The Untold Cost of War: Two Gaza Entrepreneurs Who Lost Everything

Sami Haboush and Mohammed El-Madhoon lost everything during the latest Israeli bombings on Gaza. (Photo: WANN, Supplied)

By Ahmed Dremly

‘Sami Haboush: The Shop was Our Last Hope’

A week before his blacksmith shop was bombed, Sami Haboush, 32, left the hospital against medical advice to bury his father, who died of a stroke in Israel while working.

Moreover, Sami couldn’t afford to stay in the hospital: he needed to work in his blacksmith shop, to make a living for his 16-member family.

He only stayed in the hospital for one week, though he would have needed to stay for more than a month to treat his gastrointestinal perforation and bacteremia.

“I had two choices: I could stay in the hospital and take the treatment for free or leave it and buy it myself,” Sami said. “But I was forced to choose a third option. I left the hospital and didn’t take the treatment because I had no money.”

“My mum suffers from a heart condition; her treatment costs 1000 Shekels ($280). If my brother and I work, we can afford it; if we don’t, we can’t. Her hair started falling out when stopped taking her treatment,” he explained .

The shop was the sole source of income for his family.

“In 2005, I stopped going to school to work with my father in our shop. He wanted me to complete my studies, but I refused, because he needed someone to help him,” Sami recounted.

“My father had a permit to work in Israel, so I stayed at the shop. We needed that income to pay our debts.”

When Sami’s father was in Israel, Sami worked alone in the workshop until he became ill and he was forced to close it during his stay at the hospital.

On August 5, Israel launched a deadly attack against the besieged Gaza Strip, killing 49 people, including 17 children and 3 women. At least 363 people were injured, among them 164 children and 59 women.

On the second day of the aggression, Sami worked as usual. Then, he closed the shop and went to repair something for a client. His cousin called him, urging him to go back home without returning to the shop.

“At the same time, I saw people gazing at the sky, as if they were waiting for something, in the direction of my shop,” Sami told The Palestine Chronicle.

When Sami asked a pedestrian what was going on, he was told that the Israeli army would bomb the Khalifa building, where his shop was.

“I ran to the shop, I wanted to die inside it. I don’t have another source of living. Many people had gathered 200 meters away from the building. When they saw me running toward the shop, they stopped me. Then, they took me home.”

When the bombing started, Sami and his mother were hugging each other and crying.

“The shop was our last hope. We never imagined the building would be bombed,” he said.

“30 minutes later, I went to my shop but it wasn’t there anymore. It had been completely destroyed. I couldn’t even find the door! My body started shivering and I cried loudly. Then, I fell to the ground. People tried to take me to the hospital, but I refused. I only wanted to stay in front of the rubble of my workshop.”

The following day, Sami went back to the shop and a partially destroyed hall fell on him and left him injured.

“My loss was $20,000. So far, no one has compensated me,” he said.

“Now, I borrow machines from my friends and work in the street, in front of my house. I used to have an assistant but I couldn’t pay him. I work for half the price; I would rather work alone from 7 am to 10 pm despite my physical suffering than bring in someone I can’t pay for.”

Sami was thinking of taking a $5,000 loan to rent and open a shop, but he didn’t because he had to repay $200 per month while he had no money.

“We were fine, yet they turned our life into pain. They stole the memories of 20 years. My heart was shattered; I lost hope.”

Mohammed El-Madhoon: ‘My Center was Destroyed Twice in Less than a Year’

Mohammed El-Madhoon, 32, a director of Centre for Training and Technological Development, lost his center in the Palestine Tower when Israel assassinated Taiseer al-Jabari, a senior commander in the Islamic Jihad movement, on December 6.

For Mohammed, this was the second time to lose his center as a result of an Israeli bombing. The first time was in the Kuhail building on May 18 during the 11-day-aggression on the Gaza Strip last year.

Mohammed was having a barbeque party with his family at the beach on Friday.

“Many people started calling me. I replied to my cousin, who told me that an Israeli assault started by bombing a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on the sixth floor of the Palestine Tower.” Mohammed told The Palestine Chronicle.

“My center was on the third floor. It cost me $12,000. I went to check the building. It was extremely damaged; most of the technology devices were broken. The place was no longer fit for training. I was shocked because it was the second time my center was destroyed in less than a year. It is like breaking your hand two times,” he said.

“So I suffered a financial crisis during the aggression because I had no money. It was my only source of income.”

Mohammed started working as a mentor in different training centers in Gaza in 2012

“I started my work for about 200 NIS per month. Then, I developed my skills and gave different courses. I was renting small halls for running courses. Then, I started gaining about 800 NIS per month,” Mohammed said.

Mohammed told The Palestine Chronicle that he got married in 2019. He rented a place with his wife’s help to set up his first center.

“I kept developing it for three years until the whole building was bombed in the 11-day aggression on Gaza in 2021,” he told us.

“I was planning with my colleagues to escape to the building if a war began. We couldn’t imagine they would bomb the building because it has only training and educational centers.”

Because of the loss of his only source of income, Mohammed suffered from depression after the war.

Mohammed had five employees in the first center, but he couldn’t bring them with him to the second center, because he was unable to pay their salaries.

“I only had one employee in the second center, and sometimes, I could not afford his $200 salary,” he said.

Mohammed said that he was never compensated for his loss. “Young men need support or they would develop a sense of failure. Somebody could commit suicide, while others would try to illegaly escape through seas or forests, which is another form of suicide.”

“My business was bombed and destroyed twice, and no one supported me! I have more than $5,000 in debt due to the bombing of my center two times. I don’t know how to pay my debt,” he confessed.

“Everyone has the right to security.”

The government in Gaza hasn’t published the last war cost yet, but the Ministry of Public Works declared that the damage resulting from the bombing of residential units amounts to 5 million dollars.

- Ahmed Dremly is a Gaza-based journalist and a translator. His writings appear in We Are Not Numbers and Mondoweiss. WANN contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.
(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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