Writing and Painting – Messages from Gaza Now – October 2023 – January 2024

Writing and painting

Basil Marquosi, my life-long friend, the artist, the painter, put a statement on Facebook saying: 

I am painting to feel alive.

It seems I am doing the same; I am writing to feel alive when life has stopped having any meaning, when life is only a daily journey to look for food and water like any animal in the wild. When life has no purpose, writing gives me some purpose, a kind of reason to stay alive.

Basil lives with his family, his wife, 3 or 4 children, a daughter-in-law and her baby child and 2 strangers, friends of his son, who have lost contact with their parents for more than 2 months and have no place or anyone to take care of them. They all live in a tent, a poor plastic sheet tent. He has no income, has no money, spending his whole day trying to secure some food from charity or humanitarian aid. 

At night, by the light of his mobile, he paints. He has no colours, he has no canvas, he has no paint brush, he uses whatever paper he finds and with a pencil or a pen he paints. This is the time he feels alive still.

I am in the rented flat, writing, trying to describe what I witness or what I passed through during my day.

In the morning, I took my wife to her work, it’s in Zorob Square, normally a 7 minute drive from where I am in Junaina neighbourhood in Rafah. It took at least 40 minutes due to the huge crowds on the roads, especially outside shelter-schools. Thousands of people in the street, making driving almost impossible.

Not far from Abeer’s workplace at Humanity and Inclusion Organisation, there is an aid distribution store. Yesterday, I received a message to go to that address to get a food parcel. I went there, they gave me some vegetables and some tins of food – 2 kg of tomatoes, 3kg of potatoes, 1kg of eggplant, 5kg of green peppers and 1 kg of lemons, 2 tins of brown beans, 2 tins of white beans, 2 tins of tuna. They compared my name on the list with my name and ID number, then asked me to sign. This is the first time I receive a food parcel since I arrived in Rafah. I asked:

  • Is this a regular food parcel? Weekly, bi-weekly or monthly? 

They answered:

  • There is no schedule. We can’t guarantee receiving this aid and we try to reach as many displaced people as we can.

Displaced people? They are more than a million. There were about 200 parcels in the store. When will they be able to reach all the displaced people? And what will people do until they reach them? How are they going to eat? And if the food parcel is finished, when can they get another one?

I left with my food parcel back to Rafah town. My older brother is calling:

  • Yes?
  • Our middle brother and his family, 4 boys and 1 girl, escaped from Khan Younis and they are on the streets.
  • Oh God, not again. What can I do?
  • They are in need of a tent.
  • Is there a space for the tent? It took you 3 days to find your space.
  • I reserved a place near me for them.
  • But I have no access to tents.
  • Please try.
  • I will do my best.

I don’t know what to do. This is too much. Where can I get a tent? The first one was a challenge, not easy. I must call some people, I don’t know if I will succeed this time. Also the mattresses. the blankets, the food??!!

My nephew is calling:

  • Yes dear?

  My mother (the one who has kidney failure) has a chest infection and we can’t find the medicine

  • What medicine?
  • Lorex, Augmentin, Azcir – any of these three.
  • Ok my dear, I will try my best.

Oh God, is there any end to this nightmare?