“She Still Had So Much to Give”:

Killed in the Israeli-Hamas Conflict

By “Amina”

As told to Cliff Williams

Edited by Cliff Williams from a recorded and transcribed conversation with Amina on November 20, 2023. “Amina” is the pseudonym of a Palestinian American who was a longtime friend of a Palestinian woman who lived in Gaza. Amina’s friend was killed early in November by an Israeli airstrike. 

I was born in the United States, but lived in the West Bank from first to sixth grade. While there, I made lifelong friends with a number of girls at the school I went to. I have kept in contact with them over the years via social media and phone calls, including with one who became a teacher at a United Nations’ school that was in a refugee camp in Gaza. She and her family were born in that refugee camp and had been living there when the Israeli-Hamas conflict started.

On October 8 of this year, when Israel responded to Hamas’s October 7 attack, I began connecting with my friend daily by phone, text, or FaceTime. When we talked via FaceTime, I could hear people screaming and could see the flickering light from exploding bombs. It was like I was watching a movie while she was living it.

My friend was moving from place to place in Gaza after the October 8 attack, living in fear and hoping to be safe from the Israeli bombs. She told me at one point that she was heading to her brother’s home in the refugee camp so that they could all be together.

Near the beginning of November, her brother, who is married and has three children, said that the area they were in was going to be bombed soon and that they needed to move. But there was uncertainty about where they should go. If they went south, they thought they would be bombed, and the same if they went north. They were trapped.

The bombing was constant. People were getting scared, because they were going to run out of water and food. They went to the grocery stores to get as much food as they possibly could. But the stores were closed because of the bombing. Some shopkeepers had put their food outside so that people could come and take it.

Anything could happen, and no one knew what was coming next. My friend and her brother’s family didn’t sleep. Her brother’s children, who were all under the age of eleven, were crying. The neighbors huddled together.

My friend wanted to go to the Indonesian hospital in Gaza but was told not to go there because of rumors that Hamas was hiding in hospitals and that Israel would bomb the hospitals. “Maybe Israel won’t attack a school,” she thought. When the United Nations’ school my friend had taught at became a shelter, she and her brother and his wife decided it would be safer to go to the school. 

On November 2, my friend told me that they were all going to go to the school the next day. They would travel separately in case something happened. She would go with one of her brother’s children, and her brother, his wife, and the two other children would go later in the day.

On November 3, I saw on the news that the school was bombed.

I didn’t want to think the worst, so when I didn’t hear from my friend, I thought she might have lost the internet connection while she was traveling. Or maybe there wasn’t a good connection at the school. I kept trying to call her and kept looking for a text message from her. I could hear her voice. She had been scared and had kept saying, “Why won’t they stop bombing? I can’t understand why they won’t stop.”

I didn’t have her brother’s number, so I tried contacting other friends from our school. All of us were trying to contact each other. We finally got through to someone who had a brother who knew my friend’s brother. We found out, on November 7, that my friend’s brother could not find my friend and that he assumed she had been killed in the bombing. I still kept trying to text her even though I knew she wasn’t alive.

Later, we found out that my friend’s brother had found my friend’s body, plus his son’s body. I had lost a dear friend, and her brother had lost his sister and one of his children. They thought they had been running toward a safe shelter but had run right into the lion’s den.

I think about my friend every day and sometimes cry when I do. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and she still had so much to give as a teacher and had so much life left in her. Her death hurts. You believe you are going to see someone again, but you are not.

I often wonder how she died and whether she knew she was dying. Did she die under the rubble? Was she suffocating? What were her last minutes of life like? 

When I listen to the news now and hear about people who are losing family, I can’t help but think of those moments right before they die. I think too of the little kids my friend told me about. They were running around at the hospitals trying to find their parents. But they had no parents anymore. 

People were writing their names on each other’s arms and also on the back of their necks in case their arms were dismembered from their bodies. That is how my friend’s nephew was identified: they found only parts of him.

There was no memorial service for either my friend or her nephew. There aren’t any memorial services right now, because no one is hanging out outside. Everyone is running around finding bodies they are trying to wrap up in white shroud.

Some of the aid trucks that went into Gaza had shrouds for the dead. The fabric of the shrouds was really nice, my friend said. That’s what she probably got wrapped in.


 © 2023 by Cliff Williams

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