Divine intervention – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

13 May 2024

Divine intervention

There are no earthly solutions for the Palestinian people in Gaza, only divine intervention might help. 

Like many thousands of families, that of my friend, Basel Al Marquosi had to leave Rafah to go back to the middle area. He built a tent of plastic sheets and some wood in Rafah last January when he had to leave Khan Younis. It was not movable; it would have had to be cut into pieces and ruined. So, Basel left it and took his poor belongings on a donkey cart to Deir El Balah, arriving at sunset to nowhere. he did not have an address or a place to go to. He and his family spent 3 days and nights in the street near garbage containers. He did not choose to be there; he had no other place. On the third day, he managed to find some plastic sheets and to build, again, a poor tent. 

I look for words to explain how they feel, what they went through, how humiliated they must be. Why should anyone pay such price? And for what?  

Conversation with Basel and friends on WhatsApp:

  • We are tired of everything! This is not weakness, it is from being let down by everyone, by all the world.
  • Where are you now Basel? 
  • At Deir El Balah, the ones who have no tents sleep in the street. 
  • Where in Deir El Balah? In the Al Bassa area?
  • No, near Al Aqsa hospital.
  • Don’t stay near hospitals! It is not safe, hospitals are targeted, go West.
  • There are no places there, it is completely full, also movement is almost impossible. Transportation would cost 3000 Shekels (850 $). Anyway, I am near, but not too close, to the hospital.
  • If you need anything just ask, I have friends there.
  • Thanks, Rami was with me step by step.
  • Do you have your daughter and her children with you?
  • No, she is with her husband, still in Rafah, planning to come tomorrow. Her husband Taha became responsible for all the family after his father passed away a few days ago.
  • What? Rafat died, he was young, he was not 60 yet!
  • Yes, he died. You know he was a fisherman, and the last thing he asked for was to eat fish, but he died before he could. 
  • May he rest in peace.
  • Well, he is resting now… There are hundreds of thousands who are living death. Believe me, this is so very painful!
  • May God help, keep up your strength my friend!
  • Don’t worry, I am good as long as I have friends like you. 
  • It is so horrible to be unable to help, while we are here outside in Europe and you are left alone there.
  • There is no space for more pain in our hearts 

Waiting for God to intervene…

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What does Gaza feel – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May2024

11 May 2024

What does Gaza feel? What does Gaza not feel?

What the people of Gaza have not felt during the last 7 months: happiness, smiling, laughing, joy, fun, pleasure, delight, enjoyment, comfort, relaxation, sleepy, not worried, laid back, loose, gladness, rejoicing, delighted, cheerful, delectation, festive, secure, safe, unconcerned, full of energy, lazy, careless, hilarious, alive!

Can anyone imagine that 2.3 million people have not felt or experienced any of these feelings for more than 7 months and still do not!?

What the people of Gaza have been feeling during the last 7 months: torment, agony, aches, pain, suffering, soreness, tribulation, suffering, wrenching, misery, anguish, lesion, harm, torture, stricken, distress, trauma, hardship, injury, sadness, sorrow, grief, melancholy, wistful, unhappy, sorry, constriction, worried, anxiety, disappointment, frustration, letdown, anticlimax, crying, weeping, wailing, maudlin, weakness, impairment, disabled, failure, shortcoming, deficiency, anxious, feebleness, fragility, frailty, rustiness, atonality, littleness, despair, despondency, droop, dismay, heartless, giving up, giving up the ghost, bereavement, dispossession, careworn, concerned, spoiled, pillaged, robbed, looted, lack, deprivation, forfeit, damage, loss, wastage, absence, forfeiture, seepage, fear, trepidation, panic, scared, frightened, browbeaten, dread, dismay, terrorised, struck, punished, crushed, ruined, destroyed, broken, death.

Can anyone imagine that 2.3 million people are going through all these feelings, and only those feelings for seven continuous months and still do… 

A city on the run – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

9 April 2024

A city on the run 

Rafah

This city, a city that was barely able to host its 300,000 residents and is now hosting a million people, a city that no-one ever heard about, and now a city all world knows about; this poor city, surrounded by fences, observation towers and guns ready to shoot, lying with the coast of the Mediterranean to its west.

A poor city with sad streets, dark buildings, only the breeze of the sea makes it tolerable.  Accidentally, this city has a border crossing to the outside world. Yet this crossing is very limited, very expensive, unreachable for the majority of the residents of Rafah and all of Gaza.

This city is chased now by guns and tanks and airstrikes, by bombing and shelling and killing and the displacement of its people. Invaded by fully armed soldiers, but who are mainly full of hate. 

For three days the city got shaken up, turned upside down, one million people running everywhere, nowhere, looking for nonexistent safety. And suddenly half the city became a ghost city, receiving bombs silently, losing its buildings with grief, forcibly abandoned, and left alone. 

One million people again displaced, on the run again, for the third time, for the fourth time, for the fifth time, and while running they lose parts of themselves, they lose properties, they lose one or more of their beloved ones, they lose their resilience and their ability to continue, they lose their dignity and humanity, they become broken, weak, sad, despairing. 

During the last three days, I have received many appeals asking for tents, for mattresses, for food, for a place to stay or to take refuge, for assistance materiel, for reassurance, for words of encouragement, for hugs. And who am I? What can I offer? What do I have? What can I offer!? 

I am helpless… 

Left Gaza but Gaza did not leave me (2) – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

Left Gaza, but Gaza did not leave me (2) 

Children: 

  • A group of children standing on a line at a charity cooking point to get some free food, each one is carrying a cooking pan, a photographer arrived to take some photos, all children raised the pans to cover their faces. Dears, it is not you who should be ashamed, it the unjust world who should be ashamed 
  • Why I can’t see? I used to see, why did they bomb us, why did they take my eyesight? I want to see. 
  • A teenager girl carrying a big bag on her back, walking crying, her younger brother behind her pushing an older injured brother in a wheel chair on a devastated, damaged road. 
  • Asking a child from Gaza, what would you like to be when you grow up. He answers: I want to grow up. 
  • I want my leg back, why did they cut my leg off? How can I walk without my leg?
  • A child in the street nearby a shelter/school, 3 years old maximum, without trousers, without underwear, without shoes, crying: Mum! Mum! Where is Mum? 

I called my dear friend Basel who is still in Rafah, how are you, my friend? 

  • Yes. 

This is what he answered, yes, with sad voice, a broken voice. For some moments I did not know what to say. I surely do not expect him to say I am good, or I am ok, but he said the word ‘yes’ and nothing else. 

I tried to find something to talk about, anything, so I turned the talk to be about another friend, Rami, who is also in Rafah and who suddenly decided to cut off from everyone, not to answer anyone, to leave all online groups of friends.  It worked, Basel this great friend immediately started talking about Rami, and how he went to visit him and he spent a few hours with him. Rami was very depressed, (normal) as well as Basel, as well as 2.3 million people in Gaza including my mother, brothers, sisters, friends. 

Sometimes I feel guilty for leaving, but I know I can’t do much anyway if I was there. I was able to secure some food parcels for some friends and family members. I still do this remotely, but I know for them being around is very different. Also for me. 

Out of Reach – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – May 2024

3 May 2024

Out of reach 

Do you know how is it to live in a home which is not yours? In Gaza, I was lucky to be hosted in homes and not obliged to be in a tent. Living in a tent is another story.

I left our home on October 13th when the Israeli army began bombing Gaza City heavily and randomly, and when they warned all Gazans to leave to the south or to face death. 

We went to Sawarha / Nuseirat in the middle area of the Gaza Strip to my parents-in-law’s home. We were warmly welcomed, never made to feel strangers or intruders. It was the same at Abu Khaled Abelal’s home in Rafah a month and a half later. 

Yet, it was not home. Do you understand me? At home I can move from room to room, to the kitchen, to the toilet without thinking that I need to have permission or to consider that there might be someone not properly dressed. At home I can sing loudly, and no one will see that I am odd. At home I don’t need to wash my underwear in the sink and hang it to dry in an unseen place. At home I choose what TV channel I want to watch. At home I can kiss my wife and give her a hug any moment, anywhere without feeling watched. At home I can open the radio and listen to music without being judged even in a time of war. At home I can choose what to eat and what not to eat. At home I can lie down wherever I want, and at home I can go to my kitchen and make coffee or tea at any time. 

What can’t one do at home?! I can do all of that and much more without thinking if it is right or wrong or if it is welcomed by others or judged. 

Home, in other words, is freedom. 

Yes, I was welcomed in Nuseirat and Rafah, but I was not free. I was not at home!

Stress in the back of my neck, strange feelings in my stomach; not pain, but something is wrong. My hands are checking my body, my eyes itch, and a hot tear drops out on my cheeks and burns.  My legs are light, my feet itch, looking for a place to sit or lay down. My heartbeat speeds, my head is almost exploding with pain. This is what I feel physically when I realize that I can’t go home, that my home is out of reach. 

I found the words to explain how it feels physically, but no words can explain how it feels in me.  

 

 

Lost – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – April 2024

30 April 2024

Lost 

Here we are in Egypt, in Cairo, this beautiful city, with no war, no bombing, no destruction, no killing, no drones disturbing our sleeping, no images of starving people, no garbage in the streets, no sewage leakage, no sad faces, no miserable children or crying women, no broken men. Yet, we still can’t sleep, we are still afraid, we still panic.

We left Gaza, and we left everything; the home which is damaged, our belongings, and our memories. We left our brothers and sisters, we left our friends and jobs. 

What do we have here? We are alive, that’s all. How long we can stay here? We are not even considered refugees, we have no identity, we are just bodies moving with no purpose, with no future. Only darkness and uncertainty. 

Our past was stolen, and our present is frozen like a repeating moment that will stop with the end of our money, and this won’t last much longer. 

I am afraid, I am worried. I don’t know what to do! I start to question myself, was it right to get out?  I know it was right, I owe this to my wife, to my daughter, to myself to do what can to stay alive. But what’s next?????

Left Gaza but Gaza did not leave me – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – April 2024

23 April 2024

Left Gaza but Gaza Did Not Leave Me 

Since the war against Gaza started, many WhatsApp groups have been created and I was added to several; the group of the 28 neighbours in our building, the neighbourhood  group with hundreds of members, the Rafah crossing group with thousands of members, the Gaza people in Egypt group with thousands of members, and the Egyptians for Gaza group with thousands of members.

These groups are good for communicating common information, but they are also channels for very bad, very stressful information, as well. 

In the building group there were neighbours who decided to stay in Gaza City and not leave on the 13th of October, staying until they were forced to leave in late March. The only good information was that they were still alive; the rest of the information was something like, “the nearby buildings have been destroyed,” “a flat on the sixth flour is on fire due to a shelling from the Israeli army,” “the Israeli army is shooting at the building from all sides, we are in the basement for safety, all windows of the building blasted due to the explosion of the nearby home,” “we can’t find any food anymore,” and, “the Israeli army forced men to go out naked and then forced all the neighbours to leave to go south via the sea road. Before they did that, they entered the building and blasted all the closed doors. The building with 28 flats is now open with no one to protect it from thieves and looters.” 

At the neighbourhood group, all the news is bad. It is a record of who was killed and which home, or building was destroyed. I could not stay in this group for long, and I left it. 

Several Rafah crossing groups have information about the lists of passengers leaving Gaza to Egypt, updated daily. There is the list of the Hala Company (300 – 500 people) each one of whom paid $5000 to leave Gaza, a list of people coordinated by the Egyptian Foreign Affairs Ministry (100 – 150 persons) each of whom paid $8000, and a list of patients and injured (70 – 100 persons) who paid nothing.  

In addition, there is information or questions from the members of the groups like: 

  • My name and my children’s names are on the Hala list but not my husband’s, what can we do?
  • I entered the Egyptian border, but they sent me back with no reason, what shall I do?
  • Is there any way cheaper than Hala to cross to Egypt?
  • My father is very sick, his name is on the patients list, but they won’t allow me to accompany him, what shall I do? 
  • How do you register at Hala Company?
  • How much will they charge for my mother, father and 3 children under the age of 18?

Then the groups of Gaza people in Egypt and Egyptians welcoming Gaza people:

  • How do I register my children in schools?
  • We left Gaza but we have no income to live, help us please!
  • Can one get a visa from an embassy if one doesn’t have an Egyptian residency? 
  • I am a teacher of English and looking for a job.
  • Where do we get a stamp for our passports to make our stay in Egypt legal? 
  • List of Egyptian doctors providing free services to Gazans.
  • Why are you here in our country, you are a coward, go back to Gaza!
  • I am looking for a chef from Gaza to work at my new restaurant, it will be a restaurant with Palestinian recipes.
  • News from Gaza, bombing in Rafah, bombing in Nuseirat, bombing in Bureij camp…

Bombing in Bureij camp! Abeer received a message from her sister asking to call back urgently. Abeer called: 

“What’s up? How is mom, how is dad, how is everyone?”

“Rami was killed yesterday; we learned of it from his family today!”

Rami was the fiancé of Reham, the youngest sister of Abeer. In late September 2023, he and his family asked for him to be married with Reham. My parents-in-law asked them for some time to think. But before they could give a final answer, the war started. In January, Rami and his family asked again, saying that the war is not going to end soon unfortunately, and we really would like to have them married, what do you think?

My father-in-law said, “OK, we agree, Reham agrees to be engaged, and the marriage will be after the war.”

It was good enough for Rami, he is able at least to come and visit and sit with his fiancée. The boy is in love, he comes two or three times a week, and each time he brings with him a nice gift for Reham or the family. 

Rami was visiting his home in Bureij camp, it was partially destroyed during the Bureij invasion in late November ‘23. He was trying to fix things in order to prepare the home for his future wife, his future life. 

Death did not give him a chance to continue, in fact the Israeli army did not give him the chance to dream, he was bombed inside his house. 

 

In Egypt, in Gaza – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – April 2024

20 April 2024

In Egypt, in Gaza 

In Egypt

Sleeping in a comfortable bed, the mobile alarm waking me up at 6:30 in the morning, taking Buddy for the morning walk, 20 minutes of calm and joyful walking. Back home, taking a hot shower, having the morning coffee, eating a light breakfast, putting on my outdoor clothes. On my way to the office, meeting smiling people, enjoying or annoyed by the street noise, arguing the taxi price, Fayrooz singing on the taxi radio, nice start of the day. Streets full of cars, people everywhere, normal people, walking, talking. Arrive at the office, welcome colleagues, have a break for lunch at 1:30 with a sandwich at a nearby cafeteria, back to the office, work, send emails, reply to emails, prepare plans for the next day.  

Going back home, hot day, the driver puts on the air conditioning, a song of Om Kalthoum on the radio, covering the street noise. Arriving home, Abeer and Salma are waiting for me, they spent the day in the mall, went to a movie and did some shopping therapy. They are smiling and relaxed. Having a warm shower, changing clothes, putting on soft clothes, lying down on the sofa, putting on the TV, not watching anything in particular, just having the TV on, moving lazily between channels. Abeer and Salma calling me for lunch, big meal, salads and main dish with meat and rice, eating and chatting, cleaning the dishes.  Make some coffee, sit on the terrace, smoking and listening to some music. Abeer is on her laptop following up some of her work, Salma in her room studying for her master’s degree, and I pet and tap on the back of my dog, Buddy.   

In Gaza   

Sleeping on a very hard, uncomfortable mattress, waking up at 22h00 to the sound of bombing, trying to sleep again. Waking us at 12:30 am, a drone is very close with its harmful sound. Trying to sleep again, waking up due to backache, trying to sleep, waking up to my bedridden mother calling to move her body to another side, trying to sleep. An air strike nearby wakes me up again, trying to sleep, the dawn prayer calling in the mosque prevents me from sleeping. It is 4:50 am, trying to sleep, my mother calls again. Still trying to sleep… gave up sleeping, going out with Buddy for a walk, no joy, not comfortable, obliged to fight my inner fear and anxiety. Back home in 7 – 8 minutes. No shower, no clothes to change, no breakfast, just eat whatever is available. 

I put on my shoes, go to the office, no regular taxis, walking 20 minutes to get there. People in the streets are walking silently, heads down and faces unshaven, like me. Shoeless children. During the night new homes were damaged. On my way to the office, it is quiet, no noise but the sound of the drones in the sky, until I arrive at the market. There, there is loud noise, huge crowds, thousands of salesmen and children selling food and aid items. Arriving at the office, I open my laptop and wait for emails to download. It takes time, the internet is very weak. I look at the emails, have no desire to work, ignoring many of them, responding to the most urgent emails only. I feel sick, uncomfortable, leave the office, go down to the market with no purpose, walking, looking at the people around me, trying to find one face with a smile, even a fake smile; there are none.

Buying whatever is available of food for lunch, back to the office, not making any effort to see if there are any new emails, close my laptop, say goodbye, leave the office, go back home. Out of the market area, away from the noise, in the street going home, there are no sounds any more but the sound of the drone, as if it is following me, in fact it does; it follows each and every one in Gaza, everyone feels the same. 

Arriving home, doing nothing, waiting for the time to pass until sunset, taking Buddy for the evening walk, and again, no joy, not comfortable, back home in 5 minutes. Dark falls and all fear of darkness fills my heart and my head. Trying to sleep, dreaming of sleep. Can’t sleep. 

