The third displacement, to Rafah – Messages from Gaza Now – December 2023

The third displacement, to Rafah

Finally, I must decide – my wife Abeer’s brother and his family, Abeer’s female cousins and their daughter arrived at my parents-in-law’s home. A full house of women and children, some of us must move to Rafah, the next destination after Gaza City and Nuseirat. They are all one family. I am the outsider. I decided to take my mother and leave. Abeer decided to stay with her parents and sisters. Now we have to separate. I don’t know how long for. I don’t know if we are going to meet again. 

Finding a taxi to Rafah was not easy, I had to walk from Sawarha to Salahaldeen Road where taxis are found, 5km walking, in fact almost running. It was 14.40, dark falls in less than 3 hours. I must be in Rafah before dark. Dark is another fear, another uncertainty.

Found a taxi, asking for lots of money. No choice, I agreed. $100, almost 20 times the normal price. We drove back to Sawarha, I loaded our stuff, 2 mattresses, 2 blankets, 2 bags of clothes. A half full cylinder of cooking gas enough for 2 weeks.

I did not know even then where to go in Rafah. I called a friend there asking him to find me a place. I know that I am giving him an impossible task. More than 1 million people displaced to Rafah, a city of less than 100,000 people now hosting 10 times the original population.

From Nuseirat taking the sea road, anxious, not comfortable, the Israeli navy on the horizon, we heard many stories of shelling and killing of people on the sea road. Arriving at Khan Younis, west of Khan Younis, Mawasi area, the area which is mostly uninhabited, agricultural land. We used to drive and spend our weekends there running away from the crowds and noise of the city, Gaza City. It is unbelievable how it has become, thousands and thousands of people on the main road, which became similar to a flea market, selling some food items, second-hand clothes and other stuff. On both sides of the main road, hundreds of tents made from cheap plastic sheets.

Arrived in Rafah, same image, same situation doubled. Crowds everywhere, tents everywhere, small sellers everywhere. People moving all ways, back and forth, huge chaos. Dirt, garbage everywhere, destruction everywhere, bombed houses everywhere. Grey and black are the dominant colours, as if the colours of life have been taken away from Gaza. Trees in the street are all cut, people cut them to use for fire. No green colour anymore, even the sky in this season hides its blue colour and shows its grey, gloomy colour.

Some of my friends who arrived in Rafah earlier are in tents in the streets, tents that don’t prevent the cold or rain, but this was their only option, their only possibility. What will I do with my 83 year old bedridden mother?

Calling my friend all the way and the connection is not going through. More than 60 times trying until finally it works. He asked me to come to his family house in Rafah. I know already they have no place, no room for any more people. I know they are hosting more than 100 people there. 

Arrived at his place and he received me with a big smile.

  • Are you lucky or are you lucky?
  • Why? What?
  • I asked a friend who has good connections to look for an apartment for rent. He is a wealthy business man but he could not find any place for rent.
  • So, what is the news then?
  • He asked me again, ‘Who wants the place?’ and I told him it’s for my friend and his bedridden mother. He decided to host you and your mother in his home.
  • Really?! I don’t want to bother people.
  • Don’t worry, let’s go.

He took a ride with us, guiding the driver to his friend’s address.

Arrived at a fancy building of three floors, with a side yard with a decorated, wooden roof.

The man was there waiting for us with a big smile, very friendly and welcoming.

He asked his sons to unload my stuff, they did not let me carry anything. The ground floor had a big living room and one bedroom with a toilet beside it. The man said: ‘I hope this is ok for you.’

I was speechless. Could not express my feelings of appreciation but kept saying: ‘Thank you, thank you.’

I put my mother to bed. They brought food and offered for me to take a shower. A shower? Wow. A hot shower. The first time for three months, since then, I have been washing my body using a plastic can with cold water.

My mother was so tired from the journey. She slept.

After the shower I went to the side yard. There were some men around the fire, brewing a pot of tea. We sat, chatted until 8pm. Then we all went to bed. They did not stop asking me if I needed anything, they did not stop saying ‘ Your mother is our mother, you should not worry about her.’

I slept. My mother slept.