Gaza City – Najwa Abu Aisha, 48, is lying in a hospital bed, surrounded by family. She has been there since May 11 when Israel bombed empty farmland near her Gaza home, sending her hurtling from the second-floor rooftop of her house.
She was left paralysed by the fall.
“I had gone up on the roof with my 14-year-old son to check the water tank,” Najwa told Al Jazeera.
“Suddenly, while I was leaning against the wall, an Israeli bomb hit near our home. All I remember is the wall falling and falling off the roof with it. When I woke up, I was here in the hospital,” she said.
Her son, who witnessed the bombing and her fall, is still suffering from trauma and is not able to sit with or talk to anyone.
“We were just at home,” Ramzi Abu Aisha, 28, Najwa’s eldest son, told Al Jazeera. “Suddenly, we heard a huge bomb next to us, and then we heard the neighbours scream that a woman had been injured.
“We never thought my mother was the one injured. She had gone up to the roof just a few moments before.”
Najwa was flung from the roof and landed on her back in the next-door neighbours’ yard. Besides injuries to her spinal cord, she also suffered severe fractures in her pelvis and rib cage, according to doctors at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
About 33 Palestinians, including children, were killed and 147 wounded in the besieged enclave in the latest escalation between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organisation. The fighting ended only after a truce after four days of fighting. One Israeli was also killed.
When the family talks about Najwa’s condition, they whisper so she does not hear them because they do not want to cause her distress.
Her children also try to act normally in front of Najwa, but she told Al Jazeera tearfully that she is very aware of her condition because she cannot feel or move the lower part of her body.
“I am not complaining about what happened to me, but I am in a lot of pain,” she said, explaining that as a Muslim woman, she is content with her fate.
But, she said, “No one feels the extent of the psychological and physical pain inside me.”
“An Israeli missile was enough to change my life from an active, upright woman to a disabled, helpless woman,” she added, bursting into tears.
Najwa has five children. The youngest is seven years old. She was the family’s sole breadwinner because her husband lives with a disability and relies on a cane to move around.
Before her injury, she had a cleaning job in a kindergarten for nearly three years.
Standing next to Najwa’s bed is her sister Um Issa, 47. She never leaves Najwa’s side after the “great shock” of her injury.
“We used to eat together, drink together and go out together,” she said. “The news came like a thunderbolt to all of us. This was unimaginable.”
“My sister Najwa used to move like a bee among us. She was working hard to support her family in their difficult living conditions, but regardless, she loved taking care of herself and loved clothes and looking good.”
Um Issa looked away for a second. “I can’t stop thinking about her children.”
Her husband, Mazen Abu Aisha, 50, comes to the hospital to see her often, leaning on his cane with tears running down his face.
“I feel like I’m in a nightmare. My heart hurts so much for her. She put up too much with me, bore the burdens of my family and children, and never complained. I feel so helpless,” he said.
“What sin did we commit in Gaza for all this to happen to us?”
The Gaza Strip has effectively been under an Israeli siege for more than 15 years, and its health sector has deteriorated due to limitations on imports and freedom of movement. That means there is not much that can be done for Najwa here.
She and her family hope she will be allowed travel to receive medical treatment abroad, but Israel severely limits the freedom of movement of all Palestinians.
“The doctors told me they couldn’t do anything for me here,” Najwa said. “All I hope for now is getting treatment abroad to rehabilitate my body, so I can walk and go back to serving my children and my family.”