Only a day after an indefinite ceasefire was announced, I made my way into Shejaia, a Hamas-dominated neighborhood, to piece together photos of the wreckage. There was destruction everywhere, 'loss' in a heap, a mess, a reflection the hopelessness. But beyond the rubble, the image that caught the corner of my eye made a lasting impression...
The prayer-rug itself was not pointed toward the direction of Mecca as custom during the Calls to Prayer, there were no Calls to Prayer ringing out in Gaza at the time, it was not even pointed to Israel as if to curse it. Instead, the man’s prayer-rug was pointed toward his home.
Swallowing hard, I raised my camera.
He tried to prop up his wide shoulders, but I could tell they were heavy. His arms at his side, his eyes focused. He dipped to his knees, fell forward to his hands, slowly and brought his head to the mat, prostate in prayer, he lingered before retreating to his knees, rocking forward then back as he prayed.
I imagine, for the restoration of his home, for the loss to be rebuilt, for the rubble to be washed away, the man prayed. The small village outside of Gaza City was nothing more than crushed stone, glass and burnt metals strewn through the streets.
The war is not over for them. For those in Gaza who returned to Shejaia or for those coming out from underneath the piles of debris, the war for survival has only begun.
After weeks of raining bombs and rockets shaking through the windows, after the raging battle is over, there is nothing left but to start from the bottom.
Broken stone into dust is a devastating picture. With so much brokenness around them, they will have to find the strength to keep cleaning, keep working through the mess and ultimately find the strength to rebuild.
What is on the outside reflects the inside of a human being. And the pain of bombardment, an abused existence with captors and the desperation to get out of an open cage play into hopelessness.
Still the man prayed. I can only believe he brought his confusion, his pain to the prayer mat seeking an answer, seeking a way to gain the strength he’ll need to wade through the wreckage.
No significant gain from the Cairo talks, the Palestinian people must find a way to no longer live defeated - and this man, on his knees knows just that.
He must find the hope survive, to live, to break through the barriers that have kept him in. When survival is all he knows, grieving seems to never end. Insha'Allah Mercy be upon him.