Tag Archives: 2014 Gaza War

Celebrating Eid in Gaza amidst the rubble of war

I spent the Eid last year in Gaza, with families who experienced unimagineable horrors during the successive Gaza assaults. Today is 2 years since the 2014 Gaza war began. I re-post here what I wrote about Eid in Gaza last year for +972mag, holding in my mind and in my heart all who have been brutalized (in Gaza, in Minneapolis, in Baton Rouge, in Orlando, in Baghdad, in Istanbul, and in so many other places.)

Excerpt below:

Wafaa Awajah’s family had scarcely taken their seats in a circle of plastic chairs when her brother hitched up his pants to show me the scars on his leg from where he had been injured by an Israeli soldier. Another brother had also sustained injuries from the army; he, too, showed me his wounds. As Wafaa passed around a tray of chilled soft drinks and bowls of nuts and sweets (as is customary during the Eid celebration) a third brother told me of how years ago a settler had hit him with his car–intentionally, he believed–as he was riding his bike on the side of road. A fourth brother had been imprisoned on two occasions, not by the Israeli army, but by Hamas. “For speaking too much,” he told me with a grin, when I asked him why.

Read the rest HERE

Awajah kids on horse back

The Awajah children enjoying a horse and buggy ride during 2015 Eid in Gaza

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What I learned touring the rubble piles of Gaza

My latest piece (article + video) in +972mag on the physical, psychological and political challenges of defending human rights in Gaza during – and in the aftermath of – war. :

I crouched on the floor of the beat-up Mercedes yellow cab, so that I could film Yaser Abed Alkhafor at a better angle.  We were driving slowly through Khuza’a, a town near the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younes.

“We can see that the destruction in Khuza’a didn’t target only one place, but it is mass destruction targeting the whole area,” Alkhafor said, pointing to the destroyed homes lining the road.

Read the rest here!

And, watch the accompanying video below!

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Celebrating Eid in Gaza amidst the rubble of war

Wafaa Awajah’s family had scarcely taken their seats in a circle of plastic chairs when her brother hitched up his pants to show me the scars on his leg from where he had been injured by an Israeli soldier. Another brother had also sustained injuries from the army; he, too, showed me his wounds. As Wafaa passed around a tray of chilled soft drinks and bowls of nuts and sweets (as is customary during the Eid celebration) a third brother told me of how years ago a settler had hit him with his car–intentionally, he believed–as he was riding his bike on the side of road. A fourth brother had been imprisoned on two occasions, not by the Israeli army, but by Hamas. “For speaking too much,” he told me with a grin, when I asked him why.

I had arrived to the caravans where the Awajah family now lives in Beit Lahiya, Gaza a few hours earlier, in the midst of the flurry of excitement accompanying the preparation for Eid il-Fitr, the three-day holiday marking the end of Ramadan. The children were running around, brushing their hair, putting on their new Eid clothes. Meters away from us was the rubble of their home, destroyed in the 2009 war, finally rebuilt in 2013, and destroyed again in the 2014 war.

The two days I spent with the family were joyful, yet still penetrated by the horror that this family (and so many families in Gaza) have experienced. Little Ibrahim, at the age of three, is obsessed with playing Hamas and soldiers. “Hold the fire! Hold the fire!” his battery operated toy gun barks in scratchy English as the little boy crouches in the sand, taking aim at imaginary Israeli soldiers. His sister pointed to the small statue mounted on the toy gun; it was a soldier in a tank. “That’s the Israelis, not Hamas,” she said. “Only the Israelis have those weapons.” But Ibrahim stubbornly insisted that, tank or no tank, he and his gun were Hamas.

That afternoon, 17-year-old Omsiyat and 13-year-old Hala and I lay on a mattress atop the rubble of their home. The caravans were stifling but here, under a cloth canopy, the breeze eased some of the punishing heat. I wished, not for the first time, that my Arabic was better.  I was able to get the gist of what Omsiyat and Hala were telling me, pointing out which section of the rubble represented their bedroom, what their experiences had been during the war, what they think will happen in the future… but so many important details were lost in my lack of Arabic fluency. I don’t know how often these girls process their experiences about the war aloud. I don’t know if there was some benefit to them of vocalizing it, regardless of whether or not I could understand all of it.

