I accepted my assignment here before the war was over, but arrived after the ceasefire. That doesn’t make me sad. I haven’t heard any gunfire, seen a tank barreling down the street, had to run for shelter when warning alarms sound, heard a bomb crumble a building, or heard the panicked cries of the people. I am lucky. Most of my colleagues and all of the staff have had these experiences.
While I didn’t directly experience the war, the damage is evident everywhere as I travel around Gaza. I have seen buildings and factories which are now piles of rubble, and a mosque completely destroyed except for the minaret which towers over the debris. Sometimes just a lone apartment was targeted in a building in which people continue to live.
The challenges for the people persist following the war. There are only five hours of electricity daily and there is no set time for when that will be. The intersections are chaotic as there are no working traffic lights. In the Gaza Strip, following the ceasefire, there are approximately 107,000 internally displaced people (IDPs), 63,000 of these remain in UN shelters. I guess this is good news as during the war there were 490,000 IDPs. Children just started back to school.
And of course there are the people in the clinic. Young and old. Men and Woman. While the vast majority of people with amputated extremities are men/boys, there is no discrimination by age or gender for burns. Reminders of war are everywhere.
Despite this, people are smiling. Why? How? A conversation with one of our watchmen made things a bit more clear for me. He had an enormous smile on his face and I asked him what was making him so happy. His response was simple… “My family and I survived the war”. He told me that he and his family has to leave their home due to shelling and for the 50 days of the war he, his wife and two small children moved every couple weeks. They started at the home of his parents, then his sister, then his brother, and finally his other brother. Now they are home and their kids have started school. Life is back to normal and he was happily reflecting on this as he showed me pictures of his beautiful children in their school uniforms.
I’ve truly been amazed by the spirit of the people here in Gaza and appreciate the perspective it has provided.
Image shows Beit Hanoun, one of the neighborhoods most affected by the bombings in Northern Gaza. © Yann Libessart/MSF