by MCC Staff
Everyone needs a home — where families are safe and secure, where their basic needs are met, where they can come and go freely, and where they can imagine a future.
But that is not the reality for Palestinians — or even for some Israelis.
Living under Israeli occupation, Palestinians regularly experience demolition of their homes, confiscation of their land, restrictions to their movement because of checkpoints, walls, and permit systems. They live with severe water shortages. Many of those who resist — even non-violently — face military detention and imprisonment.
Many Israeli Jews live with ongoing fear and trauma as a result of centuries of persecution. They too long for safety and security.
Here is a deeper look at what life is like in Gaza, which the United Nations has said that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020, due to the complete economic blockade imposed by Israel.
The food is ruined
As a result of the blockade, electricity is available, at most, 12 hours per day. Other days, it is only available for four or five hours. Here is a story of how the lack of electricity impacts Gazans.
Amna Ma’arouf is from the northern part of Gaza. The mother of four children says the lack of electricity means that she needs to rush and cook while they still have electricity, then store the food in her neighbour’s refrigerator, as theirs broke down due to the power outages.
“When I get the food back, a lot of it is already ruined,” she says, “because there was no electricity to keep the fridge working.” Food is costly, so she can’t afford to replace it.
The lack of electricity also has a less-obvious impact: her children’s education. The lack of light in the evenings means that the children are often unable to finish their homework. The family relies on candles, but this leads to accidental fires. Two months ago, Ma’arouf says, God saved her family from a fire.
When she was a child, she says, it was not like this. She is frustrated her children must endure the wide-ranging effects of the blockade and urges “the nations of the world to help us Gazans move forward.” With a smile, Ma’arouf says she still dreams that her children will be able to live in a big house one day.
No such thing as self-respect
In Gaza 68% of households face food insecurity and the unemployment rate is 55%.
Before Israel imposed its blockade, Said Khadir earned more than $100 (U.S) per week as a construction worker. Now he compares his life in Gaza to that of a prison. “When you’re living in a prison, there aren’t jobs.” Unable to find work, his family receives assistance from the government in Gaza and food baskets from a humanitarian organization.
But these resources cannot stretch to feed his family of 11 children. When the supplies run out, he relies on family and friends—a step he does not want to take. “I would like to keep my self-respect, but there’s no such thing when you need to feed your children,” he says.
Today, their family breakfast consisted of one can of beans. Often the family relies on sandwiches of low-quality cheese that makes the children sick. Sometimes the children go to school with empty stomachs.
“I wish there were open borders [with Israel] again, so I could go to work and provide for my family,” he says. Despite the challenges, Khadir says he does not harbor hate for anyone. “I hope my children understand that only a minority of people are involved in this siege and that not everyone around them is a monster trying to destroy them.”
It’s a miracle we are alive
Since 2008, Gaza has experienced three wars between Israel and Hamas, causing the deaths of more than 3,550 Palestinians and 92 Israelis. Because of the restrictions on movement, Gazans are unable to flee the fighting when it breaks out. Once the fighting ends, repairing homes is nearly impossible, as Israel tightly restricts the entry of construction materials.
The Gaza-Israeli war of 2008 forever changed the life of Taha Mqat, his wife and their seven children. When the bombing started, they were at their neighbour’s house. They watched through the window as weapons destroyed their home. Mqat, overwhelmed with desperation, ran toward his house to try and save something, but to no avail, and the bomb’s phosphoric gases left two of his children permanently disabled.
After the war, Mqat and his family rented a home for two years. When they could no longer afford the rent, they moved into tents on their property for two more years. They were finally able to receive assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to rebuild their home, but the new home was damaged in the war of 2012.
When a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel was reached, they decided to fix their house, borrowing money from friends. But the repaired home was damaged yet again, in the fighting in 2014. Mqat says, “It is a miracle we are still alive.” All he wants, he says, is to live like any other human being: with a job, no war, in peace and security.
To learn more about MCC’s work in Palestine and Israel visit our website here. You can also get involved by sending a letter to your MP here, asking our leaders to support an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.
Also read: “Life behind the economic blockade of Gaza – Part 1“