LETTER FROM GAZA
Light through the wall
Life in Rafah, Gaza's southern-most city, has always been difficult. But the period since March 2006 has been the worst in my 25-year life. Israel placed Gaza under a siege after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and tightened the siege after Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier near Rafah in late June 2006. We have had little electricity, fuel, money, food or medicine since.
We felt some hope last week, however, when Palestinians knocked down the wall that Israel built along Rafah's border with Egypt, allowing us to escape our prison and cross to Egypt to buy essential goods.
The Israeli Army has destroyed about 2,000 homes in Rafah in the last seven years. In January 2004 they demolished our home. My grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins had gathered in our house because their homes had just been demolished. Then an Israeli bulldozer started destroying our home. I helped my grandmother because she has trouble walking. My mother passed out, so I dragged her to a safer place. That day Israeli bulldozers destroyed 50 homes in our neighborhood.
When the siege intensified in late June 2006, my family and I were trapped for 14 days along with 4,000 Gazans at the Rafah border crossing trying to enter Gaza from Egypt, because Israel had closed the border. We had little food or water. Nine people died. Finally, armed men from Gaza broke the border wall, allowing us to return home.
But the last months have been the hardest, with the borders sealed, growing poverty, dwindling supplies of food, medicine and other goods, and parts of Gaza without electricity due to lack of fuel. Israel's military kills Palestinian fighters and civilians almost daily.
We are waiting for our destiny. Slow death or fast death, it's the same result. Last week eight-year-old Huda from Rafah told me, "I have kidney problems and need to visit the hospital three times a week, and now the Israelis are threatening to shut off the electricity. That means I will die."�
Many times, I've said my heart must be stronger. I stopped every voice that told me that I can't write, that said people will not understand me; I've stopped every fear that says things will never change, because there are always ways to live and to change. My people have a great deal of courage, but what is happening is very hard.
I am no longer the person I was before these experiences. When the Israelis kill innocent people, they turn the children of those killed into different people. It is not hard to guess whether these will become kind children, or sad children ready for revenge.
Still, when I look at our children, I somehow feel everything will change for the better someday. Every one of us can change things in small ways and make the sun shine, even in a dark box like Gaza.
Three a.m. on Jan. 23rd was a moment of victory. Rafah's wall on the border with Egypt was gone. I could barely wait to see it. I wanted to see the smile on every Palestinian face that has been missing for a long time.
Yes, my children, now you can see Egypt. The wall is gone, and one day all the walls will be gone.
Nine-year-old Amal and 11-year-old Yasmine told me, "Remember when we told you it's our dream to see Egyptian children, play with them and see Egypt? We went there and bought sweets and chips, but we didn't see children."�
Mohammed, 22, from Rafah, explained, "It doesn't matter who destroyed the wall, Hamas or Fatah. It was rubbish the Israeli army left behind. I hope the crossing will be opened to movement in a legal way, not like this."�
When I visited the United States in 2006, people asked why Palestinians voted for Hamas. Some in the Palestinian Authority were corrupt. They lost people's trust. The U.S. government sent observers to monitor our elections and accepted Hamas's participation. Hamas won democratically. For years Hamas built social infrastructure and improved people's daily lives. Hamas needed to be given a chance. Instead, the world punished us.
I think that if ordinary people in the U.S. and Europe knew what was happening to ordinary Palestinians, they would be more compassionate. We need food, water, homes, work and access to the world. We need justice. And when ordinary Palestinians have justice, there will be peace.
Tragedy and the loaf of bread
These swings were in our house store , and these swings were not used or investor . During this situation , I had an idea to use them to have our living, and you can see the children are very happy. If the situation changed and siege, I will develop this idea and these swings, under the siege I did not have any income and I barely get a loaf of bread for me and my family, I considered this idea and this project a gift from God to me and my family, and the children here, I did not work , and I stopped for a period of ten days, when children started their exams at schools to not affect them and their studies,
I'm a father 38 years old, the effects of the blockade was comprehensive and strict. Effects on children studies, and crossings, and what to say? Presidents are those who have experience in these things more than me saying. But I live this tragedy every day. I wish from the people in the world look at Palestinians, and the workers who do not get any salaries now, and who do not work , my idea is very distinctive but not enough to support whole family, we are powerless, and underdogs .In the siege , I and my family eat one meal daily as a result to keep up with this situation , and thanks God for this idea, which was welcomed and accepted from children and their families .
