In Gaza we have a lexicon unknown to other people: blockade, isolation, apartheid, bombings, systematic degradation, destruction, and decay. Living under a military occupation, we wake up every day faced with worse versions of the same challenges – dreaming of going back home, dreaming of having a life and dreaming of having basic human rights.
I was born under the smoky smell of gunshots and the crying of children, under a sky once famous for its biblical stars, now lit up with drones and war jets. The routine of sleepless nights and the tragedy of war have imposed themselves as our lifelong companions. My memories of normal school days are blurry, but the fear I felt running from my primary school to escape the violent assaults on my city, as my legs ran directionless from the missiles falling from the sky, remain vivid.
I have spent the 23 years of my life in Gaza, miraculously surviving four of these attacks. And through this, I have managed to find love, marry, and curve out my new family. But these years have also burdened me with the loss of many loved ones and close friends. I have always found myself constantly trying to reconcile the many ways heartbreak can manifest itself.
I have lost two aunts, an uncle, one by one, to disease. They could have been afforded more time – but being from Gaza they could not exit this land and access the needed medications and treatment. Whether there are medicines available depends on the amount of aid the Israeli state have permitted into Gaza. When the medicines are there, you must pay for it – although Israeli’s get it for free. You can also be denied medicine if you do not have ID because you are not an Israeli citizen.
Two million of us are trapped by an apartheid wall to the east and a polluted sea to the west. The Israeli state does not allow us to leave, so we are confined to the routine of the occupation. We are permitted electricity and water for six hours – at different times of the day. Without water there is no food, no showers and no baths for the babies and children. When we do have water, we must wash in the dark. Often when I am writing the electricity is cut off. My ideas, my words, and my ability to express myself would be lost until tomorrow. The frustration is suffocating. The basic privileges of life that are enjoyed by the rest of the world are taken from us in Gaza.
My wife has graduated from college studying a major in English literature and she has a diploma in teaching. Despite her two college certificates, she cannot get a job. There is no marketplace, the private sector is volatile, and the government sector is debilitating. One month I have an income because I get published and another month I do not get published and I have no income – so we go without basic foods and medicines.
The odds of waking up are a shrinking probability, but we still get up for the day because for all of the hardship and the tragic loss; there is also beauty. And for that we have so much to celebrate. Our green land of olives are the roots to which we attach our souls. Our shelter, our worth and our affiliation with the land is symbolised by the olive tree, as it sheds hope under the shadow of the occupation.
I am a husband, I am a father, and I am a son of this land. I find pride in our hardship, because it is a testament to our people, to be of a land that pursues not power or wealth, but freedom. It is not the duration of our struggle that is the challenge – but how we navigate our lives, when we are only guided by our dreams.
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