Children in Gaza have lived through three major conflicts in six years. In the summer of 2014, more than 500 children were killed in a 51-day war, all but one of them Palestinian. (BBC documentary 2015) Khaled Juma wrote this piece as a tribute to the children of Gaza, who disappeared amidst the missiles striking his hometown. His poem was inspired by the children that used to play under his window.
About Khaled Juma
Khaled Juma is a poet and children stories writer from Gaza, Palestine. Born in Rafah (1965) he was raised in Al-Shaboura Refugee Camp in the Gaza Strip. He has a vast portfolio of publications in a variety of genres: poetry, short stories, children’s stories. Khaled Juma’s children’s books “have a distinguished content, that is both inspiring and constructive, put in a fun engaging narration that both adults and children enjoy.“ But he also had a role in covering the war against Gaza and wrote articles that were translated to several languages, as well as other articles that are worth being translated and published as “they reveal unsaid and undocumented prospectives of war.“ In his non-poetic articles, Khaled Juma redefines the understanding of war, as he opens the eyes of his readers to persepectives untold by news reporters and unseen by spectators. (Nida N. Awine)
|“Oh, Rascal children of Gaza”|
“Oh, Rascal Children of Gaza” is a poem that tells the stories of Gaza children in words and pictures. It was originally published on August 24, 2014, illustrated with photographs of children playing, and also photographs showing the devastating consequences to children of the results of hate. (See the illustrated poem here).
The first lines:
Oh rascal children of Gaza,
You who constantly disturbed me with your screams under my window
The corresponding picture shows a Palestinian boy, who fled with his family from their home during air strikes, bathing his brother at a United Nations-run school in the Jabalya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
The photography chosen for the next lines show an intuition for what the poem does not spell out:
a Palestinian girl reacting at the scene of an explosion.
a traumatized Palestinian child who is comforted by a man arranging care for him in a hospital in Gaza City following an air strike.
a Palestinian child pulling out toys from a box at a local market in Gaza City during a temporary ceasefire.
a Palestinian boy sleeps at a United Nations-run school in Gaza City.
doctors tending to injured children while a young girl sitting on her mother’s lap cries at a hospital in Rafah.
a Palestinian girl crying while being treated at a hospital following after sustaining injuries from an air strike.
two Palestinian girls celebrate the first day of Eid Al-Fitr in the Jabalya Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
a one-and-a-half year child, who was fatally hit by shrapnel from an air strike Her father carries her body to the funeral.
the portrait of a girl, 8, fixed to a pillar in her home, after a tank fired a shell into the living room.
The last lines of the poem:
Come back –
And scream as you want,
And break all the vases,
Steal all the flowers,
Just come back…
Shammas Oliyath from Kerala/India made a video from this poem. He assembled the lines of the text and the images with dynamically arranged excerpts from the photo descriptions and added background music. You may find it here. He used a background music which he had composed earlier. Shammas Oliyath tweeted (August 28, 2014)
I hope this poem and the video and the efforts of people of this site and the many others spending their time and energy will help spread the message of the sufferings at Palestine and will wake up the whole world against the atrocities. In Sha Allah … (For more information on Shammas Oliayad see here.)
Responses to the poem
wordsfm wrote (August 24, 2014 )
A heartrending poem with heartbreaking photographs. … I watch the news and keep updated … but sometimes find the scale of the death and destruction hard to comprehend. I understand that land is at the heart of the matter, that some throwaway comment on an outdated charter is being used by the IDF as propaganda to somehow justify this horrific war. When will humanity be at the heart of the matter? I fear for the children of Gaza, I pray for them but most of all, I hope for them.
patjourdan wrote (August 27, 2014 )
While England goes about celebrating the First World war as if it was something out of Shakespeare, these real life actual children are being hunted down. I’m miles away but thinking and praying of you – and all threatened children, all over the world. This poem, ‘ Oh rascal children of Gaza ‘ sums it up perfectly, the fleeting magical presence of small children and how they can light up our lives.
In “Unseen Aspects of War” (The Edinborough Arabic Initiative (17 July 2014) Khaled Juma wrote:
The most dangerous thing that happens in war is what is not said, what is not photographed, and what is not talked about. It is not just stories that are told here and there to stir up peoples’ emotions and make them cry, but it is the real crime against humanity: the crime that does not receive attention because the sound of blood is always louder. However, in the end the tragedy is the tragedy, and it is huge, but should not override our sense of the small tragedy. This is not a comparison between what happens in democratically advanced countries and what happens in Palestine, especially in Gaza, but it is an attempt to convey an image of what it means to live in a state of war, even if your house is not bombed, your son is not killed, and your wife is not injured.
See also “What Would I Tell You If I Were There? a poem by Khaled Juma, dedicated “To the boy abandoned at the edge of a homeland abandoned at the edge of a boy“.
Awine, Nida N. “Khaled Juma Poet, Author, and Children’s Books Author“. klaledjuma.net.
gloucester2gaza. “Destruction of Gaza“.
Khaled Juma on Facebook.
Juma, Khaled, poetry collections: Nothing Walks in this Dream, 2015, So the Gypsie Wouldn’t Love You, 2012, As Horses Alter, 2011, Such Is the Habit of Cities, 2009, You Still Resemble Yourself, 2004, Therefore, 2000, Irrelevant Texts, 1999, Thus, the Khalife Begins, 1996, Rafah; Alphabet, Distance and Memory, a joint production with Othman Hussein, 1992.
Kishawi, Sami. “ Illustrated Poetry: ‘Oh rascal children of Gaza .“ Sixteen Minutes to Palestine. (August 24, 2014).
Juma, Khaled. “Unseen Aspects of War”. Translated by Kevin Moore. The Edinborough Arabic Initiative (17 July 2014)
Juma, Khaled. “Sixteen poems.” Poem Hunter.