Eid in Gaza
Can you imagine how it feels to see a dear one killed in front of your eyes, knowing that it is supposedly a happy day, a festive day? How does it feel to lose a beloved on or right before Eid? I can’t even imagine the pain.
Unfortunately, the feeling is not like a moment in a dream which simply vanishes during disrupted sleep. It’s far more permanent. Countless days of just this – either being killed or seeing your loved ones die. The recurring situation seems to have no end.
While sitting on the stairs outside our house during a calm and peaceful summer evening in Toronto, I felt a deep chilling wave inside of me when I saw tears in his dark green eyes. He was recalling how he used to play, eat and live with them during his childhood. They studied and worked together for a long time afterwards.
This was Ebraheem, a qualified banker who recently moved to Canada to provide his daughters better education prospects and safety. He was a former resident of Gaza.
He was upset and emotionally consumed because a close relative’s entire family of 18 people had been killed in the recent attacks. Small, uninterrupted tears filled his eyes while he sipped on Turkish coffee after the last iftar of the year. Monday was Eid but after listening to his story, I had lost my sense of excitement for the day.
This is how Eid is this year for the Muslims residing in Gaza – full of bloodshed and tragedy. Even though an immediate ceasefire has been called due to the occurrence of Eid, traces of devastation will continue to haunt the ones living in camps in Gaza. On the other hand, for those who are fighting for their lives in hospitals with meagre resources, it’s absolutely dreadful.
Zainab, Ebraheem’s wife who is an educationist, said,
“It’s been a norm; every two years, Zionist-dominated extremist Israeli government manipulates an excuse to disrupt life in Palestine.”
Is this downright disruption or something more than that?
According to the New York Times,
“Israeli intelligence officials used gag orders in recent weeks to stifle reporting on the initial investigations into both the abduction and the killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem.”
Gaza is a small and densely populated region where houses and residential buildings are at a distance of not more than few meters from each other.
Zainab went on explaining,
“Therefore, when an air strike hits any one of the buildings, it means there is no chance of the neighbouring buildings and its occupants to stay safe. They hit a small rocket which is a warning and you count for 57 seconds for another expected major rocket to come your way and demolish the buildings completely. This 57 seconds time window is all the helpless residents of the area have to find shelter for themselves.”
Zainab surfed through her news feed and showed me videos that were sent to her by her acquaintances from Gaza that show how targets were being executed. She counted 57 on her fingers in Arabic and after the strike she couldn’t speak for another minute.
According to the Washington Post,
“Israeli aircrafts are targeting houses in the Gaza Strip as never before, firing precision-guided missiles into living rooms. They have killed at least five known militants with the tactic — but they appear to have killed more civilians, including a growing number of women and children.
Israeli defence officials say their mission is not only to stop Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip from firing ever-more-powerful rockets deeper into Israel, as they did on Wednesday, but also to weaken Hamas by killing its commanders.”
As Gazans, under humanitarian truce, take respite from the bombardments that have been an everyday routine during Ramazan for around 19 days, Ebraheem spoke to his family via Skype.
After that, he added while talking to me that,
“Eid is rare in Palestine, and this time, my family back home have to make through it alive.”
Although his immediate family is safe in Gaza, he is unnerved by the situation there. He explained that his mother, brothers, their wives and kids have fled from their home in the northern part of Gaza to an overcrowded UN-run school. More than 70 people are residing in the facility, which has no generator for electricity and no water to take a shower with – just one toilet for all the people present there. Dwindling fuel supplies and damage to the power grid from the fighting has left the city with just an hour or two of electricity a day.
Saddened with grief, Zainab expresses her sorrow regarding Eid in Gaza by saying,
“With so much death, destruction and despair, there’s no Eid for Gaza this year.”
Every two years, a war is waged on Palestinian civilians, killing people ranging from infants to 80-year-olds. It’s been happening for generations. Whatever has been developed or achieved in the name of peace, strength and growth, fizzles out, while Israeli authorities call it a deflating and demoralising attempt to weaken Hamas and other militant groups.
Gaza has enclosed borders where people have no opportunity to exchange knowledge and gain momentum for economic growth in the country. Israel controls water and electricity, thus severe shortage prevails and agricultural lands are under occupation. They have the lowest employment ranking in the world, and to add on to the complications, the Palestinian government owes Israel a huge debt.
Does this seem like a death trap to anyone else?
Zainab went on to elaborate on Palestine’s current refugee situation by saying,
“At the moment, when war is at its peak, the Egyptian government has sealed its border, not allowing the Palestinian refugees to enter their land and neither are they allowing rescue organisations from the other side to help the war trodden people; it’s their (Gazans) only connection to the world.”
While correcting me on the word ‘refugee’, she says,
“We are not refugees; it’s our land which has been occupied by shutting it down for its natives. We are the displaced people. My father was five-years-old when he had to leave occupied Palestine, and now 90% of the people are displaced. We will get our land back soon.”
Zainab’s only hope lies in true leadership. She thinks that only selfless leadership, for both Palestine and Israel, can help resolve the long disputed issue. People have lost hope as they need a leader who has no lust for money, authority and benefits for his party, and rather someone who believes in the benefits of the common people.
In Israel, only a non-extremist and non-Zionist leader can be their ray of hope. Knesset members seem a bit divided over killing of innocent people and occupation of a state that does not belong to them. They believe that some of the occupied land should be conferred back to Palestine.
“History shows that any occupation doesn’t last forever.”
And until then, Eid will just have to wait.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.