Messages from Gaza Now / 2

18 December, 2023
Firsthand accounts of the war by a theatre-maker reporting from rubble of Gaza.


Hossam Madhoun


Butterfly Effect

I was lucky yesterday; I secured a sack of 25kg of bread flour (five times the original price). It is enough for two weeks for the 18 people at home. I even expect to have, hopefully, half a cylinder of cooking gas, six kg, also could be good for ten days (also triple the original price).

Wood for fire is rare. Gaza Strip is so small and the agricultural area very limited — no woods or jungles. People have started to cut living trees to get wood for fire although fresh trees are wet and do not burn and do not make fire. Yet, people are desperate so they do whatever they can to survive. Poor Gaza. No trees will remain. Olive trees are slaughtered; trees in the streets are all shaved. Who can blame people who have no alternatives? Desperate situations are always driving people to desperate measures.

Going back home from the market on a wooden cart pulled by a poor, weak donkey, I saw a small, white butterfly flying side by side with the donkey for more than five minutes. It was so lovely to see something of beauty in the middle of this darkness. It made me smile until I remembered reading that in some cultures, the white butterfly is a sign of death coming. Personally I do not believe in such superstitions, but to be honest, the idea did not leave my head.

At night more than 500 human beings killed in Gaza, from north to south. The majority were children and women.

Writing this piece, around me intense bombing and shelling did not stop at all. Hundreds of people are being killed at this time. Maybe me and my family will be among them, who knows? All those who were killed, more than 22,000 human beings who have been killed during the last 55 days, did not know that they were going to be killed in this brutal way.

Poor butterfly, I don’t blame you at all. You are beautiful. I know it is not you or your effect. I know that it is the Israeli Occupation Army who killed, mercilessly, all these people.

p.s. I like butterflies.


Untold Story from Olympus

While sitting bored on his throne at the top of Olympus, Zeus ran his fingers through his long beard, looking down at Earth. There were lights in many places on Earth; there was darkness in many places as well. But he noticed a spot of light shining more than any other place. It was not artificial light; it was not sunlight, nor moon or starlight. He looked closer. It is coming from there, from a tiny place on the Mediterranean, a place called Gaza.

He wonders, what is shining there? There should be darkness in that place so what is shining?

Lucifer was not far and he heard the wonderings of Zeus. He said in his deep, low voice — these are the children and women of Gaza. They always shine. How does the God of Gods not know that?!

Zeus, frustrated that he did not know, said: “I want some of them here. Whoever can bring some of them now will be rewarded.”

Lucifer said: “Only the Army of the Dead can bring you these children and women.”

Zeus was shaken, “No! Not this army! They are brutal. They are gruesome, fierce, horrifying, inexorable, merciless, hideous.”

Lucifer: “This is the only army that can make your wish come true.”

Other Gods: “Please, no, not this army. Not the Army of the Dead. Take any other army. Send the Amazons, they are good and strong. Send the Trojan army or send any one of us and we will bring them to you. Send Mars, Neptune or Hera. Send Hercules or Axel but not this army.”

Zeus, as usual, acts as he always acts. He acts selfishly. His will is an order, his dreams must come true, and his wish must be met.

Zeus with his loud voice, holding high his lightning rod to spread fear among the other Gods, said: “Silence. No comment. No one speak. Let it be. Send the Army of the Dead. Get me some children and some women from that Gaza. My desire is a demand and my demands are orders. Send the Army of the Dead now.”

All the Gods looked angrily at Lucifer. They wanted to kill him. But he is protected by the God of Gods.

Lucifer said: “Lord, you know that the Army of the Dead has demands too.”

Zeus: “What demands?”

Lucifer: “No one should ask or question the means they will use to get you the children and women and no one can ask them to stop until they stop. Do you swear to do this?”

Zeus: “This is an Oath of Zeus, the God of all Gods.”

The Army of the Dead was waiting with anxiety and joy, waiting for Lucifer to give them the good news. He was not late, he arrived with the happy news.

Lucifer said in his deep voice: “Go, my friends, put the Palestinian to the sword. You are free, with no questioning, don’t stop until you quench your thirst with their blood.”

The Army of the Dead did not wait until he finished his speech. They launched their heavy hammers, their swords and spheres, their daggers and knives into the bodies of the Palestinian children and women.

Palestinian men were there, helpless, unable to do anything but to weep in pain and sorrow. Just like Prometheus in his chains.

Hundreds and hundreds of children and women ascended to the Throne Hall of Zeus. Group after group.

Zeus looks at them. They are not shining anymore, they have lost their beauty, they are not as he saw them from the top of Olympus. They are arriving in pieces, some are beheaded, some are without arms or legs, some are cut in half. Zeus starts to get frustrated, this is not what he wanted.

The Gods said with one voice: “Yes, this is what you wanted.”

Zeus: “I asked for some, for a few children and women. Some means three to four, ten but not tens, not hundreds, not thousands.”

All the Gods: “You get what you ask for.”

