A personal story of devastation and heartbreak in Gaza
Founder of Palestine Charity Team describes what life has become as the bombs fall
Allaaeldin Abuasaker is the founder of Palestine Charity Team, which provides critical help to needy families in Gaza. He has spent the past three years studying in Egypt, but he returned home just prior to the beginning of the devastating assault by the Israeli military. Below is an account he has written of what it is like now in the besieged occupied territory of Gaza. – Craig McKee
By Allaaeldin Abuasaker
I returned to Gaza in late September for two reasons: first I wanted to see my family, which always brings me strength, and second because I wanted to celebrate becoming an MBA with my mother, who was not able to attend my graduation ceremony.
I also looked forward to a big celebration for my 30th birthday, which was October 16. Upon returning to Gaza, I got a job teaching at my old college, The Arab College, working with a former teacher. Within two weeks I had a routine that suited me.
On a typical day, I would teach in the morning, then go to the gym, spend some time with my family, and go to the beach with friends to sing, dance, and watch the sunset. In the evening I would go to the Palestine Charity Team office to catch up on correspondence and sometimes to meet the other board members and volunteers. At the end of the day I would walk home, surprised to be so content with my new life.
I drank bottled water, took hot showers, ate as much as I wanted, and at night I had electricity for my computer and phone so I could communicate with friends from all over the world. It was a good life for a 30-year-old man. Simple and clean, with dignity and a future.
My life now is a shocking contrast to what it was before. I can hardly believe that just one month has passed, and I have nothing I had before except my phone, my clothes, and my family. There are 60 people living in my house where there used to be eight.
Now, before I leave the house, I play with my nieces and nephews because I do not know if they, and the house, will be there when I return. As I walk through the rubble, I cannot find anything that used to give me joy and peace. In the old houses I would pass, there was always something I loved: a carved door, a special window, an old lock. The trees on the sidewalk always greeted me.
Now when I see the destroyed homes I think about people being pulled out of the rubble. I think of all that has been lost and all that can never be retrieved.
No one is a stranger in this tight-knit community of neighbors and relatives. Every death is personal. Every wound is personal. One has to risk one’s life just to venture out to get a haircut. There is no longer a beach to ride my bike to, no friends sitting on the fence waiting for me. They blew up the Gaza Port today.
Six weeks into this nightmare, the loss is almost total. I am mostly confined to the house – hungry and dirty – while drones keep on coming and bombs are heard in the distance. What are they bombing? What is left, my mind cries out? On the days when we have no internet, it is easy to imagine that the world has moved on to a new crisis, and that we are finally lost, without friends, without hope, just as our enemy wants us to be.
With the news that the Gaza Port has been bombed I can’t help remembering how I used to ride horseback on the beach, flying down the hard sand and then turning around to ride back. It was exhilarating to become one with an animal, both of us flying together, strong in spirit and body. Together.
Before, I was mentally fit and strong. Now I have to use every ounce of my strength of spirit not to fall into the darkness that is all around me.
I was accepted for a temporary residency in Egypt to get my PhD, but my residency card expired on November 30, and I was not able to go there in person to renew it. So I have lost my PhD placement and have to watch someone else take my place. It is deeply disappointing to watch all I have worked for crumble and disappear, buried alongside thousands of my fellow Gazans.
A few weeks ago I was a college teacher; today I am labeled a terrorist. A dog. A monster who must be cleansed from the Earth so that someone who lives 10 miles from me, who wants all the same things I do, can feel safe enough to pursue their hopes and dreams.
We had schools, mosques, and hospitals with doctors and medicine. Now, there are only a few UNRWA schools (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), and they are being bombed. The hospitals are broken institutions with only dying patients left.
We used to have nutritious food, personal products, and baby formula. We had electricity, gasoline and cooking fuel. We could drive cars, work at night, and cook freely. And we had water for cooking, drinking, bathing, and cleaning. Now we have no electricity, no food, no running water, and no medicine. The only water we have costs $10 a liter. We had supermarkets and street vendors that supplied all that you could ever need or want. Now the supermarkets are empty, and there is no food coming into Gaza.
We had strong communities with ties to other communities. Now we don't even know if our friends are alive. It is easier to imagine they are dead, because to imagine them alive brings up such a strong desire to be with them. We can only cry with the loss of their support and friendship. They are probably thinking the same thing about us.
Because we are near the sea, we had clean air and fresh breezes that made us feel more than alive. Now the air is so foul, thick with smoke, dust, and the smell of death. We used to have normal lives with order, rituals, and symbols we could count on. Now there is really nothing to count on except your next breath.
Just a short time ago we had a freedom of movement as the Rafah Crossing connected us to the rest of the world. Now it is closed.
Jumma, or Friday, was a holy day, with families visiting each other and sharing meals and quiet time, enjoying stories, music, and dance. Now, there is no mosque or church or synagogue. No Jumma Mubarakah, where peace has been restored and people's lives are dignified and connected to their ancestors.
I had a nonprofit that I was proud of because we did good work for the poorest people. We provided education that poor families could not afford. Now, we are scattered and trying to survive ourselves. Yes, we are here to listen and support, but what we once provided is more needed than ever as more and more children and young people are traumatized and suffering emotionally, psychologically, and even physically.
Before I had a strong future; now I have no hope. Before I had wonderful dreams. Now I can't even imagine that Gaza – the sea and the land and I – will survive.
To donate to Palestine Charity Team, go to https://palestinecharity.org/donate/
Project: Sing to Live in Peace 2 (Hi Everyone) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HErD2JfrpN4
Thanks for reading Thought Crimes and Misdemeanors! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.