Remembering Issa al-Souri, a little boy killed when Israel bombed a church

A sweet, smiling boy who was his parents’ whole world is now gone along with them.

Issa al-Souri [Courtest of family]
Issa al-Souri by the sea in happier times [Courtest of family]

Gaza Strip – No child likes the sounds of bombing and missiles, their ears cannot bear them. Issa Tariq al-Souri, 13, was the same.

There was a time when he, like the other children of Gaza, had a child’s concerns – finishing his schoolwork and running out to play football or connect with friends. They played, chasing each other around or seated around a videogame console, shouting and cheering.

Complaints that he and his classmates at the Rosary Sister’s School in Gaza City had were about schoolwork, exams or an exam being scheduled at the same time as sports class.

Fleeing to his demise

Issa and his parents fled their home in October, heading for the Greek Orthodox Church between Zeitoun and Shujayea where they sheltered with hundreds of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who were all fleeing Israel’s bombing.

Despite the international ban on targeting places of worship, Israeli forces bombed the church on October 20, killing Issa, his mother Lisa and his father Tariq. He was an only child.

Issa was a gentle, calm, well-mannered seventh-grader with a beautiful smile that lit up his face that was definitely that of a child. He was not a “big boss” but he was well-loved by the other children in class, always in the middle of a game or joke.

While he was shy with his teachers and would find it difficult to look them straight in the eye, Issa knew how to charm when he needed to.

Hoping for a good grade in an upcoming exam or another, he would find the courage to ask the teacher to make the test as easy as possible. It is not clear if he was always successful, but he did get good grades.

So many children wept for Issa when they heard that he had been killed, especially his best friend, Amir Farah, who could not comprehend what it meant to have lost his close friend and companion.

For a 13-year-old, the idea that he will never see his friend again ever is a difficult one to wrap his head about.

Amir would pick up his phone for weeks after he heard that Issa had died, dialling his friend’s number hoping that Issa would answer and tell him that the news was not true, he had not been killed.

“I won’t see Issa again. Not in the school corridors where he would come running up to me during break time to suggest that we do this or that in the break. I just won’t see him again,” Amir said.

He was her whole life

Issa’s mother was a kindergarten teacher at the same school and was very involved with how he was doing, making sure to talk to his teachers and take note of any suggestions they had for him to improve.

The two were devoted to each other, and Lisa’s colleagues often said that Issa was her whole life and she had put everything into making sure he grew up to be a good man.

One of her fellow teachers remarked sadly that it may have been a small comfort that the two left this world together as she may have not been able to withstand losing her boy whom she dreamt of seeing grow into a successful, kind man.

Lisa’s colleagues will miss her, as will the children she taught who, over the generations, had gotten used to greeting their old kindergarten teacher in the corridors as they dashed to their higher classrooms.

The death of an entire family is a bewildering thing, there is nobody left to mourn their parents or siblings. The extended al-Souri family lost many people in that Israeli bombing, and hearing an aunt count them all off was heartbreaking indeed.

On November 4, Issa’s school, Rosary Sister’s School was bombed as well.

Source: Al Jazeera