Messages from Gaza Now October 2023 – In the Market Again

Hossam Madhoun in Gaza

In the market again

Thursday 19th October 2023

At 9am moving toward the UNWRA clinic with my wife to co-ordinate and distribute the available assistive devices, dignity kits for women, crutches, and wheelchairs for the people we identified yesterday in the four shelter-schools.

Arriving at the market, no day is like any other day, each day is different.

In the market there is a huge crowd.  The people are the same, gloomy faces, heads down.  Some changes have happened.  People are not in a hurry anymore.  People are walking like zombies.  People are walking as if with no purpose.

While walking like all the others, a man bumped into me.  My reading glasses, which I hang at my chest, attached to my shirt, fall on the ground and break.  The man continues walking without saying anything, not even looking back to see who he bumped into.

My plan was to arrive at the UNWRA clinic, leave Abeer there and go to get some shopping. Now a new item on the list, reading glasses.  How can I read or write without them?

Anyway another item to buy today beside bread and vegetables, maybe a chicken if I find one.  No fruit in the market of any kind at all.

On Tuesday at 4.30am the Israeli air force struck one of the only two bakeries in the camp.  Nine people killed in the bombing, the workers there were working and preparing as much bread as possible.

The line waiting at the bakery has doubled. There were a few hundred people, 50 metres along the side of the street.  Now the people in the line are countless.

Forget about bread.  It will take half a day to get enough bread for one day.  You can’t buy the quantity you want – limited quantities allowed so every one can get some.

What to do?  I will buy bread flour and cook at home.  But how?  The same way our grandparents used to do 80 years ago in our homeland in Almajdal  (which has now become an Israeli city called Ashkelon).  On a fire!

Luckily my in laws are living in a semi-rural area.  We can find wood for a fire.  Don’t know how long it will last, but let’s plan day by day. 

Went to all the supermarkets and grocery stores looking for bread flour.  There is none. Nil.  Nothing.

A few hours passed and I see a man carrying a bag of 30 kilos of bread flour.  I ask him where he got it. 

‘Albaba Supermarket!’

‘Where’s that?’

‘In Bureij Camp!’

Bureij Camp is also in the middle area of the Gaza Strip.  It is on the east side of Salahaddeen street while Nuseirat is on the west side, adjacent to the sea.

What a dilemma?!!  Going towards and along Salahaddeen road is not safe at all.  But there’s no choice.  I drove directly to Bureij.  The supermarket was in the middle of the camp.  Luckily there was still bread flour.  I bought 30 kilos.  The man refuses to sell me more, saying that other people also need it –  ‘I have my own customers and I don’t want to let them down if they come to buy’  Fair enough!

Back to the UNWRA clinic.  Abeer and her sister, who decided to volunteer with her, and some other colleagues were there after a long day in the shelters.  They were tired, exhausted, it was obvious.

I asked, did you eat or drink anything?

They said no.

I went to the nearby grocery and bought some juice and biscuits.  I was very hungry and thirsty as well.  While walking back I took out a biscuit and started to eat it when I saw a chid sitting on the pavement looking at me.  He looked poor with unclean clothes, barefoot.  I took a biscuit and offered it to him.  He didn’t want to take it at the beginning but I insisted and he took it.

I decide never to do it again.  I mean never to eat biscuit in the street.