Now I Am My Mother, Weeping...
I Could Not Save a Single Child
By ELLEN CANTAROW
When I was a child my mother used to cry, "I couldn't save a single
Now I am my mother: I cannot save a single child in Gaza.
Not the ones wrapped in green cocoons lying row on row, surrounded by
throngs of grieving men. I cannot comfort the fathers who jump up and
down in agony, screaming as their children lie dead before them on the
I cannot comfort the mother whose eyes, ravaged and blanked by terror,
stare beyond me from the photograph, nor save the little one with
bloodied, bruised face who stands beside her, nor the older brother, the
only two who survived of six. I cannot say, "Come, we have a big,
comfortable basement with a bed for you and the children, and a bath,
and plenty of food. We will take you and shelter you." I cannot welcome
them to a home full of calm, of sunlight, with the warmth of potted
plants, the refrigerator full of food, the showers waiting to receive
them, the warm water streaming down to comfort their bruised and tired
I cannot save a single Gaza child.
Not the ones I saw on Al-Jazeera lying dead with heads all bloodied,
under blankets on the ravaged ground. Not the little one, 2, maybe 3,
bloodied bandages covering her bloodied skull and face leaving me her
bruised lips and part of one dull and hopeless eye, her helpless bigger
sister, surely no more than 4, beside her. I cannot take her, bring her
back to normal life, hug her and sing to her, hold her up against my
piano and ask her to listen to the strings as I run my fingers over
them, watch while her face lights up with pleasure as she spots my cats,
hold her, hold her, and hold herů.
I cannot save the little girl, maybe 5, who says the soldier stood and
looked at her, then shot her hand and then, as she turned to run to her
mother, her back: "One bullet went out my back and through my stomach."
Will doctors in a hospital the siege had already drained of medicines
and equipment, a hospital where patients must share beds, where the
floors are full of the wounded, and the blood pools around them --- will
the doctors working quickly, as expertly as they know within the chaos
of the terrified families pouring in from the terrified streets of Gaza
City, will the doctors working as quickly as they know, but in this
wasteland, save her?
I cannot save the newborn Mohammed, monitors on his chest, a respirator
over his tiny face, born within the ground-shaking, ear-splitting terror
of bombs falling from F16s, into a life from hell, where the smoke of
exploding shells and bombs gags the other children, the women, the men,
fleeing helpless before the behemoth wielding their "pure arms" to crush
these "two-legged cockroaches," these Palestinians of whom Golda Meir
said, "There are no Palestinians," and whom the Hebron settlers curse in
savage scrawled grafitti: ARABS TO THE GAS CHAMBERS. These people
concerning whom the Rabbi said, "One Arab is not worth a million Jewish
fingernails." Concerning whom Avigdor Lieberman, that man of the Israeli
people, says, drop the atom bomb on them as the Americans did on Japan.
I cannot lift the dark-faced, dark-haired teenaged girl from the
stretcher, rock her in my arms and say, "Darling, Shhh, it will be all
right," because it will not be alright. She is already dead, face down
on the stretcher where the hopeless cover her body while I watch her
image at my computer.
It will not be alright.
It will not be alright.
It will not be alright. I am my mother, and it is 1942 all over again,
and this is the Warsaw Ghetto - different, I'll admit. I'll admit they
aren't killing everyone. Just some of them. Only 400. Only 600. Only
800. Only 1000. When does "collateral damage" become malice
aforethought? When does that malice translate as "deaths?" When do
deaths become "a massacre?" How many in a massacre? A holocaust? The
shoa Mr. Vilnai wanted?
I cannot save a single child in Gaza. I am my mother, and we are weeping
(All of the images of Gaza in the prose-poem above are from Al-Jazeera
English. The references to Deputy Defense Secretary Matan Vilnai and
other figures come from my archives and library.)
Ellen Cantarow can be reached at [log in to unmask]