These are children????Amal : 10 years old ( Amal means Hope)
I hope that life will become sweet some day , and the workers return to their work , I hope to go on trip to visit
Mohammed : 12 years old
I hope the crossings open , the end of siege , live in stability and peace , and I hope this wall fall down
Fatema : 9 years old
I hope to live safely , not lose more houses, play happy and safe as we were . the wall fall down because we are bored with this life and I hope to see the Egyptian children and play with them, talk to them , we want to go out , have fun, visit Egypt and other countries .
Yassmen : 10 years old
I hope this siege ends , I hope from the people out to help the poor here who are in need .
Yahea : 9 years old
I hope to go to
city with out life
My cousins Abdullah and Adel , who killed by the Israelis who left
Inside the Checkpoint with
In 2006, the Rafah checkpoint was closed periodically. There was pressure even before the elections, before 2005. [
The world is silent. We see just rockets, planes in the sky, no life.
Before June 14, it was unsafe in
When was the last sick person allowed through the checkpoint?
We tried 20 days ago after the Hajjis left.
What do you expect for the future?
If the internationals do not come back, suffering will increase. We hope they will come back.
We people have hearts. Our grandparents are here. We will not leave or sell this land. We will stay even if they kill us. We understand siege. They are trying to force us to leave. If no one can say anything, it will explode in our faces.
The PA does recognize
What about Qassam rockets?
They have killed one Israeli in the past two months. The world makes propaganda. They don’t see Palestinians killed every day. Hamas has a bad image. We are not like the Taliban. We are not extreme Islam. We don’t even carry guns.
you have questions in mind ???
(what Fida think )
· The Israelis give us a choice, “Would you like black, or black? Will you accept, or will you accept?”
· I was surprised, when I spoke in
· (In reference to the demand that Hamas recognize
· Politicians try to keep people busy so that they won’t think about anything else.
· I have thought about starting some projects, but the Is might shoot rockets at a building and say they are targeting the resistance.
who would listen to me if I say "no, this is my project"!!!!!!
when I returned to
We are peace-loving, yes, but we don't want it this way – pushing the Palestinians to do things they want not as the Palestinians want . what's happening in this world !!!
we can break the cycle of violence by respecting each other. If they respect us as human beings who want to have a good life, we will respect them.
At alnajar hospital
1-What about electricity?
We have a generator. But there is a gap in time between the time the electricity cuts off and the generator gets started. (For the operating rooms, they showed us battery backups designed to cover this gap.) We have a new x-ray section, but it is not ready. We need more machines.
2-Do you have enough diesel fuel for the generators?
The hospital director, Dr. Ahmed Abu-Nekira, arrived and continued the interview.
I have five sons and two daughters. I was in a clinic before the hospital. The hospital has 40 beds. It hopes to have 60 when the expansion is completed.
I studied in
Are you seeing malnutrition?
Yes. Especially in children. No work, no salary.
How do people survive without a salary?
UNRWA gives food. Many people eat meat only twice a year—on Eid al Fitr and Eid al Adha. Most donations are to a limited number of people. They don’t share. 90% of people are without jobs.
How long can it go on?
It started in 2005 with the elections. It got worse in 2006 when Fatah was driven out. Ask the American people—not the government. They encourage democracy, then they don’t accept the results. It’s bad for
My son wanted to buy shoes for the winter. He couldn’t find any. He is still wearing his summer shoes.
We are hoping to find a
Interview with five high school students aged 15 years old at life makers center in Rafah –Gaza strip .52 people have died in this siege in 2007.These people were trying to get out of Gaza Strip to get medical treatment, but the Israeli army did not let them. They died in Gaza Strip this year.If this situation remains like this with the closing of the border, it will be catastrophic. Children will die, and they will not live their childhood. We don't know why the Israeli army kills the children.After Hamas won the elections, the salaries were stopped. Medicines are becoming scarcer at the hospitals. There is a shortage of medical equipment also.We ask the people of the world to let us feel safe. We need to live our childhood.Sometimes food is allowed to be brought in, but it is very expensive. Since last year the prices have risen 200 to 300 percent. With growing unemployment, people cannot afford to buy the food they need. Most of the time people just eat beans.We are seeing a growing crime rate because of this situation.There are frequent cutoffs of electricity, which can ruin many machines and also makes it impossible for us to study at night.This could also result in the death of a patient on the operating table.The children especially live in fear under this situation. They are always scared.The power outages can last for 6 hours a day, every day.Transportation has gotten very expensive. For some bus rides within the neighborhood, the fare has increased from one shekel to two or two fifty, which we can't afford. Now that we have told you all this, what are you going to do for us?
