Not a number: Palestinian writers we lost to Israeli brutality in 2023

Amid unrelenting violence, Palestine grieves voices of resistance and resilience extinguished under apartheid

Entertainment Desk December 27, 2023

As Israel’s aggressive military operation in Gaza continues, the death toll surpasses 20,000, including 28 Palestinian artists, intellectuals, and writers, as reported by the Palestinian Ministry of Culture. To commemorate their legacy, here is a snapshot of precious lives lost this year to Israeli brutality, leaving a void in the global literary community.

Heba Abu Nada

A beloved figure in the Palestinian literary realm and author of Oxygen is Not for the Dead, Heba Abu Nada tragically perished in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on October 20. Educated at Islamic University, Gaza, with a biochemistry bachelor's degree and a master's in clinical nutrition from Al-Azhar University, she garnered recognition and won the Sharjah Award for Arab Creativity in 2017. One of her last poems, I Grant You Refuge, translated by Huda Fakhreddine, offers a glimpse of her profound literary voice.

Refaat Alareer

On December 6, Dr. Refaat Alareer, a poet, literature professor, and activist, succumbed to a targeted Israeli airstrike, along with his brother, sister, and four nieces and nephews. Co-editor of 2015 memoir Gaza Unsilenced, Alareer was a devoted professor of literature and creative writing at the Islamic University of Gaza since 2007. A vocal critic on X (formerly Twitter) through his account, ‘Refaat in Gaza,’ he vehemently condemned the injustices inflicted by Israeli forces and successive U.S. administrations. Following his untimely demise, his prophetic farewell poem, If I Must Die, resonated globally, translated into over 40 languages, becoming a symbol of protest for peace.

Inas al-Saqa

In late October, Inas al-Saqa, a renowned playwright, actor, and children's theater educator, lost her life in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City alongside three of her children—Sara, Leen, and Ibrahim. Seeking shelter, Saqa and her five children were in a building hit by the airstrike. Although two of her children, Farah and Ritta, survived, they are critically injured and in intensive care. Saqa, known for her roles in films like Sara and The Homeland’s Sparrow, was a recognised voice in Gaza's cultural scene.

Nour al-Din Hajjaj

Nour al-Din Hajjaj, a poet and writer, was killed by an Israeli airstrike on his Al-Shujaiyya home on December 2. Renowned for works like The Gray Ones (2022) and Wings That Do Not Fly (2021), Hajjaj actively engaged with initiatives such as Cultural Passion, the Cordoba Association, and the Days of Theater Foundation. In his final message, he expressed love for life despite the constraints in Gaza, emphasising his dreams and humanity. Refusing to be a mere statistic, Hajjaj aimed for his writings to transcend borders.

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