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Sabah Al Barakoni Headshot

A Perspective From Gaza: There Is No Safe Place to Hide

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My name is Sabah. I have lived my whole life in Gaza. I am a mother of
four. For more than 25 years I have worked for an American non-profit
organization here. I run the office. We do humanitarian relief and
development assistance: repairing water lines to bring clean water to
families; delivering vital medicines to hospitals and clinics;
modernizing preschools and organizing reading corners to give
youngsters the chance to expand their imaginations and grow their love
of learning.

That is, this is what we usually do. I haven't been to work for days.
We had to shut the office so our staff could stay safe at home.

I am writing this in the middle of the night. I can't sleep. There is
bombing and rockets all around us. I feel like my heart is cutting
into pieces. Every morning I phone all the staff and they tell me they
can't sleep either. They say they are suffering from headaches. Our
hearts are very tired. My colleague tells her four-year-old daughter
the loud noise is just thunder so she won't be frightened. But then
she asks, "Where is the rain?"

We huddle here in the house away from the windows that might shatter
if the bombing gets too close. We're afraid to go out, even for some
bread. The bakery is not so close. My husband is taking care of his
paralyzed father and can't leave him to go to the bakery. I'm too
afraid for him to even try. We're lucky. We have enough food to last
maybe a week. We have rice and sugar, cooking oil and lentils and a
few vegetables.

There is a rising feeling of fear. There is no safe place to hide. We
can't leave Gaza to find refuge elsewhere.

Before the bombings began, our electricity was already off most of the
day, so we got a small generator. We keep two 16-liter containers of
gas on hand to refuel it whenever the electricity goes out. The gas
station is far from our house, but this usually isn't a problem. Now,
though, it is not safe to go out to fill up our containers and there's
probably no gas left in the station anyway. We may soon run out of
gas. We use a lot of candles.

The hospital has called asking for supplies. They're running short of
medicines and antibiotics to treat the injured. Four years ago, we
were able to get a supply of medicines and hygiene kits into Gaza
pretty fast. Who knows when we will be able this time?

The sad truth is that we've been suffering from shortages and broken
infrastructure for so long already. Gaza's pharmacies already lack
vital medicines to treat chronic illness. Most Gazans are forced to
rely on foreign assistance to survive. Our economy has been crippled
by more than five years by a closure of our borders. So many people
are out of work, especially our youth who see no hope for the future.

And yet, despite all that, things seemed to be getting a little
better. We seemed to be making progress, picking up the pieces after
Cast Lead four years ago, getting back some sort of a normal life.

When the bombing and the shelling finally stop, we'll go out to see
what needs to be done. I know already that we'll need to cover broken
windows with plastic sheeting quickly before the cold of winter sets
in. We'll need to replace water tanks on the rooftops of many homes,
as they have been shattered in the bombings. And, looking back at the
aftermath of Cast Lead, we'll probably have to repair broken water
lines and rebuild some preschools and clinics.

That's what we do here in Gaza. We rebuild. We reopen schools so our
children can find a safe place to study. We repair broken water lines.
We seek ways to improve our lives or at least create a sense of
normality.

We persevere. After each setback, we get up and start again. Somehow
we find the strength and resilience to carry on. What other choice do
we have?