Dear Santa Claus:
Every year at the beginning of December, we put our Christmas tree up and decorate it. Our cats love to stay under the tree and play with the balls and decorations. We don’t take it down until mid-January, when my sister decides it’s time to put it away. According to her, it is to “maintain the Christmas joy and spirit, and feel happy every year.” I’m Muslim. Muslims in Gaza love Christmas. Christians and Muslims meet every year to celebrate this happy date and light a huge Christmas tree in the center of the YMCA youth organization.
I’m not sure you have received the updated lists of Gaza children. You have to know that this year many children in Gaza have died. No, Santa Claus, they weren’t naughty. Angelina Jolie once said in a speech that it was difficult for her to understand that another woman, with much more talent than her and capable of making better films, found herself in a refugee camp, unable to get food for her children and without a voice. . Like that woman, the children of Gaza have only committed the sin of being born in Gaza, facing death every minute.
I once read that “the soul is healed in the company of children.” Not our children, Santa Claus. Our souls hurt when we see their suffering up close. The other day, speaking on the phone with my friend, who is the mother of two adorable children, she told me that I am lucky to not have any. “My children are sad all the time, they are cold and afraid. My son told me that he wants to eat his favorite chocolate one more time before he dies.”
In reality, their children are lucky because they have found a place to take refuge. In this cold time, many children are in tents, the parents of some of them are so poor that they cannot afford to buy them anything. Last month there was a ceasefire and we were temporarily relieved, but now it is over and the situation is very difficult. No one is safe.
This year, if you come to Gaza – and please come – could you bring different gifts? I know you and the elves work all year to prepare them, but priorities have changed. Do not bring dolls or bicycles for the children. Instead, bring blankets, because they are cold. And although I love my friend’s son very much, don’t bring him her favorite chocolate; Bring him some food and flour, because the children of Gaza are hungry.
Also, can you bring an insulin injection for the woman who has a diabetic child and is looking for one at any price? Can you bring milk for our friend’s two-year-old daughter? Can you bottle doses of protection and hope and bring them to our children? And if you have some drops left, could you give them to us adults?
You won’t see Christmas trees, not because the children have stopped believing in you or don’t want to welcome you, but because families have burned the trees as firewood to keep warm at night. And there will be no chimneys, so please go to the schools where there are thousands of displaced people. Look for the tents, there you will also find children.
Santa Claus, if you come to Gaza, you won’t recognize it. The buildings have disappeared and the places that witnessed happy moments no longer exist. There is no electricity. Recently, I have been remembering a quote I read years ago in a book titled The Perks of Being a Wallflower [Las ventajas de ser un marginado]: “That moment when you know that you are not the protagonist of a sad story. Are you alive. And you wake up and see the lights of the buildings and everything that marvels you.”
Would you believe me if I told you that seeing lights on buildings is like realizing I’m alive? My friend told me that her biggest dream is that someone calls her and she can say, nonchalantly: “I’m not doing anything. I’m at home, resting”.
This year, everything is being tested: our ability to survive, our patience, our faith, and our humanity. We are exhausted, terrified and we don’t know if we will survive. Death surrounds us, it is omnipresent, we do not have the ability to mourn our loved ones, to hug them for the last time or to grieve. Maya Angelou said: “There is no greater agony than carrying an untold story inside.”
The vast amount of feelings and experiences bottled up in my head, my heart and my soul could fill the entire world we live in. Can you imagine the agony of all the children, mothers and fathers in Gaza right now? How many have already died without even sharing their dreams with the world. How many have lost their future without having a fair chance to achieve it?
A few days ago, I was with the neighbor’s son of the host family we also evacuated. We heard about a man who sells wood, so we walked more than an hour to find him. Since we didn’t have containers or bags to put the firewood in, he tied the pieces with wire to keep them together. On the way, he started pouring rain. The evacuees, in search of basic necessities, even in summer clothes, shivered. We all stayed on the side of the road waiting for the rain to stop.
I looked at the boy and told him that I believe in the power of prayer, especially when it rains. I told him to pray for something. Santa Claus, he didn’t pray for the game that he had talked about for almost an hour with me, nor did he ask for clothes. He said he was praying that this whole nightmare would end and that he and his siblings would be safe.
I wonder if on December 25 this nightmare will be over. Will I be alive, will I be able to be with my friends, exchange gifts and sing together jingle bells?
Sending you love from Gaza.
Translation by Emma Reverter