One of the bakeries that was bombed in Nuseirat Refugee Camp
Due to the lack of electricity & internet, MECA staff member Wafaa El-Derawi is not able to write regular blogs from Gaza. Instead we share this update written after a phone call with Wafaa sharing details of her daily life.
The phone is ringing, and I see it is Wafaa from Gaza. I pick up immediately, hearing her exclaim excitedly, “Finally, I got the internet!” She greets me and continues wryly, “Sometimes I feel even the internet is punishing us. ” She tells me how it takes days sometimes to communicate with family, friends and colleagues. When I asked her how she charges her phone, she told me, “We use solar panels. It takes some time to charge – hours – but at least the sun shows up these last few days to help us. We charge the modem too – for the internet.” Sometimes the signal is not strong enough to make a call, sometimes just a text message goes through.
The solar panels are arranged by her father. She told my proudly, “No matter what is going on in Gaza he is a very optimistic man. He goes to the pharmacy every day. In addition to giving medicine, my dad put a solar charger in front of the pharmacy. Each day the people line up to charge their phones. He feels good that he can do something for his community, his neighbors, for the people around. All the time we worry about him, because they bombed a few times in the market. The main two bakeries were destroyed, not far from his location. We told him he doesn’t need to go every day, but he says he needs to do that.”
“People line up for hours to get bread for their families from those bakeries. Now it’s not possible – there is no bread because the two main bakeries were bombed.”
I asked her how are you doing, how are the people in your home? She told me it’s the same. “Sometimes I don’t even know how many people are here. People are coming and going… usually it’s around 60 people here. We can’t access all the house – it is risky to be in the second floor. We try to be in the first floor or the basement. Imagine all these children crowded into the basement. We are living not far from the Mediterranean Sea, and Israeli military ships are moving around and are very loud. They shake the house sometimes. The tanks are firing not far, and we can feel the building shaking.”
She goes quiet for a minute and reflects, “Compared to the previous wars, this bombing is very loud. It seems they are using different kinds of bombs and weapons.” With a wry laugh she says, “it seems we are in a lab, and they are experimenting on us with their weapons.” Her voice gets emotional as she continues, “This is what scares the children. At night when all of us are inside the basement, my niece who is four years old, is constantly touching me, needing to be held. She cannot sleep without someone holding her all the time. If I move she wakes up. Each time a bomb goes off, she wakes up and hugs me tight. My niece doesn’t know that I am scared too. She has no idea how much hugging her helps me too.”
She continues to tell me more about her daily life. “I walked around our neighborhood yesterday. Everything had changed. The streets changed. There were beautiful buildings, but now all of them are damaged. We walk between the rubble now.“ Her tears start again. “It’s like you are seeing it is coming close. It’s getting closer. At any moment they can bomb where we are. She said we know these people, we know their houses. It’s just targeted because we are Palestinian. No fighters are living there or are around, but it doesn’t matter still they are bombing and killing.”
She sobs as she tells me more. “I lost some of my relatives, and even some of my friends were killed with their children. Sometimes it’s shocking, when people send a text and you don’t know what you will find. Sometimes people send texts with photos. I was shocked to recognize my friend in one of the photos. I didn’t know she had been killed, along with her two children. The children’s bodies were unrecognizable, but I could see their mom, my friend, clearly.”
“There are hundreds of people, who are still under the rubble. They’ve been there for days and no one can reach them. Including children. It’s unimaginable. I think about this a lot – this is what could happen to us any moment.” The psychological impact is unbearable. “It’s like a continuous massacre. Every day we hear about relatives, friends. Day by day, hour by hour, we hear about entire families who are erased, and they are disappeared. Our brains cannot absorb it.”
I ask how she manages with children in this situation, and she tells me, “Sometimes we try to uplift the children’s spirits by playing with them, telling them stories. We try to prepare a good meal for them. But still every day the children are annoyed by us, the adults in the house. We watch them all the time because we need to be so careful. For example, each time they go to use the bathroom, they need to carry a bottle of water, a small half bottle, to use to flush. This is what we do with the contaminated water, that is undrinkable. And that is all they can use, because there is nothing extra, no water.”
Wafaa had called some of our partners to see she could find clean water to drink, and they succeeded to bring some bottles to distribute among the neighbors. This has kept people going so far. She continues, “The situation is desperate, as there is not enough to drink. Seventeen days, I don’t know how we’ve survived these seventeen days. Everyday we feel we are dying many times. The sounds of bombing, knowing people are dying not far from us. Who can live like this?”
“We are really tired. Exhausted. Sometimes I feel I can’t breathe. It’s not just me, it’s the entire reality around us. Yes, it’s about death.”
Death is in people’s thoughts constantly, in every activity. “When we sleep we try to choose the places that might give us a chance to survive if the house is bombed. Maybe one corner will provide a space when the house collapses. We think about it all the time. When children sleep, we try to put them in the corners because maybe this will given them the best possible chance…”
The call ended suddenly, and I assume she has lost the internet. I’m worried that it is something else. I tried to call back but no luck.
Until the next call, I hope Wafaa and all the people of Palestine stay safe.