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15 January 2009: The al-Nadeem family

“Naser used to help the children with their school
work, especially English and mathematics. Now that is my duty. Nothing can
compensate me for the loss of my husband. He was always very tender,
understanding and calm.”

  Majda al-Nadeem with her sons Mohannad,
Firas, and Bashar

On 15
January 2009, shortly after 7:00, the Israeli army fired a tank shell and live
ammunition at Naser al-Nadeem and his two sons, Bashar (17) and Firas (15), who
were fleeing their home in the Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood of Gaza City. The two
boys sustained moderate injuries while their father was severely injured. After
9 months of intensive medical treatment in Egypt and Gaza, Naser al-Nadeem
eventually succumbed to his wounds. He was 44. Naser’s wife, Majda al-Nadeem
(45), is now a single parent of three sons, Mohanned (19), Bashar (17), Firas
(15), and two daughters, Dima (14) and Tala (9).


“What keeps
me going are my children, my children only. I am originally from Damascus and
met their father when he was studying there. We married in 1990 and I moved to
Gaza with him. I always think to return to Damascus to go and live with my
family, but I know that it is better for my children to be here in Gaza. This
is their home. I am doing whatever I can to protect them,” says Majda as she
smiles at her sons.


All the
responsibilities of the household are now on Majda’s shoulders, both with
respect to caring for the children and financially. “Naser used to help the
children with their school work, especially English and mathematics. Now that
is my duty. Nothing can compensate me for the loss of my husband. He was always
very tender, understanding and calm.”


explains how she struggles to provide for the most basic needs since Naser
died. “My husband used to have an engineering company with a partner and we
used to have a good life. Now everything has changed. I am always thinking of
how I can provide for my children; how will I bring food, pay for school,
electricity, water, everything? I have a lot of pressure on me and it affects
me psychologically. We received some payments from the Palestinian Engineers
Union and charity organizations but it is not enough or infinite. My family in
Syria also tries to help us out financially. They sent us money to repair our
house after the war. The bathroom, kitchen, and sewerage were destroyed and
there were smoke marks everywhere. Over the past three years our financial
situation has gotten worse. A few days ago our electricity was cut off because
we cannot pay for the bill.”


The children
have difficulties in comprehending the changed financial situation. Majda says:
“they want to have what the other children have, but I cannot provide it. They
also had to leave their [private]
school and change to a public school. It has been very difficult for them to
adapt to these changes. They are not convinced that I cannot provide them with
everything they want.”


The physical
injuries Bashar and Firas sustained in the attack still mark their daily lives.
Firas’ right knee was shattered by a bullet. His right leg is shorter as a
result and does not bend. Majda explains: “last year doctors placed platinum
inside his knee. Now Firas has to wait until he is an adult. Then doctors will
check what another surgery can do. But they also said it will never become the
way it used to be.” Firas says: “I used to play karate with Bashar but I can’t
do that anymore. I can’t really run either. Now I play ping pong.”


Bashar had
shrapnel wounds in his left leg and right arm, and back. His leg is deformed
and sometimes he has pain caused by infections and muscle damage. “Bashar is a
very sporting boy. He used to do karate but he changed to gymnastics because of
his injuries. Despite his injury, he insists on continuing his sports
activities,” says his mother.


Because of
their injuries Bashar and Firas were not able to go back to school until the
following semester. Majda called the Ministry of Education and told them that
they had to provide the boys with home schooling; “teachers came to teach mathematics,
Arabic and English at home, and the boys managed to end their school year with success.”


their optimistic and brave outlook on life, Majda and her children carry with
them the psychological scars of the offensive. “The war did change my children.
It was a very difficult experience, even for us as adults,” she says. “When we
hear explosions we feel fear and remember the war and the attack. If I am
afraid, then how must my children be feeling? In the year after his father was
killed, Firas would wake up at night and scream ‘I want my father’. Now he is
older and understands that his father will never come back. The school
performances of Bashar and Firas have been affected too. It is getting better,
but nothing is as it was before the war. Firas is also held back by his medical


“We are in
need of psychological support,” says Majda. “But the people working in this
field only visited us for their own interests; taking photos and videos, for
the benefit of their organization only.” Bashar adds: “once, a psychological
worker came to talk with me but I couldn’t stay with her. She was the one who
needed help. I told her that and then left the room.” Majda says: “the only
organization I really respect is MSF. The day after the children returned home from
the hospital they visited us and kept coming to our house for one year, until
the wounds of my children were healed.”


speaking about her outlook on the future, Majda says “I don’t have a clear
picture of what it will be like. What I am sure about is that I cannot
guarantee a nice future for my children. But I am trying to teach my children
that education is very important for their future and convince them to do well
in school.”


Majda is
uncertain whether the attack on her family will result in justice in an Israeli
court. “They targeted my husband and children, civilians. I am not sure if
there will be any result in a court. If there will be any results, they will
just make financial compensation and not bring my husband back to life,” she


submitted a criminal complaint to the Israeli authorities on behalf of the al-Nadeem
family on 23 June 2009. To-date, no response has been received.



The Narratives:

14 January 2009 – Muhammed Mousa

January 2009: Hibba al-Najjar

12 January 2009 – The Ayad Family

11 January 2009: The Hamouda Family

– 10
January 2009: Wafa al-Radea

9 January 2009 – The
Abu Oda Family

 8 January 2009: The Al-Rahel family

 7 January 2009 – The Mattar Family

– 6 January 2009: Al-Dayah family

-5 January 2009: Amal al-Samouni

– 4 January 2009: The Abdel Dayem Family

3 January
2009: Motee’ and Isma’il as-Selawy

– 2 January 2009: Eyad al-Astal

– 1 January 2009: The Nasla Family

 31 December 2008: The Abu Areeda family

– 30 December 2008: The Hamdan Family

29 December 2008: Balousha Family

 28 December 2008: The Abu Taima family

– 27 December 2008: The Al Ashi Family.