Zeus: “Why do they slaughter their men? Why do they destroy their homes? Why do they cut their trees down? Why do they burn their fields? Why do they kill their cattle? Why do they deprive them of food and water? Why?”

All the Gods: “You get what you ask for.”

He called for Lucifer but Lucifer had disappeared. Lucifer hid among the Army of the Dead. Zeus became angry. He shouted “Enough.” But his loud voice was covered by the screams of the Palestinians and the roars of the Army of the Dead. Children and women continued ascending with no light, with no shine, ascending dead. The Throne Hall started to be filled with their bodies. The huge hall, which could contain all the Gods, half-Gods, their wives and children and even their servants, became full — completely full up to the ceiling with piles of bodies. Thousands of Palestinian children, thousands of Palestinian women and thousands of Palestinian men.

Zeus on his throne astonished, speechless, unable to break his oath. And while all the Gods were watching him sadly, helplessly, they saw something they had never seen before. They saw Zeus with tears in his eyes. Tears of regret. Tears of sorrow, tears of weakness. The God of all Gods is crying for the Gaza bloodshed and yet the Army of the Dead continues putting the sword into the soft flesh of Palestinian children and women.

Survival Recipe

How can one survive war in a very small place, where bombing, shelling, bombardment, striking, shooting is everywhere? Where there is no way to predict the next strike, especially when civilians are the main target?

How to find a safe place?

How to secure food and water when there is no food or water allowed in?

How to get health treatment when you get sick while hospitals are targeted and no medical supplies are allowed in?

How to provide safety and comfort for your children when you can’t even have it for yourself?

How to find shelter when homes, houses, buildings are deliberately hit?

How to keep warm when there is no electricity to put on a heater, or no winter clothes available in the market, or when you have no money to buy them even if some are available?

How to cook your food when cooking gas is not allowed in?

How to escape? To leave the city which becomes a battlefield and is locked and closed and there is no way out but to your grave, if you can find a grave and find someone to put you in it?

The answer is: I DON’T KNOW.

Annoying Words

The most annoying words I hear are coming from journalists and politicians and official representatives of UN agencies and political analysts when they describe things in Gaza.

Words such as “difficult.”

For example: 

When the Shifa Hospital was surrounded by the Israeli army and bombed after depriving it from water, electricity, oxygen, food;

When injured people in the ICU are dying one after another;

When newborn babies in the incubators are dying one after another;

When sick people suffocated because there is no oxygen;

When corpses are rotting in the sun and no one can bury them or move them; 

A clever representative of the WHO, or a smart journalist:

What????? Difficult!!!

Sir, when you have an argument with your wife, you come and say it was difficult. When you don’t find milk for your morning coffee, you say it is a difficult situation. When you look for a taxi to get to work on time and don’t find one, then it is difficult. When you try to convince your son to stay with the babysitter, and he is stubborn and does not listen, you can say it is difficult.

What is happening at Shifa Hospital is not difficult. It is a massacre. It is a crime against humanity. It is terror in its worst form.

Screw difficult.

Fire Belt

When the Israeli Occupation Army hit, strike and destroy a row of 20-30 buildings, which would include hundreds of apartments, homes and houses, stores and markets:

A journalist appearing with his bulletproof vest and helmet or a political analyst with a tie round his neck, describe the action by saying that the Israeli army created a fire belt in Yarmouk Street.

What? “Fire Belt”???!!!

It is homes, it is belongings, it is shelters, it is the warm places, it is the comfort after a long day’s work, it is memories, it is all that people have, it is their beds and sofas, it is their TVs and kitchens, it is their favorite cups and plates. In every corner of these hundreds of houses they have memories, everything they have they chose themselves, over years and years of working hard to save money and buy it, in order to use it, and enjoy it. It is the beds of their children, it is the blanket they chose because they liked its color, it is their photos on the walls and where they planned their children’s futures. It is their past and their planned future.

Screw “fire belt.”


Messages from Gaza Now by Hossam Madhoun appears courtesy of Jonathan Chadwick and Az Theatre, in London.

Hossam Madhoun is the co-founder of Gaza’s Theatre for Everybody. The war in Gaza has made productions impossible. As project coordinator for the local nonprofit Ma’an Development Agency in Rafah, Madhoun and the theater’s co-founder Jamal Al Rozzi now dedicate their energies to therapy programs for traumatized children. Theatre for Everybody has been in creative partnership with Az Theatre in London since 2009. In Messages from Gaza Now, Hossam Madhoun has written about his wife Abeer, his daughter Salma and his invalid mother and their experiences and that of relations and friends during the war. These near daily accounts have been collected and edited by theater director Jonathan Chadwick and actress Ruth Lass, who recently said in an interview, “Hossam’s writing is amazing, he is so open and articulate, vulnerable and poetic in the way that he writes which is something that should be shared with other people. You will not come across anything like this in the mainstream media.” A staged reading of The Messages from Gaza Now #3, directed by Chadwick, has been turned into a film by Jonathan Bloom, Nicholas Seaton, and Maysoon Pachachi.


Bombing of GazaGaza warlife and deathlife in GazaPalestine

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *