‘Running Orders,’ a Powerful Poem by Palestinian-American Lena Khalaf Tuffaha on Gaza
There’s a poem circulating online, written from the voice of a Palestinian evacuee in Gaza, that is as gut wrenching as it is important. Although photographs and testimonies from the besieged region, spread mostly through social media, have gone a long way in humanizing a people who have often been dehumanized and vilified to serve political aims, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s poem puts the reader in a Gazan’s shoes as, minutes after watching the World Cup as many in the rest of the world were, she receives a phone call prompting her to immediately abandon her home.
It is poetry like Tuffaha’s that can remind us of the power of words at a time when reading just news stories about the situation in the Middle East fails to convey the deep human tragedy occurring for more than 20 days now (and years before that) in the world’s most populated strip of land.
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
They call us now. Before they drop the bombs. The phone rings and someone who knows my first name calls and says in perfect Arabic “This is David.” And in my stupor of sonic booms and glass shattering symphonies still smashing around in my head I think “Do I know any Davids in Gaza?” They call us now to say Run. You have 58 seconds from the end of this message. Your house is next. They think of it as some kind of war time courtesy. It doesn’t matter that there is nowhere to run to. It means nothing that the borders are closed and your papers are worthless and mark you only for a life sentence in this prison by the sea and the alleyways are narrow and there are more human lives packed one against the other more than any other place on earth Just run. We aren’t trying to kill you. It doesn’t matter that you can’t call us back to tell us the people we claim to want aren’t in your house that there’s no one here except you and your children who were cheering for Argentina sharing the last loaf of bread for this week counting candles left in case the power goes out. It doesn’t matter that you have children. You live in the wrong place and now is your chance to run to nowhere. It doesn’t matter that 58 seconds isn’t long enough to find your wedding album or your son’s favorite blanket or your daughter’s almost completed college application or your shoes or to gather everyone in the house. It doesn’t matter what you had planned. It doesn’t matter who you are Prove you’re human. Prove you stand on two legs. Run.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi ZapataWait, before you go…
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.Support Truthdig