“Do you have the film of me crying on top of the wreckage of the home? Can I see it?” Wafaa asked me later that evening. I plugged in my external drive with the footage I had shot six months earlier, when Wafaa had first led me on top of the rubble of their home. 7-year old Zikriyat sat on her mother’s lap as we watched the unedited footage together. I wasn’t sure how much Zikriyat was understanding of what her mother was saying on the video, words expressing despair and hopelessness. But when Wafaa (on the video) began to cry, Zikriyat burst into tears and buried her face in her mother’s lap. Moments later, Zikriyat pushed herself out of her mother’s arms and ran into the caravan, unable to watch or to hear anymore. “It was because I was crying,” Wafaa said. Wafaa almost never cried; Zikriyat may have never seen her mother’s tears before.

Wafaa took me back to the pile rubble, but this time, not to show me the destruction. She pointed to a small shrub at the rubble’s edge, battered, but clearly alive. “Ibrahim’s tree,” she said to me.  “I couldn’t believe it when Sobhi (her eldest son) found it, after we had cleared away some of the rubble.”

The olive tree had been planted by Awajah’s son Ibrahim, who would have been 15 years now old had he not been shot and killed by an Israeli soldier during the 2009 Gaza assault. (Three-year old Ibrahim, born in 2011, was named for his martyred brother.) The family had taken shelter under this tree when their first home was destroyed, just hours before the first Ibrahim was killed. When they rebuilt the home, they made sure that Ibrahim’s tree would be exactly next to it. A few days into the 2014 war, the family fled the dangerous border-area in which they lived, and took shelter in Gaza City. They returned at the war’s end, only to find their newly rebuilt home completely demolished. “When I was looking around the rubble, I went to Ibrahim’s tree.  When I did not see it, something from inside me fell on the ground,” Wafaa told me on the video 6 months ago. “This is a memory, I left it for Ibrahim. It wasn’t there anymore, they disconnected any tie to Ibrahim with this area.”

But, as the family discovered only recently, a small piece of the tree had survived the demolition, and, though trapped under the rubble for almost a year, had still survived. The physical connection between the Awajah’s martyred son and his home had not been totally severed after all.

The next day, Kamal (the father) took the kids and me to a restaurant in Gaza city to celebrate the 2nd day of the Eid, and then to the Unknown Soldier park in the center of Gaza City. There were children’s rides at the park, rickety and precarious, but rides nonetheless. The younger Awajah kids scrambled up on swings that (via manual power) circled around, and then rode on toy trains, and danced and sang during a horse-and-buggy ride we all took together around the perimeter of the park.

Kamal smiled to see his kids happy, playing.  “You see? Ibrahim has forgotten all about Hamas and the Israelis,” he said to me with relief, watching his three-year old laugh and kick his legs gleefully as the swing lifted him in the air and carried him around in a circle.

Awajah kids on horse back

The Awajah chlldren enjoying a horse-and-buggy ride to celebrate the Eid

ZuZu on swing

Zikriyat Awajah enjoying her Eid swing ride in Gaza City

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1 year after Gaza war: interview with Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live

Dear friends,

Marc Lamont Hill did a segment about where things stand one year after the Gaza war on HuffPost Live. I was honored to be invited to speak on the show, alongside Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA).

You can watch the segment here, which starts at about 11 minutes into the show.

All the best,

Jen Marlowe

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Gaza’s Mental-Health Crisis and the Trauma of Permanent War

Dear friends,

Below, please find an excerpt and link to my recent feature piece in The Nation, about the impact (especially on children) of chronic war in Gaza, published at the one-year anniversary of the 2014 assault.

I hope you will read, share, and look forward to hearing your thoughts, responses.

All the best,

Jen Marlowe

http://www.donkeysaddle.org

Gaza’s Mental-Health Crisis and the Trauma of Permanent War:
“The Jews shot me.” I was eating breakfast with 3-year-old Ibrahim Awajah in February 2015, in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, when he made this proclamation. His father, Kamal Awajah, saw the surprise on my face.
“No, no, you’re the second Ibrahim,” Kamal quickly corrected the small, sandy-haired boy. “It was your brother who was shot, not you.”
The first Ibrahim, 9 years old, had been shot and killed by an Israeli soldier during the 2009 attack on Gaza, which the Israeli military named Operation Cast Lead. His parents and siblings witnessed the killing, along with the demolition of their home. The second Ibrahim, born in 2011, was named after his martyred brother. He has already lived through two massive military campaigns. He has also lived most of his young life in tent-like structures, first while his family’s house was being rebuilt after Operation Cast Lead, and then after it was destroyed again during the summer 2014 war.
Read the rest here.

