Filed by Tareq S. Hajjaj
It is common in my work to go into the field for one specific story and discover many other stories inside it. Sometimes I feel that the Gaza Strip is the homeland of original stories. But unfortunately, many of these stories are painful.
I was writing a story about the power cuts in Gaza recently, so I went to a family’s home to live with them for a full day. I wanted to tell the family’s whole story and share how they cope with receiving only 3-4 hours of electricity daily during Gaza’s cold winter weather. However, spending the entire day with this family was difficult as I witnessed all the other issues facing this family in addition to their lack of electricity.
Ibrahim Al-Bala’wi’s family in the Jabaliya refugee camp welcomed the Mondoweiss team to observe their day for our story. We sat among them as they started their daily routine.
It’s worth mentioning that a brother and a sister in this family are disabled. They both have suffered permanent damage to their feet and legs; the brother was injured by Israeli fire during the Great March of Return, and the sister’s feet were amputated following a heart attack. Riham Al-Bala’wi, 33, this sister, is also a divorced mother with three children.
I told them that my story is about their struggle with the power cuts during the winter, but speaking to them only about this matter was impossible. They couldn’t just discuss the difficulties they face due to the lack of electricity without also telling me about their struggles getting medication, food, and fulfilling their children’s needs. And I had to listen.
“Since the moment I had a heart attack and started to lose my strength, my husband abandoned me and his three kids,” Riham tells me.
The man feared his wife would need special medical care and medication that his economic condition could not provide, so he left his family.
Riham moved into her father’s home, which is very small, but he welcomed her and her children despite his poverty as well.
One of the biggest problems during my work is that people think I work for a humanitarian organization that helps people financially. I often have to tell them I’m only a journalist and have nothing to do with providing aid. But they sometimes keep contacting me over and over to give them some help. Sometimes I share their stories with some kind friends of mine to see if they can help them, but I can’t always do this.
Riham struggles not only with her divorce and raising three kids but she also has difficulty getting the medical care she needs. She wants to receive an artificial limb, as she is now facing a complete leg amputation, but the government has informed her that it won’t be able to help cover the costs, making it impossible for her.
In the small house Riham shares with her family, she is not the only person who suffers, but as a woman in Gaza society, she is different from her brother Mohammed, 32, who is a father of five kids and lives in the same house with his parents.
Mohammed had his foot amputated due to his wounds in the Great March of Return, but he is now working as a delivery driver in a small motorized “TukTuk” despite his condition. He has been forced to work to feed his family as neither the government nor private charitable organizations have been able to give him support.
It’s a lot of pain and suffering inside one small house, but honestly, this is the reality of our society in Gaza. No home is without any pain. In every family, there is at least one story about suffering. The reason behind this is not only that we live in Gaza, but ultimately it is due to the Israeli occupation, which prevents all people in Gaza from enjoying our rights.
If we had an independent state, these cases could be adopted by the government, and they would maybe receive a monthly salary to help themselves and their families and get financial support for their medical care. But this is not the case. We will keep suffering until this occupation ends.