As Israel continues its bombardment of Gaza, an Islamic Relief aid worker* on the ground reflects on the ways Palestinians are reacting and trying to survive the desperate situation.
In the Gaza Strip, the situation here is dire, but the solidarity and compassion between people are stronger than ever.
Through the darkness, Palestinians stick together. People are supporting each other to survive. They help one another find shelter, food and clothes.
I have seen firsthand people welcoming displaced strangers into their houses with open arms. They share their food, water and belongings, despite having little themselves.
When my in-laws evacuated Gaza City, they had nowhere to go. Unfortunately, my parent’s house, where my family and many other people are currently staying, had no more space, so I made some calls to the neighbours. Our neighbour, a retired teacher, offered the ground floor of his building which was previously used by a kindergarten.
Adapting to Survive
In the harsh circumstances, people have begun adapting to survive. When the fuel and cooking gas ran out, everyone started making wood fires. While I’d never made a fire before – I’d never even been camping – it was a chance for me to learn a new and useful skill.
Of course, the first attempts did not work well. Trying to start a flame was difficult, and, once it came, the smoke blinded us. But, by the end, my sisters, my wife, my mum and I learned to use the fire to heat water and cook. In fact, we were able to make some pizza using coal and a cooking pan. It was delicious. It was a happy day for the kids.
Standing Strong in Faith
Before the crisis in Gaza worsened, my kids and all the children in the house used to spend their free time playing video games or watching cartoons. Now, they have many other activities to do.
Alhamdulillah, some of them have started memorising the Qur’an. I also notice how they now perform their prayers on time. All the girls have clothes to pray in, which they run to grab whenever the time to pray comes.
They also make du’a more regularly, reciting their morning and evening adhkar everyday. These are wonderful moments of the day, when they come together, asking Allah SWT in one voice for relief and an end to this situation.
Subhanallah, I am proud and humbled at how, at this young age, they have all developed such strong faith and attachment to Allah in a time such as this.
Sharing Simple Hopes
Palestinians are known to be resilient, but this war has also taught me the opposite. I have noticed how simple and vulnerable we are. We aspire only for simple things. A day of peace. A good meal. A cup of coffee. The ability to call a friend.
We cherish our time together more. For my family, in the evening, when everyone is home, we play many games like “Guess the Word”, crosswords and riddles. But when everyone is out, we worry for each other’s safety, praying that they all come home safe.
There are days when I stand by the internet router waiting for its lights to turn on to show that we have a connection. I often find myself asking my son and daughter to go check on the router, hoping to hear that all the lights on it have turned on. Unfortunately, most of the time, the router will only have two lights on, which means we have no connection.
For within our simple hopes, we also wish for a ceasefire. All Palestinians are looking for signs of it and we will read any small piece of news about the topic. I have seen everyone saying, “There is news that parties are making negotiations.” Even if it would take time to materialise, it gives us hope that a ceasefire could happen soon.
Just the other night there was a snippet of news that both parties had accepted a framework for a ceasefire, and I heard fireworks and celebrations in the streets.
There were similar celebrations that took place when we first regained municipal water supplies after almost 80 days of having to buy water elsewhere. There was also that same happiness when we were able to eat chicken again after they were unavailable for almost 2 months.
All our hopes are simple, and all our aspirations are just to live normal lives, but it looks as if this is too big a dream for Palestinians.
There are People Who Care
We have learned that world leaders do not act on the principles and rights they talk about unless the victims are people they care about or a superpower in the world. When simple people ask for simple rights, they are ignored and left alone to face their fate.
But I have also discovered there are people who will raise their voices to defend those who are not being heard. I have noticed demonstrations all over the world, ordinary people taking to the streets, with their children, to march for a just cause.
I have seen people like you, supporters of Islamic Relief, who are interested in knowing the truth about what has been happening in Palestine for decades. I promise I will do all I can, for as long as I can, to tell you as much as I can about the Palestinian story.
So that, I hope, I can, someday soon, write another account for you. About a time in which we are living in peace, and there is a sustainable ceasefire in place.
Editor’s note: This blog was submitted amid a fast-changing and deepening crisis. The information was correct as of Monday 5 February 2024.
*This blog is anonymised to protect the safety and security of our colleague and others mentioned.
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