Gaza Diary: Seeking summer joy

Aid worker explores ways to give his war-weary children a normal summer break.

    Palestinian children hold big symbolic keys during a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Nakba [GALLO/GETTY]

    Our twins are now off for the summer. The next three months are supposed to be a time for creativity and relaxation - a time for my kids to be their age, play with other children and have fun.

    When Leila and Yasser finished school last week I took some time off to be with them. Last year, I took them to the beach, which is perhaps the only place where we can breathe in Gaza.

    But nowadays the beach has become a public health hazard; more than 70 million litres of sewage are discharged into the sea every day. The sea is no longer a venue for children looking for a swim.

    This year we spent our family holidays without electricity and I could not take my four children anywhere to play or visit relatives because my car is completely out of fuel.

    Instead, like so many other families in Gaza, we stayed home, revised school topics, slept and ate (when I was able to find enough pieces of cardboard to light up the fire under the clay oven). The kids need to have fun but what kind of fun can we provide?

    Even buying toys is out of the question because they have become too expensive and of poor quality.

    The children really want to go to the beach. Everyday they run to me, trying to convince me to take them. I tried to take their minds off the topic by buying them local sweets.

    Growing up quickly

    My six-year-old twins sometimes talk like young adults and it scares me. They are aware of the Israeli blockade and the issues facing Gaza and they ask questions about it. When they ask about people suffering or why we are restricted from travel, I have to come up with some answer.

    We talk a lot every night. I want to make sure that they have enough time with me and my wife. They are so young … they should not be burdened by responsibilities or injustices. It makes me so sad because I know children in other households are going through the same experiences. 

    My wife has not been feeling well lately and I had to take her to the doctor last week.

    She underwent tests and the doctor finally told her today she developed a problem with one of the bones in her back. The treatment she needs is not available in Gaza. She is always in pain and has bad headaches.

    Just over a year ago, she could have left Gaza for treatment in Israel or Egypt, but right now we feel uncertain about the future.

    I had to explain to the kids to be really gentle with their mother and to be as quiet as possible.  

    Small joys

    I look back at the last year and despite it all, my family can rejoice for a gift we welcomed with open arms a few months ago - a fourth child! She was born in March and I am hopeful for her and her siblings.

    These are the stories of my family I share, but similar trials and tribulations are echoed in almost every home of the Gaza Strip. I feel a responsibility to talk about personal details that are, in fact, representative of all of us here in Gaza.

    My family is just a generic example of what the last 365 days of total blockade have meant to us.

    Our lives are becoming more difficult by the day, and we are scared for our futures. Most disturbingly, however, we see our children growing up too quickly and losing their innocence.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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