Kids playing in the rubble of the destroyed home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza

Kids playing in the rubble of the destroyed home in Beit Lahiya, Gaza

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Parting the brown sea: Sewage crisis threatens Gaza’s access to water

Please take a moment to read my most recent piece, up today at Al Jazeera America.

Please also take a moment to circulate. This crisis is urgent, and under-reported.

Parting the brown sea: Sewage crisis threatens Gaza’s access to water

by Jen Marlowe

GAZA CITY — Until very recently, Salameh Abu Kash earned his living as farmer. Abu Kash, a heavyset man with thick eyebrows and a clipped beard, lives in Wadi Gaza, a valley in the central Gaza Strip. The wetland here was known for its biodiversity, but after construction of a sewage treatment plant was delayed in 2011, excrement from nearby refugee camps and towns began to be diverted through the valley en route to the Mediterranean Sea.

“They brought sewage for us and for our children, and we can’t sleep anymore,” said Abu Kash in Arabic the following year. “Farming is ruined. The plants are diseased. There are flies, worms, and it is spreading.” Animals and birds were soon replaced by swamps of sewage, swarming flies and thriving bacteria. Residents began to suffer from an increase in allergies, inflammation, fevers and weakened immunity, Abu Kash said. Disease-ridden mosquitoes feasted on the community at night. The stench was overpowering.

Wadi Gaza is but one illustration of the full-blown water and sanitation crisis that is facing the Gaza Strip…

(To read the rest, please click here.)

Photo credit: Fadi Abu Shammala

Photo credit: Fadi Abu Shammala

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Maram. Karam. Kareem.

I don’t think I will ever forget what I saw and what I heard in Shejaiya, an eastern neighborhood of Gaza city that was reduced to rubble during the 2014 attack on Gaza. I will be posting here–all still in raw form–some of what I saw there, and some of the painful stories I heard.

sumud in shejaiya3boy in shejaiya2

Below: the site of a destroyed clinic. I was photographing Sabrina Ibrahem from PCHR, my colleague Fadi Abu Shammalah and a few people who were working on clearing out the rubble. As I was photographing them, Fadi photographed me.

Sabrina had just finished telling Fadi and me the devastating story of a mother pregnant with twins who was killed by a bomb, which ripped open her womb. Sabrina got on the scene to document right after it happened–she saw the killed mother and fetuses. She broke down crying as she recounted it to us…but yet here she is minutes later: strong, resilient, smiling. Sumoud.

shej crewshejaiya jen2I saw no reconstruction at the site of this destroyed clinic. What I did see was ongoing clearing of rubble. The system: Men and boys loaded the rubble onto carts drawn by donkey or horse. Then, the cart was pulled onto the main road, and the rubble was transferred onto a giant truck. When full, the truck drove somewhere. To do something with the mountains upon mountains of rubble collected:

clearing rubble from hospital

clearing rubbleThe only time I have ever broken down and cried during an interview was when speaking with Talal and Leila Al Helo. 12 members of their family killed in an airstrike on their home. Here is Talal, on the rubble of the home in which 12 of his family members were killed:

shej father on home 16b

Those killed included Talal and Leila’s 26 year old daughter:

mother of karam and kareem

And their three grandchildren: 2 year old Maram, and twin six month old boys, Karam and Kareem.

I promised Talal and Leila that I would do all I could to make sure that their story was known and that people remembered those babies, and knew their names. Maram. Karam. Kareem.

Karam Kareem Maram2

Leila showed me a video of Karam and Kareem, talking to each other in that special twin baby talk, filmed the day before they were murdered. Watching that video– Fadi and I both lost it.
Look at the pictures, and, please, say aloud those babies’ names:

Maram. Karam. Kareem.
video twin5 video twins3 video twins6

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