Life behind the economic blockade in Gaza – Part 1

by MCC staff

The United Nations has said that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020, due to the complete economic blockade imposed by Israel. In Gaza 68% of households face food insecurity and the unemployment rate is 55%.

I am not asking for money

The blockade has stifled Gaza’s economy, making it difficult to import or export basic goods.

Mohammad Abd-Elnabi is accustomed to hard work. To support his family of five children, he worked two jobs, at a plastics factory and as a tailor. But after Israel imposed its blockade in 2007, Abd-Elnabi lost his job at the factory, which was forced to lay off half of its employees. The blockade also caused the price of imported fabric to skyrocket, bringing an end to his tailoring work.

To feed his family, he now does seasonal agricultural work. The work is inconsistent and does not pay well. The government provides his family the equivalent of $200 (U.S.) every three months, but this is not enough to cover the family’s expenses.

“I am not asking for money. I am asking for a job that allows me to rebuild my home,” he says, explaining that it was destroyed in the war in 2014.

When asked how his family is surviving, Abd-Elnabi says, “God provides.” He says he wants to return to what life was like before the blockade, so he can find the work he needs. He dreams that his children will one day experience safe and secure households.

Mohammad Abd-Elnabi and four of his five children: the girls left to right, Sama Abd-Elnabi and Fatema Abd-Elnabi; and the boys, Yousef Abd-Elnabi and Ahmed Abd-Elnabi. (MCC photo/Mostafa Al Naffar)

It tastes like salt

One of the most severe daily impacts of the blockade on Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants is the lack of clean water.

“The doctor told us to not drink the tap water in our house–it is not safe. But what other option do we have?” says Khawla Ma’arouf, a mother of seven. Since Israel’s blockade began, the water in Gaza has been filled with minerals and bacteria, as many of the parts needed to repair and maintain Gaza’s water and sewage infrastructure are prohibited.

The parasites and other contaminants often make Ma’arouf’s children sick, but bottled water is expensive and often the family, like most of Gaza’s residents, cannot afford to purchase it.

Ma’arouf used to make tasty juices to sell to her neighbors, but she can no longer do that as the water is too polluted. “It tastes like salt,” she says. Gaza’s intermittent electricity supply also means that water does not get pumped into her house every day. What little does arrive is not enough to do the daily tasks of washing dishes, cooking, bathing and washing hands.

Despite the daily challenges, Ma’arouf continues to strive for her family’s well-being. She dreams that they will one day be able to live like any other family, with basic rights and dignity.

Khawla Ma’arouf and her children Ahmed Ma’arouf, Khaled Ma’arouf, Nabil Ma’arouf, Bashar Ma’arouf, Farida Ma’arouf, Murad Ma’arouf and Obada Ma’arouf. (MCC photo/Mostafa Al Naffar)

We are all people

Gaza is predominantly Muslim but is home to a small Christian community with roots that go back to biblical times.

Thirteen years ago, there were more than 5,000 Christians in Gaza, but the number has dwindled to 1,000, as a result of the Israeli blockade and the succeeding wars. Many who were able to leave did so. Sohail Aiadis, a Christian born and raised in Gaza, does not want to join them. “I won’t leave Gaza,” he says. “I love Gaza.”

Aiadis says the crisis caused by the Gaza blockade affects Christians and Muslims alike. He worries about the economic crisis, which has led to steep unemployment levels. He invested all of the resources he could in his children’s education, but two of his sons have been unable to find employment. The third son is employed by the Orthodox Church and is now the main provider for the extended family.

Aiadis says help for Gaza will come “only from God.” He holds onto hope that the world will stand beside Gazans in seeking their freedom. His request: “Please help all the Palestinians, with no discrimination between Christians or Muslims. We are all people.”

Church of Saint Porphyrius in Gaza is affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church. The number of Christians in Gaza now is around 1,000. (MCC photo/Mostafa Al Naffar)

To learn more about MCC’s work in Palestine and Israel and to find out how you can get involved, visit our website here.

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