During the recent war, more than 2000 people died in Gaza. And people keep dying from consequences of that war – injuries, lack of sanitation, lack of medical supplies and lack of medical personnel. And everyone sooner or later talks about the ones that were driven into the sea hoping to escape. A lot of those refugees drowned somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Gaza looked as if it had been attacked only just yesterday. During the four days I visited the strip at the beginning of November 14, I didn’t see any construction work going on. People were busy removing and recycling the ruins. Thousands of refugees still lived in UNWRA shelters, some returned to the leftovers of their houses despite the fact that winter started to bring cold weather and rain.
Electricity cut after a few hours. Gaza became dark as if there was no one living there. Then, after a few seconds some generators started working and some wealthy people are enjoying the luxury of light again. In other places candles were lit. When went to the shop to buy some. Only small ones were left, others probably sold out.
Water ran out of the tab in our apartment. It looked like water normally looks: clear. It tasted like nothing you want to use: salty, not fit for drinking, not even after I boiled it. I still showered and I also cleaned the dishes with that water. And I stayed in what is called the Beverly Hills of Gaza city. But the privilege of clean water is something that needs to be bought from the store or from a truck that is driving around playing the first tunes of Beethoven’s “For Elise”.
“For Elise” and the twittering of birds woke me up in the morning. Not too many cars in Gaza. Lots of carriages though, pulled by small horses or donkeys. And always the sound of generators telling you that electricity is not back yet.
In Gaza city the destruction was less. Only here and there the ruins of a mosque or a half destroyed hospital but most of the houses are still standing. In the north, in Shejaiya and Beit Hanoun, the destruction was incredible. Ruins to the left and to the right. The air was filled with dust and made people lose their voices. Breathing became difficult when we drove through by car. Some houses were partly standing, providing shelter for families. Laundry was drying in the dust and bread was baked on small fires. On some rubble signs were put up, telling visitors whose house it once was and how to contact the former inhabitants.
On the third day, I had the chance to visit several medical clinics, stationary and mobile ones. A mobile clinic takes us to a scarcely furnished apartment. A bed in a bedroom. A woman in her early 40ies is lying on it. She is on medication. Her legs are uncovered. Metalwork is holding the bones together and sticks out of her shin. Two volunteering nurses, a man and a woman, are cleaning her wounds that resulted from badly burnt skin. The attack that caused the injuries also killed the woman’s twelve year old daughter. While the nurses take care of the woman, family members are assembled around the bed. The husband turns his face away from us and looks out of the window to hide the tears that cross his cheeks.
I left Gaza one day after the borders were closed. Only internationals can pass. At border, between the Israeli and the Palestinian checkpoint, we spot a man of African origins. He is trapped there, someone told us. A refugee who arrived to Gaza from Sinai. He tried to cross to Israel but was not allowed in and the Palestinians refused to take him back. That’s why he lives on the border now.