By Najwa Sheikh in Gaza
It is March, the month of flowers, and good weather, however since yesterday it was burning, with hot dry winds. I thought summer is coming so fast this year, and with this idea I have to think of other things, like summer cloths for the kids, enjoying the daily showers of cold clean water, and sitting on the beach sharing with my kids the fun of playing with the sand because we can not enjoy swimming on a sea full of sewage. However, this lovely image is not the true one for the Palestinians who live in Gaza, as since Gaza was sealed, and the borders are closed, Gaza and its people are suffering not only from the brutal Israeli invasions and continuous strikes but also from the lack of both basic and luxurious goods, medications, papers for books, vaccines and many other basics that any person in the world would enjoy these privileges as a guaranteed thing in their life.
Today in my way to work, I saw long cues of cars in front of the petrol stations; they have been waiting since the early hours of the morning. Drivers of these vehicles were much grumbled as they did not work for weeks, and they have families to support, the taxi they own was their main source of income. Therefore, by the lack of fuel they lost this source and join the unemployed sector in my society. Though we heard that there is fuel in the stations but the owners of these stations keep it so they can sell it in the black market for higher costs.
I felt how lucky I am that I don’t have to wait like many others in the street for hours to find a taxi that can drive me to my work. The images of the university students, patients, and old women, who have to wait for a taxi so they can either go to their universities, or to the hospitals in Gaza are devastating, and heartbreaking. With these images I can’t believe that we are living in a modern, free world.
Since Hamas took over Gaza, and since the international community along with Israel imposed their collective sanctions against Gaza, things dramatically changed. The percentage of unemployment in Gaza rises to reach 90%, while the majority of the Gazan’s are totally depend on welfare and humanitarian organizations that distributes food rations, and in kind assistance, which means that with any sudden shortage of these organization’s budget, many of the Gazan’s families will loose this privilege and start begging on the streets.
The cost of any good you want to buy in Gaza markets is doubled if more; you rarely can find a good quality cloth, food, medication. Markets are almost empty due to the closure. And with this situation people found themselves forced to accept what they can find otherwise they have to manage their life without it.
Summer has started and with it, I as many other mothers have to look for summer cloth for the kids -a privilege that not many children in Gaza can enjoy- however, this privilege is controlled now by Israel, and the siege. There is no variety of goods as usual in the markets due to the closure, and what is left from last year or the year before is very expensive compared to its quality. This is not only limited to cloth but to every thing, even to the simplest needs that you can imagine.
It took me days to search the market for suitable summer cloth, not because I am a picky person, but because there is nothing left in the markets, it became a problematic to find shoes especially there is not a single shoe factory in Gaza, and if there is one it must be stopped working due to the lack of row materials.
This is how the life of those who work and have salaries becomes, then can you imagine how it is for those who do not work, and have kids that looked for their classmates?
As I said before the case is not limited only to cloth and food, but it is expanded to include medications, baby formula, and mostly clean water. All of us know that even before the siege, Gaza is suffering from a shortage in drinking clean water, however, the situation become worse with the siege issue, it is not only a shortage in the clean water, but also in the materials that added to the water in Gaza to be treated well so the people can drink it. I heard many warnings that we should boil the water before drinking it, since then I notice that the water we for wash; cook, and for shower is smelly, but I can’t stop myself from using it because I don’t have an alternative. At that point I lost hope that things will become better, nothing is left, and we are sealed from all corners even in our humanity, and in ourselves.
In simple words, we have to live in Gaza with the minimum healthy environment for humans, where we have to face all kinds of shortage, in food, medications, health care, schools, and basic needs.
With such kind of life, how come the Israelis are demanding and asking us to be normal, to live normally, and to stop hating them?
If I as a human being don’t have the proper aspects of life then how can I live normally?
And what difference does it make when our lives become meaningless to us, when death become one of our options to end such a miserable life? Gaza and its people are suffocated by the injustice of others, our capacity to endure such life will not remain forever, but what would be the reaction taken by my people? I wonder!!!
-Najwa Sheikh is a Palestinian refugee from al-Majdal located just north of the Gaza Strip. Shiekh has lived in refugee camps in Gaza her entire life where she is married and has three children. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com