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The first rays of dawn filtered through the Palestinian flag hung at the window of Qadar’s room in her home in Acre. Posters of constellations and galaxies adorned the walls, intermingling with equations scribbled in haste on scraps of paper carefully pinned up as if to capture the fleeting thoughts of a curious mind.

Qadar lay curled up beneath a cozy quilt, her face half-buried in a book titled Quantum Mysteries: Exploring the Depths of Reality. The soft glow of a desk lamp cast a warm light on its pages. Her raven hair cascaded over the pillow, her peaceful slumber a canvas for the dreams that often whisked her away to the far reaches of the universe.

The voice of her mother Leila gently penetrated her dreams, calling her back to reality. Leila stood by the door with a serene smile on her face. Her eyes held the wisdom of a woman who had seen both hardships and victories. Her love for her daughter was as deep as the roots that held their home together.

“Qadar, habibti,” Leila said, “it’s time to wake up. Breakfast is ready, and your father is waiting. I don’t want what happened when we visited Safed to happen again.”

Qadar stirred, her eyes fluttering open to reveal irises as dark as the night sky. The book slipped from her grasp as she stretched, her limbs shaking off the remnants of sleep. A yawn escaped her lips, a delicate symphony of drowsiness.

“Good morning, Mama.” Qadar’s voice was a mere whisper, still tangled in the realm of dreams. “Don’t worry! Safed was the only time in my whole life that I was late for something! The sight of the trees dancing with the wind in harmony with the flags of Palestine was magical! Time stopped at that moment, and I didn’t notice the time! They looked like those trees in front of our other apartment in Switzerland!”

Leila’s gaze softened as she stepped farther into the room. Her eyes roamed the cluttered desk, where sketches of telescopes mingled with handwritten notes on theoretical physics. The desk was a snapshot of Qadar’s boundless curiosity and her insatiable hunger for understanding the universe’s most profound mysteries.

“Did you stay up late again, my dear?” Leila asked, her voice filled with both concern and admiration for her daughter’s dedication. “Don’t tell me it is quantum entanglement again!”

Qadar shook her head, a shy smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “I promised to read about entanglement during the day. I was trying to unravel the secrets of black holes this time. They’re like cosmic enigmas, Mama, hiding truths that could change our perception of the universe.”

“You have a brilliant mind, Qadar,” Leila said. “But don’t forget to nourish your body as well as your intellect. Remember how you fainted when we went swimming in the Dead Sea because you hadn’t had breakfast?”

With a sigh, Qadar closed the book and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. As she stood, the room itself seemed to sigh, as if it had been holding its breath in anticipation of the discoveries Qadar would make and the stars she would reach for.


The sun cast a weary gaze upon the streets of Gaza. In a cramped kitchen, Joud stood beside her mother, Halima, their movements synchronized as they prepared breakfast. The scent of za’atar mingled with the aroma of freshly brewed tea, filling the air with a bittersweet comfort. Joud sliced tomatoes with a determined focus. Her nimble fingers danced across the cutting board.

“Mama, I need to finish breakfast quickly today,” she said, a note of urgency in her voice. “I want to get to the university early. Professor Ali is going to introduce us to quantum entanglement in an extra class today.”

Halima smiled softly as she stirred the pot on the stove. “And will this ‘qatanglement’ you talk about provide us more electricity to keep food in the fridge in good condition?”

“No. Yes. I mean, maybe,” Joud replied. “Who knows, mama? I’ll learn today and tell you. And it is actually called quantum entanglement.”

“Okay, Edison, okay. I believe you take more time slicing tomatoes than Edison took inventing bulbs! Hurry up!”

As breakfast neared completion, Joud’s thoughts raced to the makeshift study in the room she shared with her sisters. The tiny space was a testament to her aspirations and her yearning to defy the limitations of her circumstances. Stacks of books adorned every available surface, leaning precariously against one another; scattered notes and diagrams were pinned to the walls. It was a mosaic of knowledge in a world where access to education was a hard-fought privilege.

After the meal, Joud excused herself, eager to delve into the secrets of the universe. The room was an intimate space, a reflection of the bond the sisters shared amid the turmoil. Joud’s side of the room, however, bore the mark of her dreams. A picture of a telescope hung on the wall, its image a reminder of the distant galaxies she longed to explore.


As she began to tidy up her side of the room, her mother’s voice floated in from the kitchen. “Joud, habibti, remember to arrange everything before you leave. You know how easily your sisters can be influenced by your dedication. And call your father and tell him to bring Abo Said to fill the water tank. If you forget, you’ll drink nothing but seawater.”

