By Motasem Dalloul – Gaza City
It was a long journey for Jihad al-Sha’er to resettle in his new home, which he built from affordable and cheap materials after living homeless for four months after Israeli warplanes flattened his house during its Gaza war.
"I have suffered so much during and after the war," al-Sha’er told IslamOnline.net inside his new home.
More than 1,400 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 5,450 wounded in 22 days of Israeli air, land and sea attacks on Gaza in January.
The onslaught wrecked havoc on the infrastructure, leaving nearly 20,000 homes and thousands of other buildings damaged and sending thousands of Gaza’s 1.6 million people homeless.
"I received small amounts of help as a kind of first aid to rent an apartment, but for a long time I couldn’t find any," said al-Sha’er.
Most of the homeless have been taking shelter in makeshift tents offered by the Gaza government and aid organizations.
"I couldn’t continue living in a tent," said a determined al-Sha’er.
"I decided to solve my problem with my hands when I experienced the severely cold winter."
With Israel blocking everything from entering Gaza, from soap and toilet papers to construction materials, al-Sha’er had to search in history books to learn how people in the dark ages used to build their homes.
"I didn’t find a way to end my misery except using mud and stray to build an old-style house."
He made the mud by adding water to clay and put it in homemade molds to become soft bricks.
The bricks were exposed to direct sunrays and after a while they become hard and ready for use.
The ban on sending cement and other construction materials into the fenced-off Gaza Strip has been in place since June 2007.
Major international development projects have been on hold ever since.
The new 80 square-meter home, which features two bedrooms, hall, kitchen and bathroom, is enough for al-Sha’er’s 6-member family and their two kits.
"One room for me and my wife, and the other for my four children," explains the innovator father.
"My two cats play everywhere," he added when asked about the pits.
When al-Sha’er first told his friends and relatives that he would build a home of mud, they mocked him.
"At the beginning, no one agreed with me," he recalls.
"But now that it is ready, it has become a beacon and all come to see it," he added proudly.
Visitors consider the mud home a kind of an innovation to overcome the lack of construction materials.
Many homeless families, including Abdullah Abu Omar’s, were inspired to do the same.
"After a long time of suffering, I decided to follow the successful step of al-Sha’er," Abu Omar, who is still living in a tent, told IOL.
"I prepared the materials and followed the same techniques of Al Sha’er done," he added.
"It is an easy work," said Abu Oma, highlighting help from friends and relatives.
"We use the clay bricks in the same way as the concrete ones and we use the mud instead of the adhesive concrete material," he explained.
"I hope at the end to find a better place to settle in instead of the tent."
Fellow Gazans were not the only people inspired by al-Sha’er, the Gaza government tasked a group of architects to study the model and they concluded that it would be possible to build three-story homes with mud bricks.
So, the government decided to allocate one million dollars for the first stage of a project to build three-story, multi-domed mud-brick homes.
"The findings of the study proved that this way could be a successful temporary solution for homeless families who are living in tents," said Zeyad al-Zaza, the vice premier of the Gaza government.
The project will begin with a three-storey "model home" built on 250 square meters of land.
"They will not be makeshift houses as people think."