‘They’re buried in a mass grave’: How a St. Louis writer is grappling with loss and resilience in Gaza
“What we end up having is what's curated — what Israel chooses to show us of our own history, of our own paths.” | www.stlpr.org
Fatima Elkabti is living a dissonant life. The Palestinian American, wife and mother of two boys is doing mundane things, like taking her kids to school and renovating her home. She is also witnessing the death and destruction brought on by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip — and it’s taking a toll.
A makeshift headstone bears the names of children who were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes during the Israel-Hamas War.
On Oct. 25, more than a dozen of Elkabti’s family members were killed in Gaza City in a single airstrike.
“They're buried in a mass grave; they don't have a headstone. It's a piece of cardboard with their names on a list,” she said.
Elkabti, who recently graduated with a master's in creative writing from Washington University, is determined to preserve her family’s history. With her forthcoming novel, “The White Parasol,” she shares the story of her family’s dispossession and captures the Palestinian experience from the Ottoman Empire to the present — an experience, she added, that is at risk of erasure.
“These last few weeks, Israel has actually bombed the archives in Gaza,” Elkabti said. “What we end up having is what's curated — what Israel chooses to show us of our own history, of our own paths.”
Elkabti cannot bring back the archives that have been lost, but she hopes to preserve the stories and culture of her ancestors, including that of her great-grandfather, Saeed Zineddine. Zineddine was a prominent lawyer and poet in Yafa, a port city on the Mediterranean Sea, where Palestinians faced mass displacement during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.