Joud smiled, her heart swelling with love for her family. “Yes, Mama, I’ll make sure everything is in its place. And don’t worry. Baba just texted me that Abo Said will be here at noon.”


As Qadar’s father navigated the bustling streets on the way to the college, Qadar stared out of the window. Her thoughts wandered to those peculiar daydreams that had haunted her lately. Amid her fascination with physics and the celestial wonders above, there were unsettling flashes of a different place. In her mind’s eye, missiles streaked through the sky, leaving trails of fiery destruction in their wake. The streets were strewn with rubble, bearing witness to the ravages of conflict. The roar of gunfire reverberated, joined by the haunting cries of a silenced people. It was a strange place. And it was a mess.

She sometimes guessed them to be scenes from a movie, but she’d never seen a film like that. She wondered for hours about these scenes. Where were they? Why was there so much destruction? What were all the guns and missiles for? More questions, no answers! She attempted to dismiss these visions as fragments of imagination, yet their vividness unsettled her. Was she losing herself in these reveries, or was her subconscious attempting to convey something more profound? As the journey continued, the real world blurred with the echoes of these haunting scenes, enveloping her in a haze of uncertainty and unrest.


Joud sat by the window on the bus to the university. Her mind wandered into a realm of hope and longing. In those stolen moments, her thoughts painted a vivid picture of a beautiful place. She saw the sky ablaze with the hues of sunrise, not obscured by smoke and chaos, streets lined with vibrant markets and laughter, not scarred by rubble and fear. Instead of the distant echoes of gunfire she usually heard in Gaza, there was the symphony of people rejoicing in their freedom. As the bus rolled on, she envisioned schools brimming with eager students, their dreams no longer stifled by oppression. Her heart danced with the thought of families reuniting, lives rebuilt, and the resilience of a nation shining through. She was clueless about these daydreams, but she wanted so badly to visit such a place.


Qadar decided to take a detour on her way home. The endless expanse of the sea had always called out to her, a soothing presence amid the chaos of life. As she reached a high hill overlooking the shore, a breeze kissed her cheeks. She raised her arms as if to embrace the very essence of existence itself. She knew she needed this moment to free her thoughts from the clutches of the unsettling visions that had taken root in her mind.

Her gaze turned to the sea, a powerful force that fascinated her. It was like an enigmatic door, holding secrets beyond her comprehension. A sense of relief washed over her. The gentle lapping of the waves and the shimmering blue horizon provided a soothing balm to her soul, as if the sea itself was offering solace and respite from the cares of the world. The sea’s tranquil beauty embraced her, reminding her that amid life’s challenges, there was always a place of calm and rejuvenation waiting by the shore.

She began speaking aloud, letting her thoughts flow freely into the salty air. The scenes that had been haunting her mind, the flashes of these horrible situations, felt surreal. She uttered her fear, her hope that those disturbing visions would never find their way into her reality.

But in an instant, the world around her froze. Her body remained rooted to the spot, but her consciousness was transported elsewhere. A deafening explosion echoed through the air, and she watched in shock as a missile obliterated the home of someone unknown yet somehow dear to her. The sound of the bombardment reached her ears, and she screamed, her voice merging with the echoes of destruction. Qadar was scared, and she didn’t know what to do. It was her first time witnessing such a horrifying and profoundly disorienting event. Her eyes darted around in search of any semblance of familiarity or guidance. The place was miserable. There were people everywhere, some crying, some screaming, and others silently digging through the ruins of the bombarded house. Qadar scanned the surroundings, her gaze landing abruptly on a girl standing in front of a wall that looked so familiar. The girl seemed physically present, yet her distant gaze hinted at a profound detachment. Qadar, her curiosity piqued, stared at this enigmatic figure for what felt like an eternity.

Suddenly, the girl turned her head and saw Qadar. In that charged moment, a smile began to form on her lips, a smile that radiated warmth and understanding. Qadar was confused. How could the girl smile in such a situation? Thoughts were going faster than light in Qadar’s mind. She felt drawn to mirror the girl’s expression. The energy between them shifted, transcending the boundaries of the mysterious place in which they found themselves. Just as the connection deepened, the entire scene dissolved into nothingness, leaving Qadar with a sense of wonder and a fleeting memory of an encounter that defied explanation.

The sea reappeared before Qadar. In a sudden panic, she fled the hill, her feet carrying her home in a frenzied run. As she caught her breath, her heart still racing, a thought emerged from the chaos of her mind. As if guided by an unseen force, the pieces fell into place. She had lived that scene, but not in her time. But what was going on with her? What was wrong with her mind? A weird idea invaded her brain.


