I remember that once upon a time, when I was a child, I read about a prisoner rotting in his cell. Perhaps it was the Count of Monte Cristo, or maybe another prisoner. I was thinking back then about what it means to rot. As if a person is gradually decaying in his cell. As if the absence of sunlight, just like a plant in a dark room, or the absence of human touch or liberty, or darkness and solitude and ongoing uncertainty make him rot, just like hope makes one flourish.
Despair makes one rot. Yet I do not feel that I am rotting in Gaza. I feel that I’m getting smaller. I’m shrinking. With every passing day I’m becoming tinier and insignificant. I’m becoming empty, as if all the emotions and hopes and fears and urges and desires I had within me during the years of freedom are gradually evaporating. As if I’m a water jug without a lid placed somewhere warm.
All the people guarding me, so I’ve been told, have a brother who died at war or a brother in prison (it might be a fabrication and it might be the truth.) We share strange closeness. At times we are all in the same room and it becomes unclear who the prisoner is. Some of them have no weapons while others do. In any case, there is no use for it in this room. Even if one of them would hand me a loaded gun, I wouldn’t take it.
I have no energy to shoot, and I have nobody I wish to shoot, and I have nowhere to go, and there is nobody who wants me. I am no longer a captive or detainee that can escape at any time; rather, I’m a small and evaporating person who has nothing.
Every time they told me I will be going home soon I didn’t believe it; nonetheless, something slowly turned into hope and thoughts of freedom and my parents’ house. Yet every time these hopes were dashed, they became smaller; I started to have less faith in them.
My life is so small
I remember the feeling I had when I was being videotaped. When it was clear to me that the tape would do something. I felt as though the photographer’s lights were the sunlight I haven’t seen for so long, with the exception of brief moments when I was being transferred and something of the powerful light outside penetrated through the mask around my eyes. After the video was shot, everyone around me was getting excited; everyone who had a brother or friend held in our prisons. Yet then everything sank; I fell into an abyss.
I know that your lives are going on as usual. At times they tell me a little about what goes on with you. Everything seems so distant, because I’m like a small ant digging under a city. What does it see? Just sand. Everything seems too big for me and everything is far and strange, while my life is so small. I remember that when I was a child and later a boy we spoke about Ron Arad and kept being happy and living and having fun and growing. I remember that even when there is someone out there below the rubble or, just like me, in a dark cell, others out there are eating ice cream.
Nonetheless, I had great hopes the last time. There were no sounds of fighter jets or rockets outside, and I knew that some German guy is mediating between the sides, and that there are some people who want everything to be over. They also gave me more food, so I look chubby, even though I’ve lost my appetite a while ago; at times they need to convince me to eat, maybe because I barely move and see no sunlight.
Yet then my guards became grim again. Later on they stopped talking and everything reverted to what it used to be, only less of it. Every time it’s a little less, and if you don’t hurry, one day they will open the door to my cell and the bed will be empty. I will be here but at the same time I won’t be here; I’ll be nowhere. There will be rumors, but I, Gilad Shalit from Mitzpe Hila, will no longer be in their room or in any other place, with the exception of my family’s memory.