We want to live in peace like all the other Arab countries and all the peoples of the world. Do you feel a certain sense of accomplishment and pride now that the Israelis have left and Palestinians themselves are running
After the Israelis left, there are no more checkpoints, so we are not suffering like before, especially between
Because of our strong resistance. And this is not their land to stay in. they might come back, since the wall is still here; that has not changed. They are killing the leaders to make it easy for them to return and control it again. They are entering Gaza now dressed in Palestinian outfits, go to the houses of the people they want and take them, and return to Israel.We Palestinians are not bad people. We have shalit as a prisoner, but we do not treat our prisoners as Israelis treat our people in their jails. When an Israeli is killed by the Palestinians, they make it really big news; but when a Palestinian is killed, an old man or a woman or child, he is nothing and they don't talk about it. How many Palestinians have been killed this year by the Israeli military? Perhaps 340. Others have been killed by the cutoff of medicines and food. If the situation remains like this, malnutrition could become a serious problem.We want all the prisoners to come back to their families. Tell the people in the
interview with a driver
before the closure, we were receiving
who sets the prices, the businesspeople acc to the law of supply and demand?
driver – let me explain. the materials we need are brought to the checkpoint by Is trucks, but they have to wait there up to 3 days or more, and the Pals have to pay for this delay. the truckers charge more for their cargo when they load it onto the Pal trucks.Let me tell you about a building project for Pal whose homes were demolished by the Israelis. People were expecting to move into their homes in august, but they are still waiting for the work to be finished since no building materials are allowed in. some families are living in one room while they wait. If
My cover goodbye , i wil miss you .
2 weeks a go I uncovered my face. For six years, I had been wearing the niqab, the Muslim veil that hides your face, leaving just the eyes exposed. I live in Rafah city in the Gaza Strip.
When I went to the shop with my sister, the same grocery shop we go to every day after work, the assistant asked my sister, is this another sister? Where is Fida? Is she OK?
My sister said, pointing at me, Yes, she is okay and, actually, she is here. The assistant didn't believe it. Not till I spoke to him and even then he couldn't believe I had taken off the niqab.
I teach at a children's centre. My students were staring at my face in disbelief, but all of them said, It is better, teacher. And I feel better too; at least the people know to whom they talking and they can see who is talking to them. I didn't always have this kind of confidence. It was in 2001 that I started covering my face, my first year in University. I started to wear the niqab because I was really timid with strangers and I got nervous when I spoke to men. Women here are supposed to be modest when they speak to men because we have a different style of life here, but I was very shy. At college, I found myself in a mixed male/female department. It was a first for me as Id been in an all girls primary school. Some of my male classmates started to call me tomato because my face would get red when I answered questions. I don't know why! Maybe a doctor can explain why some people blush and get confused and bashful.At first, my family wouldn't accept that I was wearing a niqab. Especially my dad. He told me Id never get a good job with a veil over my face, that I wouldn't be accepted in society. My mum and sisters who don't wear the niqab said its your decision. For those who don't know what is the difference between the scarf (Hijab) and face cover (Niqab)
Hijab means a scarf to cover the hair so people can see the face of the woman they are talking to. Niqab means scarf to cover the hair plus the face so people just can see the eyes. Some women even cover their eyes with a sheer piece of cloth but they can see through. As a joke, some people here call women with niqabs ninjas. Its a term I used to laughingly apply to myself!
Once when I was working with a group of Americans, interpreting. One of them saw a group of women who covered their eyes as well as their faces and said Fida! You will not go as far as them one day? Will you?
Many people here in
Life in the Gaza Strip differs from city to city, even if the differences are small. For example, where I live in Rafah city, I guarantee to you that you will not see a single woman walking in the street with out a scarf covering her hair.
The good thing about the niqab is it really gives the woman confidence in her contact with other people. You can talk easily to anyone. I speak from my six years of experience. The cover was good for me â€“ it gave me a real self-assurance. I don't know how to explain it, but I felt strong and secure. With the veil I have studied , become a teacher , a reporter, a camera woman, and interpreter .
I remember a woman from
Why did I stop covering my face now, not before?
Say I had gone on TV wearing my niqab, I imagine millions of people would immediately assume she must be from Hamas. They wouldn't stop to separate Fida from what she is wearing. And I fear I would not be respected“ people will believe Im a member of Hamas. And I am not. I am a Palestinian woman, and I want to tell you, face to face, I am a human being who laughs and cries.
Our people made the decision to elect Hamas to government. The world didnt accept even though they sent observers who said the elections were free and fair.
Now we are called terrorists. Its unjust .
