Like free birds in a cage

“My brothers Saed en Salah were fifteen and seventeen years old. They were killed during a bombardment in 2008 and 2012,” Hamza says. Ashamed, he wipes away the tears that have rushed to his eyes. “I can’t get the sound of bombs and images of dying friends out of my head. Incessantly, I hear my mother crying over the loss of my brothers.”

No doubt, Hamza takes the biggest risks of the gang. With a smile on his face, he jumps of high destroyed houses. He has lost everything so has nothing to lose. Together with his friends he practises ‘parkour’, a kind of sport in which youngsters run and jump to conquer huge obstacles. They leap from one rooftop to another and do elegant somersaults. Parkour is popular in Gaza. “While practising parkour, I feel as free as a bird and invincible,” Fahed says. “After the war, we set a parkour amongst destroyed houses and put videos of it on YouTube. That way, we can show Israelis that they can tear down our houses, kill our children but haven’t crushed our souls yet.”

In June 2014, Gaza went through a bloody conflict. For Hamza and Fahed it was the fourth war in their young lives. Like many of their friends they are marked by traumas.

“Israel bombed us at night,” Saed says. “We couldn’t see the stars because of the lights of the helicopters. Every night, we quietly prayed. Scared, terrified that any moment, a bomb would hit our homes.”

‘I was asleep when a bomb struck our neighbour’s house,” Hamza whispers. “The smoke blew through our broken windows. I ran out of the house in my pajamas and gasped for air. In the morning I saw how our home had been destroyed. I hope it will be repairable,” he smiles. “But my heart has been broken for ever a long time ago.”

Photo story © Katrijn Van Giel

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