daughter, Fania Oz-Salzberger, told the Forward that her father has kept writing despite the air raid warnings and wasn’t frightened by the missiles.

“The real danger in these tough days does not come form the Hamas rockets [but] the dangerous escalation of hate speech, of nationalist extremism,” she said.

Amos Oz was a founder of Peace Now and one of the first proponents of a two-state solution after the Six Day War. He “has opposed and still opposes” the Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, his daughter said.

Hector tweets about topics literary as @TobarWriter

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