WorldOfIslam.info - Truth about Gaza War / Assualt
A Voice from Gaza: Coping with the Siege (in
by S. Jean
- Gaza City -
Boom! I can
feel a rumble under my feet and hear the windows clatter
lightly in our two-bedroom apartment. My husband and I
live on the third floor of an apartment building in
Rimal, regarded as a safe neighborhood in Gaza City. The
Gaza Strip is tiny, only 140 square miles, and we can
easily hear explosions, even those a couple towns away.
My husband, born and
raised in Gaza, doesn't even flinch at the sound of the
explosion. We don't look at each other or say anything.
Even in just the six months I've lived in Gaza, I too
have become accustomed to the sounds of bombs, heavy
gunfire, missiles, Qassam rockets, F-16s, Apache
helicopters. One of our friends once described a radio
program he heard, where they were interviewing a pilot
in the Israeli Air Force. He described how Palestinians
react to shelling: "A bomb was dropped [in a residential
area] and when I circled back around, I saw a group of
Palestinian men playing cards on the roof of a house.
The bomb had fallen on their street so they got up to
look at the damage. After they saw it [the damage], they
went back to playing their card game."
You name it… it's all
a normal part of our lives here in Gaza. And little
stops us, and everyone else, from going about our
day-to-day activities. After all, it's only 7:30 in the
morning and we are getting ready to go to work. We don't
even check the TV for news about the blast.
On our way to
work, it has become increasingly difficult to find a
taxi. This is a reflection of the ever-tightening
siege imposed on the Gaza Strip since June 2007 by
the Israeli government: a severe shortage of
gasoline and cooking gas has nearly stopped taxis
and private cars from running. (The Israeli
government first began the siege in 2000, shortly
after the start of the Second Intifada, or
uprising. When Hamas took control of Gaza in June
2007, the siege worsened dramatically and has caused
a humanitarian crisis that has crumbled forty years
of development. In the coming days, the Israeli
government has agreed to loosen restrictions as part
of a truce agreed upon by Hamas. For more
information on the siege, click
here.) Since gasoline, or benzene as they call
it here, was the first energy resource to become
scarce, people adapted their cars to run on cooking
gas. Everyone I know has a gas cylinder in the trunk
of their car. If you're lucky enough to find gas in
Gaza, the black market price is 60 shekels per
liter. At today's sobering exchange rate, that
equals about $18 USD per liter, or roughly $72 USD
But now even
cooking gas is becoming scarce, causing long lines
at distributors. My brother-in-law recalls one of
his experiences waiting in line, "One time I waited
from 4am to 10pm standing in line and didn't get
gas. I left my cylinders and came back the next day.
I waited the whole day, all day, and couldn't get
any [gas]. So, I came the third day and it was my
turn in line. I managed to fill a few cylinders.
They filled them only half way. Since the start of
this crisis, they don't fill them all the way. On
top of that, it takes me three days to find enough
gas in order to run my taxi for three days."
whose husband is a doctor, told me that a man
stabbed his brother over a cylinder of cooking gas.
Recently, Gazans have turned to dumping used
vegetable oil in tanks to run their car engines.
It's working, but causes damage to engines and makes
people sick from the fumes. My husband and I can
even distinguish which cars run on oil that was used
to fry fish or potatoes.
Still, few cars
can run on vegetable oil and we have walk to work
most days. I know that exercise is good for us. For
most people here, however, the transportation crisis
has stopped them from going to work or school. It
has also prevented garbage collection, stopped
ambulances from picking up the sick and wounded, and
put taxi cab drivers out of work. Running a taxi is
one of the last job opportunities left in Gaza since
the siege began eroding the private sector.
day, we experience sporadic to frequent electricity
cuts, again due to the fuel crisis. Our office has a
generator, but will soon run out of fuel. We had a
staff meeting just last week that discussed how to
work without our computers. Sometimes we hear small
explosions, F-16s flying by, or gunfire in the
background, but rarely anything to really worry
about. During our lunch breaks, the food available
in shops has become increasingly scarce, and with
fewer and fewer options. Even hummus, a main staple
of the Palestinian diet, cannot be found on some
days. Local food manufacturers have shutdown since
the blockade began because they cannot get certain
goods imported. So unless the Israelis allow in some
of their hummus, we cannot find it on the shelves.
You can imagine how people feel about giving money
to the occupier.
At the end of the
day, we return home and along the way watch the
donkey carts transport produce from farms to the
markets in the city. If we have electricity at home,
we can enjoy TV, but that's only if the reception
isn't fuzzed by the unmanned (and armed) Israeli spy
drones circling in the sky. There's not much to do
for entertainment in Gaza. When we go to the market
on the weekends (Friday and Saturday for people in
the Middle East), we find the same vegetables and
fruits every time: tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce,
potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, onions and a few
other seasonal items. The only difference is the
prices, which keep climbing due to scarcity. My
husband, who loves to eat beef, can no longer buy it
since the price has tripled. He has only bought two
kilos since I came to Gaza six months ago.
When we hope for
change in Gaza, all we can say is in'shallah,
or god-willing. Hope is all but disappeared for
Gazans these days. The siege has nearly collapsed
the economy, put thousands out of work, left many
hungry and without medical treatment, and restricted
the movement of nearly all Gazans in and out of the
Strip. We are blockaded in here by a wall and fence
guarded by the Israeli army. It also controls the
borders, exit and entry points, air space and
they drive in bulldozers to raze farmland, uproot
citrus and olive trees that whole families depend on
for their livelihood, and destroy poultry farms.
Tens of thousands of chickens have been exterminated
in Gaza this year by these bulldozers, and the total
blockade on Gaza means that chickens (and all other
fresh meats) cannot be imported.
What are the
1.5 million people living here supposed to eat? What
does the world think is happening in Gaza? Why is
the world silent?
These are the
types of questions that Palestinians ask themselves
and each other everyday.
As a result of
this humanitarian crisis, and impending disaster,
average Gazans spend their days at home. My in-laws
live in a refugee camp near Gaza City. Sometimes
they have electricity. Out of the seven adults
living there, only two of them have a job. One works
at a pastry store, earning less than $10 USD a day,
just enough to buy that day’s cigarettes and food.
The other, who waits in line for gas to run his
taxi, supports his wife and two children along with
the rest of the family living in the house.
How do they
survive? Since they are refugees, forced out of
historical Palestine in 1948, they receive food aid
from the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA).
This includes food, oil, sugar, and sometimes, dry
milk. My husband has also supported them over the
years. And they cannot leave Gaza to get a job.
Since the start
of the Second Intifada in 2000, Israel barred
Palestinians from working in Israel. Due to the
restriction on movement, also imposed by the Israeli
government, Gazans cannot leave the Strip to work
(or even study) in other countries. Even if they
could leave, it is important to remember that they
shouldn’t have to. My in-laws are already refugees
and the life they have in Gaza is the only life
they’ve ever known.
situation, Gazans aren’t completely depressed. My
husband and I enjoy playing with our nieces and
nephews, and sometimes we barbeque with friends. And
people, especially my in-laws, have not lost their
faith. In fact, their faith is as strong as ever.
One day, in their lifetime or the next, they are
sure that these hard times will pass and Gaza will
become beautiful and peaceful again.
This is life in
Gaza, and there are many stories to tell. I hope to
shed some light on the reality here. I welcome your
questions and comments and hope that those reading
these articles will keep an open heart and mind.
Holy Quran Quotes
“Don't be humiliated and ask for peace, while you are on the Uppermost and Allah is with you.”