Our Maia Project Coordinator, Ghada Mansi, spent the last few weeks checking the water purification units that we have installed in schools throughout Gaza in order to assess the damage, check what maintenance is needed, and plan for our next steps. And even though she’s lived through the horror of this last aggression, she was left in awe of what she saw when she went back to the streets.
“Do you know when you have so much to say, but because what you’ve witnessed is unbearable you feel tongue-tied? That’s me right now,” Ghada told me when I asked her how her field visits were.
Before this last offensive, my work included visiting schools in four areas: the north, the south, Gaza city, and the center of the strip. Each area has a certain number of schools for me to visit and check, so I’d give each area the maximum of two days for inspecting the Maia Project units. These two days were more than enough to complete my site visits. I’ve been doing this work for the past three years so I know the streets like the back of my hand. It’s like my car drives on its own in these roads and the areas are well-known to me.
The first week after the ceasefire when Ghada tried to do her field visits she wasn’t even able to visit these schools as most roads were closed, and some partially or completely destroyed. So she waited a little bit and worked on organizing herself and assisting our other colleagues and partners working on different aid projects. After waiting for a few days, Ghada took to the streets again, and it took her a very long time to reach the schools as the roads were still closed, and before telling me what she saw, she paused for a long time, took a deep breath, sighed, then said,
“You know when you see what we’ve seen, that would be the time where you wish you can actually unsee things. I wish I did not witness all of the destruction,” Ghada said.
Then she continued:
The roads were destroyed, the roads that I could drive through blindly before because I knew them so well, now they no longer exist. I had to take detours and go through back roads just to get to my destinations.
Not to mention all the destruction around me everywhere. I cannot even begin to describe. I like taking pictures, and normally as I drive by or if I was stuck in traffic, I take snapshots of simple beauties here and there along the way. Now look at the shots I took from my trip. DESTRUCTION EVERYWHERE!
This time the traffic was not because there was some kind of event, or broken car, or rush hour, but it was because the streets were destroyed and full of huge holes everywhere. Because homes and buildings alongside these streets were destroyed and unfamiliar. Because every detour we took, it was yet another unfamiliar scene full of destruction and despair.
Yes we’ve lived through 4 wars on Gaza until today, but that does not mean it will ever become something we’re familiar with.
I’m not telling you this for the blog’s sake, but I was pained by the empty looks people had in their eyes while I was passing by them. I saw children looking through the rubble, I imagined they were looking for their toys or clothes. I saw our elderly sitting beside their destroyed homes, looking aimlessly and hopelessly not even knowing where to start from.
It pained me to be a passer by and not knowing what to do either.
I cannot even do my job properly to ease this sense of helplessness, each school needs an entire day now just to figure out a new path to get to it. There are two schools in Beit Hanoun I cannot even get to still because the streets to them were completely destroyed.
And here I’m talking about me, only one individual, what about the companies who do the maintenance? My job focuses on inspection of the water purification units, determining the needs, and for any repairs I reach out to a maintenance company that supports such work. When I called them, they told me it’s impossible to get to schools in the “old way” since they have big trucks and tools, and that they’re looking into alternatives but that will take some time to manage. Not to mention that they are lacking in material and resources due to the blockade, and the current price inflation in the strip.
I am not saying all of this to bring you down, but it is a tough reality to work into. Nothing is familiar anymore, not our homes, not our work, not our people, not their gazes, and not our streets.
These are no longer my streets.
They took everything familiar to us in this war, and now, for the fourth time, we have to reconstruct our entire existence as human beings once again.
I will not sugarcoat it, it is exhausting, it does seem hopeless, but we will rise again.
It might take me longer to do my job and I might need to take a rest every now and then but mark my words; we WILL rise again.