Ra’eda Ayoub, Mohammed’s mother
14-year-old Mohammed Ayoub was shot in his head by an Israeli sniper on 20 April during the demonstrations. He was getting psychosocial support in school from NRC in Gaza.
"Everyone loves Mohammed; everyone here in the house and outside [the neighbours]. He used to help the old ladies and children. He used to invite other children to play inside the house. If any old lady needed help, he would voluntarily hurry to help her without us having to ask him.
In his school, everyone loves him; his schoolmates and his teachers, as well. We threw a birthday celebration for him in February and he invited his friends. They played and sang together. They had a great time. They were like his brothers.
I was told that they gather up and head to his graveyard after he was killed. They used to shout at him because he was very dear to them.
When Mohammed was buried, his brother was very affected that he dreamt of him. He screamed. I asked him: “What’s wrong?” He woke up terrified and said: “I dreamt of Mohammed,” I asked: “What did you see?” He said: “He was looking at me and smiling,” I asked: “Did he say anything?” He replied: “No, he didn’t,” He stayed up all night terrified and screaming until dawn. Then he told his father and wished it was him who got killed instead of Mohammed. His father calmed him down. After we stopped receiving guests who came to pay condolences and the house grew emptier, the children started missing him.
They would scream if they saw any photo of him. They stopped sleeping in the room in which he slept. They say they are afraid. After dusk, if neither their father nor I are at home, they would become scared. Ayoub misses his brother dearly.
When they watch the videos and the memories, they get emotional.
I tell Ahmed: “We need to start studying, we are wasting time,” Every time he remembers his brother or sees his videos, he screams.
I used to approach them in a friendly way and say that their brother is lucky to go to heaven and I would ask them to pray for him because their prayers will be answered. And I would ask them to focus on their studies so he is happy for them. I try to talk to them in a simple niche way.
For example, I’d say: “Listen, everybody loves Mohammed and so do you, so let’s not open the videos. Let’s remember what he used to do to us. What games we used to play. What he used to say. When I do this, they become happier and remember the positive memories and laugh. Whereas when they watched the videos and remember his death, they would get emotional and start screaming.
Once Mohammed came and told me that the counselors taught them how to deal with certain situations, not necessarily in a war setting. Even two days before he got killed, they taught him how to do an evacuation if there was a bombing or any incident. He returned home happy and he started showing us what he had learned. He showed us how they should carry their bags and how to run. He explained the whole story."
Photo: Ahmed Mashharawi/NRC