I was scared to write this piece because I know that a lot of sick people who hate Muslims will try to use it against Islam. They will say, oh, the women are not free and they are pushed to cover their faces. But let me tell you, we do what we want and we are are more free than they think. Me, I am free, and I reckon I have a lot more respect for people than someone like Mr George Bush. Let me explain one thing I am just like you. In your culture, you accept nuns and what's the difference between Muslim women covering up and nuns veils? One hundred per cent nothing. You know why? Because you have your religions and we have our religion and if you want to talk about terrorism, as you call it, I will tell you that you created the terrorism, not the Muslims. Its the actions of the west. Come here, come and see what's happening. Unless you know what its like in
I want to be a messenger for the Palstinians if my face is covered, it might scare you off. Or you might turn the page and the only thing you will think is, She is some Hamas mouthpiece, not She is a Palestinian who is suffering. And I need you to know that. In
This is my third day with out the cover. The first day I uncovered my face, my mum said, Fida, the niqab was better for you. My sisters didn't say anything. Things seem different. I don't know why, but I feel better . I think people need to know who's they talking to. Its not easy to wear the veil and then take it off as soon as you want, no; the society will not accept it easily. But for me the most important is me, to accept myself and what I'm doing. And others are now happy to see my face.
from my notebook part4(life- or death ) what do you think?
While the world focuses on
Mohammed said, we can start videoing here. I found myself saying no. We can start with life. Then I thought to go to the sea, just to see something different, not this sadness.When we got there, it felt like another place. We saw kids swimming and splashing in the water. Nine martyrs in the city and they were trying to have fun.A little girl told us, we came here to be safe and our parents accept that. I'm eight years old. I'm living my childhood even though the tanks and the F16s try to kill it. I was shocked by her answer. I remembered when I was eight. Her experience is not close to my childhood, though we grew up in the same neighborhood. A teacher there told us that after
Three days later our neighbor told me that the Israeli army left
I was really happy when the family found their house undamaged. I remembered my family's house, bulldozed by the Israeli army. Life is hard without a home. The woman said simply, thank God.It's not easy to see people's hearts broken, over a son, a mother, a father, or a home. This time I saw a heart broken over thousands of uprooted trees. Abu Husny lives nearby. He is 80 years old. Looking into his face, I saw his life had been hard. He asked me, do you see what the Israeli army did? They killed me three times, when I left my first house in Bir Shafahin in 1967, when they destroyed my house in 2004, and now by destroying my farm. They erased 26 years of my life, 26 years of work to grow these trees. God helps and will never leave us.People here asked me if you who are reading this can imagine how it would feel without electricity, no food for a day or a week, or water even animals shouldn't consume because it's unhealthy? Can you enjoy life if you don't have a park or a salary? What if your neighbors were killed, and your home or farm bulldozed? Sometimes it's hard to acknowledge what we see. If it exceeds our capacity as humans, we close our eyes, even if we know it's the truth. Please don't close your eyes to
'We suffer together, we leave together'
Sunday July 30, 2006
After two weeks of waiting with my parents and brother at the Egyptian border crossing, I returned home to Rafah,
Sometimes we got food and water, sometimes not. I don't remember if I really slept or not during twelve days inside the terminal. I didn't eat a lot because really I didn't want to go to the bathroom. It wasn't a bathroom actually - four walls and a piece of plastic for the door. Nine Palestinians died there. I could have been one of them. I was more scared for my dad and mum because even young people died. From the border, we could see the Israeli helicopters shooting rockets into Rafah in
We ended up stuck in the arrival hall instead. The Israelis said just 250 people could cross, though 570 people were stuck in the hall. Then we became 800 people, with thousands waiting outside. The people said, we suffer together, we leave together. Sometimes we slept without dinner and without blankets and woke up without breakfast, until the last five days when the Red Cross came. One mother learned that her son was killed by the Israeli army. She couldn't get home for the funeral, though we were a kilometer from
Nobody helped, until some people called the Palestinian armed resistance. The resistance called the Egyptians and gave them three days to open the crossing. The Egyptians said the Israelis threatened that if Palestinians were allowed to cross the border, they would shoot and kill them. Finally, men from the Palestinian resistance broke the Israeli-built separation wall. They entered the Egyptian side and helped the people to get out. We got home through the hole they opened. Thank God I'm finally home. I feel my body is broken. No shower for two weeks, can you imagine? But let me share with you how life is at home. The people in
After I got home, I took a shower. But before I did, my sister told me we don't have too much water, because the Israeli army destroyed the water and electricity lines. We have water once for two hours every four days, and electricity six hours a day. This is how the people live these days: no water, no food and no money from salaries. We always say when somebody visits us, go home and tell your people about life here. Now people need to be educated about
At that time, in the Gaza Strip, in two weeks, the Israeli army killed 94 people. The war in
I finished my work and went home at 11:30 pm. There were many people in the street. This is how the people spend their time at night in Rafah because its really too hot to be in their homes. On another part of our street was our neighbour's wedding. The people there stayed really late. I got home and tried to have fun with my sisters and brother. We watched a TV program. I could hear the Israeli helicopters and planes. I knew in my heart something going to happen, but I didn't know what! Suddenly we heard the loud sound of a bomb
Everybody ran to see what had happened. It's not possible to stop yourself when people are in need of you. My mum cried and asked my brother to stop and to get home after we heard people shouting, especially kids. I recognized their voices. Everybody was running. We opened the door to allow people to enter our house in order to be safe. My mum asked our neighbour who was sitting on his balcony, where was this bombing? It was very close and we really felt as if the house would collapse. He said it was the house of Sami our other neighbour. An Israeli F16 fighter plane bombed it.