As she made her way home, a spark of excitement danced within Joud. Her brother’s graduation party was just around the corner, a joyful gathering that would reunite her with her beloved cousins. She could already picture their faces, the laughter they’d share, and the warmth of their bond. The distance to her uncle’s house seemed to stretch out before her, every step eager anticipation of the festivities ahead. Her phone rang. It was her mother.

“Joud, habibti, are you on your way? Please don’t tell me you forgot to go to your uncle and invite him.”

“Don’t worry, mama, I’m on my way. Five  minutes, and I’ll be there.”

“Perfect! How was your day?”

“It was incredible! We learned today about quantum entanglement. It’s mind-blowing! I read about it before, but the way the professor explained it made it ten times more exciting. It literally states that when two particles become entangled, their properties become intertwined. It’s like they start dancing to the same cosmic rhythm. Changes in one particle’s state instantaneously affect the other, no matter the distance separating them. Einstein famously called it ‘spooky action at a distance,’ because it challenges our intuitive understanding of reality. And he was right! It’s such a boggling phenom…”

“Hold on, habibti, hold on,” her mother said. “We can talk about it at home. You will never stop talking if no one stops you!”

Joud apologized and hung up the call. Then a sound shattered the air, a deafening roar that sent a shiver down her spine. Her heart clenched with dread as memories of past aggressions flooded her mind. Before she could react, the sky erupted into chaos, rocks and rubble cascading down like torrential rain. Instinct took over, and she darted for cover behind the walls of Hamam al-Sammara, as if the makeshift refuge could shield her from the onslaught.

In mere seconds, she knew that it was a missile. Panic surged through her, propelling her towards the only sanctuary she could think of, her uncle’s home nearby. But as she reached the spot where his house should have stood, shock engulfed her. The building was gone, replaced by a heap of wreckage. She stood there, mouth agape, emotions too tumultuous to comprehend. It was as if reality had been distorted beyond recognition, leaving her lost and broken.

She struggled to stay rooted in the present, to shake off the feeling that she was slipping into one of those daydreams again. But control eluded her. She suddenly found herself on a high hill overlooking the sea. Once she saw the great Wall of Acre, she knew it was the Mediterranean. Pictures of the Wall of Acre were all over her school textbooks, but she’d never been able to visit it. And now, it stood in front of her! The cold air caressed her face, and a smile crept across her lips, a smile that held the unspoken truth of this surreal moment. Here she was, in Acre, transported without borders, without questions, free from the specter of soldiers and the weight of occupation. It was a fleeting glimpse into a reality she could only dare to imagine. There were Palestinians all over the shore, with no soldiers or Hebrew signs, but a multitude of Palestinian flags! It was as if the occupation had never been! She noticed a girl staring at her. She stared back, with a little smile to break the awkwardness. Then everything disappeared.

She returned from that reverie to meet her mother’s gaze. Her eyes accused Joud of finding even a flicker of happiness amid the rubble of her uncle’s home. Words caught in Joud’s throat; her heart ached as guilt and sorrow waged war within her. She couldn’t share these dreams with her mother, who would never understand. Joud couldn’t explain the overwhelming sense of helplessness that seized her each time those visions intruded upon her consciousness.

Silence enveloped the two of them as they worked to help clear away the remnants of destruction. Joud couldn’t forgive herself for not having the power to prevent the catastrophe, for not being able to control the dreams. The weight of guilt settled heavily upon her shoulders, intertwining with her grief for her cousins who had lost their parents and their home. Her youngest cousin, Raji, was fighting for his life in the hospital.


Quantum entanglement, a concept Qadar had explored, resurfaced in her memory. She recalled a movie where the protagonist was entangled with an alternate existence, another version of themselves. Qadar thought she knew what was wrong with her. A strange calm washed over her as the puzzle assembled itself in her mind. Could she be entangled with someone living in another dimension? It sounded absurd, yet there was a resonance to it that she couldn’t ignore. With newfound determination, she embraced the notion, the idea that her consciousness was intertwined with another living a different reality. But where was that? And why did the wall behind the smiling girl look so familiar?! Still more questions, no answers, but some doubts!

When Qadar reached home, she went straight to the fridge for some cold water. As she held the handle, she noticed the postcard her friend, Shahd, had sent her from Gaza. She took a second look at it and screamed, “I knew those walls looked familiar! They are the same walls in the postcard from Gaza. These are the walls of the famous Turkish bathhouse there! But how is this so? Is Gaza going through a crisis?”

