Saturday December 23, 2023

An Islamic Relief aid worker* in Gaza reports that danger is closer to his family than ever, but they have nowhere left to flee.

Yesterday, we woke to new orders for people to evacuate neighbourhoods in Gaza’s middle area. This means the danger is coming closer to us, and it is terrifying.

We have nowhere else to go. I will not take my family to live on the street and sleep on the sidewalk.

I do not know how long the world will keep watching this catastrophe unfold. The world is turning a blind eye to our suffering and the dire humanitarian situation which we Palestinians are facing.

This is not life. It is just death, but with the ability to speak and breathe. Even the simplest things are now beyond our reach: food, water, charging our phones, even getting toilet paper.

Even basic foods are scarce and expensive

A couple of days ago, we regained access to the internet and mobile phone signals, after being cut off for a whole week. I was so happy to be able to text my sisters who live outside Gaza. I haven’t seen my sister in Saudi Arabia since 2015, but managed to catch up with the one who lives in Turkiye about 6 years ago, while attending an Islamic Relief meeting in Istanbul.

Chatting on the family WhatsApp group, my sister – knowing how much we are all craving a decent meal in besieged Gaza – tried to give us ideas for simple food recipes. I asked, what is the simplest thing that you can cook. Pasta, she replied. I told her that pasta is rarely available and when we can find it, it’s too expensive. A 500g pack of spaghetti costs around $4 USD. To feed the 20 of us currently living at my parents’ house, we’d need 2 kg of pasta, at a cost of $16. And the other ingredients aren’t available at all – finding cheese, for example, is an impossible mission. We can make pasta sauce, but tomato prices are ridiculously high.

A sister suggested we just boil some eggs for the kids. I told her that if you can find a dozen eggs in Gaza, they cost about $6. Before, they cost $1. Still, we managed to find eggs a few days ago and fried them for a meal. It had been a long time since we’d tasted eggs, so they tasted wonderful.

Difficult daily decisions

I told my sisters about the 4 main preconditions to select our meals: first, the ingredients should be available. Second, it can be prepared on a wood fire. Third, it should be of sufficient quantity to feed everyone in the house. Fourth, it should not need bread to accompany it.

We used to buy bread from bakeries, but from the first days of the fighting, many bakeries have been targeted. The remaining bakeries cannot make bread anyway, as Israel stopped fuel from entering Gaza, and there is little flour left here. What flour can be found costs about $100 for 25kg.

Around 20 years ago in rural parts of Gaza, most families baked their own bread at home, using clay ovens. As modern life progressed, most people abandoned the ovens but now they are once more the only way to bake. Luckily, our neighbour has one so every couple of days my mum and sister go there to bake our bread. 10-15 families a day use that oven.

It is tiring work, and of course they have to bring wood for the fire too, wood that is incredibly difficult to get. People are cutting down every tree they can find – someone told me he saw people going to graveyards to cut the trees. We bought a wooden shipping pallet: before all this, it would have been thrown away.

You can help end this nightmare

It is hard for us to live like this. This is the 21st century, in which human rights are emphasised and peoples’ dignity is protected by international law and the United Nations. But seemingly, Palestinians are excluded from this.

This is a nightmare that needs to end.

I swear, we are people who call for peace. We hate death and destruction. We want to thrive and prosper, like anyone else, anywhere else. But there are strong powers around us who do not want that, even for innocent Palestinian civilians.

We still hope there are brave people around the world who can carry our voice and can tell our story to the world. I still believe you, my dear readers, can make change happen: please, put pressure on your governments to bring about the ceasefire we so desperately need.

I know this is vacation time for many people and so I wish a merry Christmas and happy holidays to those celebrating. I hope next year you can come to visit Palestine and celebrate Christmas in the land where Jesus, peace be upon him, was born.

Please help Islamic Relief support people in desperate need in Gaza: Donate to our Palestine Emergency Appeal now.

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