Humans of Gaza: 3-year-old Reem, grandfather’s ‘essence of soul’

By Humaira Ahad

He tries to open her immovable eyes to kiss them, rubs his beard against her dangling head, cleans her blood-stained face, and hugs her again and again before bidding her a final goodbye.

While describing his slain three-year-old granddaughter’s innocence, Khaled Nabhan said Reem was his “ruh-el-ruh”, a word that can be roughly translated as “the essence of the soul.”

As he explains the beautiful bond he shared with Reem, Nabhan’s face lights up with a strange smile.

Reem and her 5-year-old brother Tareq were both killed when an Israeli airstrike brought down their home after hitting the Al Nuseirat refugee camp in southern Gaza.

The family was asleep when the house was bombed by the regime last week before the temporary truce came into effect.

Nabhan said he woke up looking for his children and grandchildren, however, the absence of electricity prevented him from locating them in the wreckage.

“I couldn’t find anyone, they were buried underneath the rubble,” he said, pointing towards the debris of his destroyed house.

Reem’s mother Maysa was severely injured in the attack and is still recuperating.

The helpless mother heard her little girl screaming for help but failed to come to her rescue as she herself was buried under the heavy rubble of their house.

As Reem’s father works outside Palestine, the family was living with her grandfather Nabhan.

The grandchildren would most of the time be seen clinging to their grandfather. “We were inseparable, I loved her more than my soul,” Nabhan is heard as saying.

In a video posted on social media, the grief-stricken grandfather could be seen fixing Tareq’s hair and taking pictures of the lifeless bodies of the brother and sister that lay on the ground covered in white shroud, ready for burial.

“I combed his hair like he would always ask me to do, like the photo he would always show me,” Nabhan lamented. “He loved his hair like that, now he’s gone,” he added.

In a clip circulated on social media, Nabhan is seen wearing Reem’s earring on his shirt as a badge.

“Reem and her brother Tareq are the essence of my soul. I was cleaning their faces with a salt solution to get rid of the dust and I found the earring,” he says.

“The other earring was lost, so I said, ‘your earring my dear, I want to take the earring and want to keep it as a souvenir from you,’” says the crestfallen grandfather in the video.

Commenting on the heartbreaking video that went viral on social media, many netizens said the emotional scenes of the grandfather kissing the lifeless body of his granddaughter will occupy their minds for the rest of their lives.

“She will stay with me; I will remember her through this earring. I want to remember her and keep her earring as a badge, she is gone, and may you rest in peace, Reem.”

The little girl’s grandfather was planning for her birthday as the two shared the same birth date, December 23.

“In the absence of Reem, it is impossible for me to celebrate my birthday again,” said the grandfather.

Overwhelmed with grief, Nabhan affirmed his faith in God, seeking refuge in the divine sanctuary.

“We should only complain to God, only God knows our sadness and heartbreak. God Almighty is the one who will seek retribution,” he said.

“I pray to God Almighty with His highest attributes and perfect words that Reem’s blood (ruh-el-ruh) and the blood of Tareq, and all other martyrs fall as a curse upon Israel, America, and their allies.”

While remembering the little girl, Nabhan said that Reem’s favorite game was pulling his beard and he would also in turn pull her piggy tails.

“I used to kiss her on her cheeks, on her nose and she would giggle. I kissed her but she wouldn’t wake up,” the grandfather recalled.

As per a recent report presented by the United Nations, two-thirds of those killed in Israel’s war on Gaza are women and children.

The UN has declared the besieged territory as the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.

On November 22, Sima Sami Bahous, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said that an unprecedented 40 percent of deaths in Gaza have been children. 

“Women in Gaza have told us that they pray for peace, but that if peace does not come, they pray for a quick death, in their sleep, with their children in their arms,” Bahous said.  

“It should shame us all that any mother, anywhere, has such a prayer,” she added.

An estimated 6,000 children have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to Gaza’s government media office, amid widespread airstrikes by the Israeli army.

Hundreds more have been reported missing and are still trapped under the rubble.

The regime has been preventing people from traveling to the north of the besieged strip to locate their loved ones who are missing.


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