To Egypt – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – April 2024

To Egypt

Friday 11th April after one month of very anxious waiting, our names were on the HALA list to travel.  Left home at 6.30am, arriving at the border in 15 minutes.  The Palestinian side started the process of letting people in the Departures Hall at 8.  Have no idea why they asked us to arrive at 7am!

The hall was very full, complete anarchy, no order, official staff are shouting at people here and there.  It took us 2 hours to get out after the passport check and to get the bus to the Egyptian side.

At the Egyptian side everything is absurd and nothing is normal.

We were on the first bus to enter the Egyptian side, yet they kept us waiting one hour inside the bus; we can never know or ask why.

Entering the Welcome Hall.  It’s supposed to be a VIP space with VIP services.  The hall with good chairs, enough for 50-70 people, yet there were 500 people.  There was the cafeteria which is supposed to provide free drinks and snacks.  The servants were shouting at people, treating us impolitely and we don’t know why.

The passport checks normally take 30 minutes to an hour.  They kept us waiting until 4pm.  We don’t know why!

We had our dog, Buddy, with us inside a special animal box.  He was barking sadly from time to time, and the comments we receive from people are really tough.  It seems no-one saw it as normal to take a dog out.

We arrived at 10.30pm.  That’s good, some people were arriving after midnight.  

Salma, our daughter, Salma was there in the street waiting for us.  I don’t know and I cant find the words to explain how it was, the next hour with Salma, after six months under the bombing without seeing her.  I leave this to your imagination.

I went to take a shower.  There was this big mirror in the bathroom.  First time I see my full body for six months.  This is not me.  Much older than I used to be, as if it were years that had passed since I saw my face, my arms, my body, my legs, very thin, looking like Joaquin Pheonix in the movie, Joker.

I thought to myself, maybe better to see a doctor.  I told Abeer.  She and Salma said, you must.

I already know that my sudden weight loss is mostly because of stress.

We went to a doctor.  He asked for several blood analyses and an abdomen ultrasound scan.

The second day the results were ready; we went back to the doctor.

Due to severe malnutrition, I had anaemia and vitamin D deficiency.

He prescribed some medications, vitamin D injections, multi-vitamin supplements and a list of foods that I should increase in my diet.

That’s not a big deal.  I can afford, find and take them and things will be ok.

How many people are malnourished in Gaza now?  How many children are anaemic in Gaza now? UNICEF said that 1 in 3 children in Gaza are suffering severe malnutrition.  I believe this is a conservative estimate.  I believe there are 3 out of 3 children in Gaza are malnourished and suffering from many other diseases as well as anaemia.

What about those orphan children, more than 20,000 orphans in Gaza?  Are they being taken care of?  Are they provided with proper food by their new carers?

Is there any end to this genocide?

Buddy and the drone – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – April 2024

Buddy and the drone

As every dog needs to walk, I have to walk my dog, Buddy. Buddy is a naughty dog, not friendly with strangers or children. If anyone approaches him, he will bark aggressively. So, I had to walk with him at times when the streets are almost empty. And due to the war and bombing and fear of people, early mornings and early evenings, the streets are empty. People are afraid to go out, waiting until full daylight to start moving out. They are afraid of being targets by unseen, but very well heard drones.

I am not less afraid than others, but I have no choice.  Buddy needs to go out, to walk, and to do his natural business.

At six in the morning and at 7 in the evening I take Buddy and go out. The streets are empty, dismal, not comfortable at all. Drone noise in the sky, getting close, feels as if it is inside my ears. I walk with Buddy and feel the fear and uncertainty. How many people, civilians, were targeted by these drones? The soldiers behind the screen controlling the drones are using it as a video game. They see the Palestinians as images not humans, and they treat Palestinians as if they are the evil ones in a video game. They target them and shoot them to record more scores,

I walk and can’t stop thinking of those soldiers behind the screen controlling the drones, who are watching me! What do they think about me? Will they consider me as a target? Maybe the image of a human with a dog in the cursed land of Gaza will provoke them. Maybe they will feel that this image must not exist in Gaza. I walk and I have these thoughts in my head, increasing my fear. It happened several times that I had to cut short the walk after a few minutes because of the feeling of anxiety and of not being safe. Poor Buddy, what he has to go through! Poor us, what we have to go through!