Some people were injured who were walking in the street. Soon we heard that a child was injured too. I couldn't walk. The bombing was really close to us, just 30 or
The sounds of the scared children made me cry. I wanted to help, but I couldn't (TM). I went to the hospital and found that everybody was alright. Now, last night on our street the Israelis called and warned three families to leave their houses, saying they would bomb them. The Israelis did the same in other camps in Rafah, warning a total of ten families. The next day I felt I needed to do something different. I called my friend and asked her to meet at a restaurant because I will be busy next week at work. It was the first day I planned to rest. I took a taxi and went to the nearby city of
And the Israelis who kill here kill there. They tell the other people that they are defending themselves. Son this trouble can be ended by negotiation, not war. War for two Israeli soldiers? He said, son, I left my house when I was ten years old. I remember everything that happened. My father said we will return soon after a few days, but we are not back still, 50 years later. And now I see myself in
He responded, I think people here, in Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, Vietnam and other poor countries will have a good life, if the world sees the true picture of what is happening here, and if we work good to educate the other countries in the world. That made me feel a little bit better because part of my work is to educate people. The next day as always we were watching TV to follow the news from
They killed 19 people, and injured many. I tried to make myself feel better by visiting friends I met when I was stuck for two weeks at the border crossing between Gazaand
The Israeli army demolished my family's home in 2004. That's my family's story again with a new family. It's the same city, the same people, and the passage of time has not made a difference, even in 2006. We were there three years ago. And they were there an hour ago. It's the same story, the same. In Rafah, we have water once for two hours every four days, and electricity now twelve hours a day. This is how people live these days: no water, no food and no money from salaries. Everybody hopes to have a good life and future. We love our kids, mothers, and fathers. We love our families like you, and we feel sad when somebody is killed. We are humans, of flesh and blood. Think of that for a minute please. Never rely just on information from the stronger side. Hearts can tell what information is accurate and guide people to the truth. Truth can tell us how to reach justice and peace.
from my notebook part 1
Iam currently on my first visit to the
My family and I live in Rafah. On January 21, 2004, our neighbor, Abu Jamil, woke us at 2:00 AM. He asked for help because the Israeli military came to bulldoze his home. My mother and I helped his family to empty their house. By 6:00 AM it was demolished.
I took a shower and studied for an exam. I made tea for everyone. I thought they wouldn't destroy more houses, but soon my grandmother, my aunt, my uncles and cousins appeared, because their homes had just been demolished. We all sat in one room. I thought we were safe although I heard bulldozers outside, but soon our neighbor warned us that they had started destroying our home. Everyone left the house. I helped my grandmother because she has trouble walking. My mother passed out and couldn't get up, but I dragged her to a safer place.
Then I realized I forgot my bag with all my important papers. I returned home to get it, and just as I left, the house's last concrete blocks fell right behind me. That day Israeli bulldozers destroyed 50 homes in our neighborhood.
Since then, we have moved seven times. I have two brothers, four sisters and my parents. It's hard because we are never in our own home.
The Israelis say they destroyed homes in Rafah because they hid tunnels for smuggling weapons. Do 2000 houses in Rafah hide tunnels?
I once asked a man who lived in an isolated home far from the border why they demolished his house? He said that the bulldozer driver told him, "To make you suffer."
After my home was demolished, I was inspired by the example of the American activist Rachel Corrie who was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Rafah, and my friends and I decided to organize to help families near the border. But I wanted to do more. I started working with children, and succeeded by opening Life Makers, a children's educational center. We started with 40 children and now we have 300.
Most Americans think we are free after
I think if ordinary people here knew what was happening to ordinary people in