MESSAGES FROM GAZA NOW – December 2023 -January 2024 – Day and Night

Day and night

I wake at 6.30 am every day. My host is amazing. At 6 he is in the side yard of the house lighting the fire, preparing breakfast and hot tea. I am not allowed to leave without breakfast. He asks about my mother, repeatedly asking if she or I need anything.

Leaving at 8 am for the office of my organisation, Ma’an Development Agency, in Rafah. Full house, people from everywhere, from many associations that have no offices, trying to follow up on the interventions they are making for people. 

Rafah, which used to have 170,000 inhabitants is now hosting more than a million, at least half of them on the streets, building tents from plastic sheets which do not prevent cold or rain. But this is what is available. The market in the town centre is over-busy. It feels like the million people are gathered in this town centre. 

I’ve realised that there is plenty of work that we do besides providing psychosocial support; we distribute food, we build kitchens and distribute hot meals, we distribute hygiene and dignity kits to displaced people, we distribute water tanks to shelters and random collectives of displaced people, we distribute clothes for children, we are trying to bring in better tents for people, we employ staff to clean the schools and mainly the toilets on a daily basis. All of this, as well as what the UNRWA do, as well as what all the humanitarian organisations offer, meets almost zero of people’s real needs. With the stoppage of normal life, no-one has any kind of income in Gaza, all that people look for is shelter and food. 2.2 million people. But above all, people are in need of safety and dignity. It is not there anymore. 

I got involved in all of this as a team member of Ma’an emergency team. I have no chance to think about anything. It’s like a bees’ cell. But I can’t stay at the office more than 5 hours; I must go back to my mother who gets panicked if she doesn’t find me around her at 2 pm.

Back home, I go directly to be with my mother who must blame me for being late whether I am early or late. I provide her with what she needs, then try to rest.

Rest!!! I hate it. While trying to rest, thinking starts. What has happened to my brother and sister’s families? Are they alive? Did they survive? Maybe some died and some survived. My wife Abeer and her family – no contact for the last 3 days. I will go to Nuseriat tomorrow to check on them. I wanted to go earlier but could not.

When will this nightmare end? Does it have an end? What kind of end? What will life look like when it ends, with completely destroyed cities and towns? Who is going to be the ruling authority? A new Israeli military occupation? The corrupt authority of Ramallah? Hamas again?

As much as I try to get busy with the family hosting me in order to avoid thinking, night is coming. Dark thoughts invading my head, falling asleep I don’t know how, and waking up in the morning so tired as if I did not sleep or rest at all.