Qadar texted Shahd in Gaza, but she reported that everything was peaceful there. This baffled Qadar even more. She’d only seen such situations in movies, where it was either a war or an alien invasion. “Since it can’t be an alien invasion,” Qadar thought, “then does this mean there is a war there? But Shahd said everything was fine.”


Days passed and Joud’s silence persisted, a wall between her and her mother. Her mother didn’t know about the dreams, the visions that seemed to connect Joud to another reality. The visions confused Joud herself. She puzzled over it continuously. Once, in a lecture about quantum entanglement, the professor stated, “When two particles are entangled, any change on one particle will instantaneously affect the other, no matter where they are, even if they’re in two different universes.”

Joud replayed this part over and over again. Each time she reviewed the words, she remembered the moment everything had disappeared when she’d smiled at that girl from the vision. It felt exactly as the professor had explained quantumly entangled particles. She wondered how Acre could look so free. Was that girl from there? What if she were quantumly entangled with her? The mysterious girl might be living in a parallel world where Palestine was free. Or maybe Joud was intertwined with some sort of particle that could travel in time, and it had traveled to a future where Palestine was free. In that case, the particle was transferring some important information to her. But all of that sounded so unreal to Joud that she knew she should let go of her Christopher Nolan spirit for faking scenarios and actually start living in the real world! She couldn’t help but hope, though, that these daydreams would become reality one day.


Qadar returned to the vast sea, wondering about the notion that had invaded her mind. Quantum entanglement. She knew it was impossible, but a part of her wanted it to be possible. She whispered to the wind, “Was Palestine ever occupied? If so, I don’t have the slightest clue what to say! The terror I felt, witnessing the house being destroyed, took my breath away. It was more than horrifying. I heard screams of children, and cries of mothers, and saw the mad looks of youths, and they were gruesome. Oh, how I wish no one was living in such circumstances. It makes me wistful, yet it makes me feel so weak. So weak that I can’t help. How can I help if I myself do not know if it’s real or not? I felt so sad before when I had visions of people lacking gas, electricity, and access to water, but this time was different. Children were killed! How can someone have such hate in their hearts to kill others?”

A cool breeze brushed her face. The wind had always fascinated her, how it could travel over water and never lose its energy. I know this is a silly idea, she thought, but, wind, if there is someone living in an occupied Palestine, could you please tell them that I’m sorry? Oh, wind, if you travel in time or you visit different dimensions, can you help them? Let them at least know that there is someone thinking about them and that they are not alone!


Joud accompanied her mother to the hospital to check on Raji. The wind ruffled her hijab through the open window of the car. The wind against her face reminded her that they were more than just the sum of their losses, that even in darkness, there remained a glimmer of hope and a whisper of connection that defied the boundaries of time and reality. She didn’t know about the visions. Were they real? Was she really entangled? Was there anyone living in a freed Palestine? She hoped so, but she did not know. All she knew was that this devastation could not last forever. The wind comforted her.

Joud finally spoke. She apologized to her mother and told her that they were not alone, that there was something beyond their understanding, beyond the confines of the present. Joud did not add details. That moment was absolutely the wrong time for a physics lecture. She hoped, though, that her mother could understand. Her mother leaned on Joud’s shoulders. For the first time, Joud felt that she could handle her mother’s sadness. Her mother was her hero, and what was better than being there for your hero?


Qadar is still engaged with physics at her university. Her visions still visit her from time to time. She prays for people she has never met, in a land where she has never been. She secretly loves to believe that she is part of a physics theory. This idea relieves her and satisfies her curiosity. Joud is also still engaged with physics at her university. She doesn’t care that much about being included in some kind of theory, but she does hope that her dreams will become real. She enjoys them and draws them for little Raji, who is now living with her family.

Qadar and Joud continue their separate journeys, bound by their love for the mysteries of the universe and their unshakable hope for a better future. Their lives remained intertwined, perhaps by quantum entanglement, but certainly by the unbreakable bond of their shared dreams and the enduring spirit of resilience.

As Qadar gazes at the stars, she makes a quiet promise to herself: “Someday, I will unlock the secrets of the universe, and I’ll make sure that no child has to witness the horrors I’ve dreamed of.” And as Joud looks out over the horizon, her heart echoes the same sentiment: “Someday, I’ll see a free Palestine, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll find a way to bridge the gaps between our worlds.”

Roaa Aladdin Missmeh is from Khan Yunis, Gaza. Before October 7, she studied English-French Literature at Al-Azhar University. Two of her essays have been published on the We Are Not Numbers website. She is committed to “letting the whole world hear our voices here in Palestine by writing. If I can change one person’s point of view, I have succeeded in delivering our message.”

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