It’s very hot in Gaza, and unbearably humid, too. Most readers will react apathetically to that news and move on – it’s hot and humid everywhere. But in Gaza it’s different. The heat wave came together with the announced shutdown of the Strip’s only power station and the knowledge that the electric lines from Egypt are still disconnected. Gaza residents get electricity only four consecutive hours a day, but instead of the ensuing cutoff lasting 12 hours or 16, as has been the case recently, there are 18 and sometimes 20 powerless hours. And sometimes the power is on for only three hours.
I live in Dir al-Balah, a quiet, lovely city, situated in the heart of the Strip. I love my small city and I feel connected to everything in it. We live in an apartment on the second and top floor. Our bad luck is that it faces southeast, which means it is exposed to the sun from the morning hours almost until sunset. And when the sun sets, the walls of the home emit all the heat they’ve absorbed during the day into the humid apartment and we who are trapped in it end up covered with sweat, pacing back and forth without knowing what to do.
And my situation is better than that of many others. At least I have an apartment. I don’t live in a shack made of metal plates, which turns into an oven both day and night. I can use a battery-operated fan, and I can also wait with my wife and children in the small park beneath our house until they fall asleep. But by the time I finish bringing them up, one by one, to their beds, they start to sweat and toss in their sleep in an effort to breathe and find respite from the heat.
I deliberate until midnight about where I should sleep – on the couch near the window, or on the floor of the balcony. It breaks my heart to see my children start to imitate me by sleeping on the floor. Despite the discomfort of sleeping on the hard surface, I see my son’s relief when his body cools down a bit.
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The lengthy power cutoffs affect the pumping of water into homes throughout the Gaza Strip and this has become even more serious than usual. For two days we’ve had no water at home. Laundry is piling up everywhere and we are waiting to bathe even in cold water, to get five minutes of refreshment. This is the dream of every Gaza resident in the summer of 2018.
Two weeks ago, Israel closed the Kerem Shalom crossing to any goods it does not consider “humanitarian” and stopped the little trade that Gaza has with the world. In my opinion, this should have added to the fear of unrest, but there is a feeling that residents of the Gaza Strip are getting increasingly apathetic. As sad as it sounds, one could even call it indifferent. Instead of expressing normal anger about what is happening, people are taking everything in stride. The main concern is to get through the day, to survive the moment and not think about tomorrow.
Last year many Gaza residents chose death over this life. This year we are again hearing of suicides among young men and women. One killed himself because of debt, another just lost hope. The question now is practical, not cynical; will there be an end to punishment being imposed on Gaza’s residents or are they meant to suffer indefinitely?
As part of my work I meet quite a few people from other countries who take an interest in the situation. Everyone rightly asks about Gaza’s infrastructure, which has deteriorated badly, and seek to brainstorm about how they can be repaired or rebuilt so that they can at least meet the residents’ basic humanitarian needs.
This is a critical need that requires the immediate mobilization of all the influential forces in the region. But my small city, which has become a sad, dark city, has taught me something new. It, like Gaza as a whole, needs not only its infrastructure rehabilitated, but first and foremost the rehabilitation of the men, women and children who live in it.
Mohammed Azaiza is a Gaza resident and a field worker for Gisha – the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement.