Living Among the Dead in a Gaza Graveyard

By Hiyam Noir and Fady Adwan in Gaza

Amid all levels of infrastructural devastation in the Gaza Strip, many families are hit by increasing poverty, and many are forgotten, living absolute marginalized.

In the heart of Gaza City is an old cemetery, where some families have found shelter, and where they live their lives among the dead. One family we meet have lived on the old Gaza City graveyard, for over five decades. Others have become poor and dispossessed during the last decade. Because of the many difficult conditions and the hardship under occupation, many have lost their employment or a business, and without income there is very little money over to pay for the rent, or to build or buy a new home.

"I came here, to live between the tombs, with my husband and children, 50 years ago," says Um Suhail Jilo, 72. Her family was forced out from their village in the 1948 expulsion, the Al Nakba, this is the time of disaster for the Palestinians. The time when the Jews on Arab Palestinian land erected the illusory state, that became the Zionist state of Israel. Jewish armed gangs like Irgun, the Stern – gang, and the terrorist organizations Palmack and Haganah terrorized and brutalized hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, forcing the inhabitants to flee their homeland and leave their possessions, to search for safe shelters abroad, in other countries.

"In that time, so long ago, no one helped us to build for us a simple house… so we found no other choice, but to find a roof over our heads here inside the Gaza City old graveyard. We bought tin plates to build a house for our family. The house became impaired and corroded by time or wear, so a few years later, we made some small improvements and added cement onto the walls ". Um Suhail tell us, she lives here with 16 of her family members, her sons and daughters, her in-law’s and grandchildren, in a house consisting of three bedrooms.

Um Suhail’s husband, as so many other husband’s and family- supporters were forced to move outside Gaza Strip to work, to be able to support the family. “Now I have not heard from him in tens of years,” Um Suhail says with a sad voice. “I do not know what happened to him." Mean while she is making food using a wood burning stove, Um Suhail says: "We have got used to live among the graves of the dead… we are like them, depending on charities and handouts."

Due to the Israeli-led international siege imposed on Gaza Strip since June last year, the son’s of Um Suhail have lost their jobs, and the family have lost their main source of income. For years, this worn out and exhausted woman has hand washed all the clothes for her large family, until a well doing family bought her a modern washing machine.

Mohammed, a six-year-old boy, born in the home on the graveyard tell us , "I never leave this place, I live here and I play here, and I do not fear ghost’s or the tomb’s." But in the night, Mohammed fear most the snakes and the spiders, says his grandmother Um Suhail. "Last month, we found and killed, a one and half meter long snake in our house, it was not a pleasant experience, believe me."

-Hiyam Noir and Fady Adwan contributed this article to

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