War is never easy on both sides—attacking or defending. The lives involved in wars as collateral damage leave scars on those who survive, especially children who see the terror every day and grow up with it. While Israel is fighting a war with Hamas after the surprise attack on October 7 by the terrorist group in the southern part of Israel, children here are in a state of fear, especially in Gaza where the war has gone beyond defending the country and more than six million people have fled from their homes.
Aged between 7 to 11, children are frightened, and no matter how much their parents try to save them from any negative news about the ongoing situation, children here are learning about each activity that unfolds. Not to mention, the constant missiles from both sides. Numerous Israeli and Palestinian children have been killed and many more injured since the onset of the Israel-Palestine war.
Why can’t we have peace? Ask the children in Israel
Sabrina Asher, mother of 11-year-old son Alon, finally explained to him what a war is. She says he is terrified of what’s going on in the country. He is agitated and lashes out a lot these days. “He jumps out on every small sound. He can’t beat anyone speaking loudly in the house. I tell him this war will end,” says Sabrina.
“The sound of the missiles is terrifying. My son runs at every sound he hears to find shelter,” she adds.
Amir Leder, a poet in Israel, has a 7-year-old son. On a usual weekend, they would spend time speaking about many things, but that has now changed. “I tell him what’s going on. And he asks, but why are children killed? We don’t know anyone who is killing,” says Amir.
“He asks me if I am brave when the war is going on. I said yes, which probably gives him strength.”
Ben Carasso has started reading about what war is. He is afraid if he loses his friends to war. “I know what’s happening, but it is not good. War is never good. Why can’t we have peace everywhere?" says seven-year-old Ben, who is not terrified by the sound of missiles but by how babies have been butchered in Be’er of Israel.
Israel is taking revenge for Hamas’ surprise attack, but the children on both sides pay the price without being at fault.
500 children killed in Gaza
On the other side of the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been shooting missiles non-stop, there are similar effects. According to the Palestinian health ministry, 500 children, among others, have been killed by Israeli air attacks, which makes up one-third of Palestinian fatalities in the Gaza Strip.
In the southern city of Rafah, near the Gaza Strip, lives Salema Manal. She is teaching her children to stay close to her and how to spot the light that comes with a missile, so they are prepared to take shelter.
“But then that’s all they are doing all the time. Looking for the light and any sound for them is a sound of a missile. They come running for shelter. They are terrified,” says Salema over the phone.
“My son, 11 sleeps with his hands covering his ears. I am worried about him. I am scared he will be emotionally and mentally damaged. I try to distract him by talking about our holidays and studies, but all he focuses on is listening to bombs and missiles,” says Saeed.
Wadi has three children, she says, “All of us sleep together now in one room. My husband tells them how he also grew up with this. And how he was strong and not afraid.”
Wadi’s second son, Saood, asks her if she is strong. “I tell him I try to be brave. I am worried that he may suffer from panic attacks for the rest of his life. He is constantly restless, even when there’s no missile.”
Mai, a six-year-old, has separation anxiety. She is sent to her grandmother’s home in Gaza City. She worries about her father, a doctor doesn’t come home every day and can’t talk over the phone. “I tell her to stay strong, and her father will come home soon. She thinks her father will be hit by a missile. I keep reassuring her that he is fine. I call his father to talk to her, but sometimes he doesn’t respond because of so many casualties in the hospital. I understand that, but Mai doesn’t. She fears a lot,” says Yonis.
Yael Ratnar, who lived in Ashkelon before the war broke and has been sent to a safe house in Tel Aviv tried to distract his children aged nine to 14 years old, through games.
“I sit with them in one room and play with them different games with their toys, so they can get distracted from the sounds of rockets and what they say that day,” says Yael.
“I can’t forget the images of children shown on TV. They are too small. There are images of so many injured people,” says Ben.
Displaced children bear the brunt of the war
Since the last 48 hours, many have fled to safe places in northern Israel from the south, and on the other side, many have been sent to the north from Gaza City. The children in both countries are displaced.
“Home is no longer a safe place for the children. I taught them to come back home when there is a problem. Now I am asking them to move out of the home because there’s a fear of any missile that hits my home,” says Fares Naima, who lived in Beit Hanoun, a heavily affected area in Gaza.
“My kids have been in shock since that morning. No matter what I do to calm them, it’s not helping. Kids still scream at the sound of missiles. They are still coming from Gaza,” says Morris Tei.