Thursday 29 September 2016

Rebuilding lives from the rubble of shattered homes and lives

Published 21/06/2015 | 02:30

Huddled in a corner of the living room, Nabil Al-Jayyusi knows that there is no logic to his 'safe place'.

  • Go To

"All of Gaza is unsafe," he says, while pointing out the back window to where the bombs were dropping just metres away when the family eventually decided to flee.

It was at 4am when their eldest son Saif (16) was thrown from one wall to the other by the vibrations.

He was afraid to go anywhere that didn't have a ceiling but they had to run.

His mother, Rehab (40), recalls: "The children were going through the streets, climbing over people and getting blood on their clothes. We tried to tell them not to look. We tried to go directly [to the shelter] without letting them see the distress."

It was the build up to Ramadan, a time when mothers prepare treats for the children to celebrate.

"We were living safely and enjoying life," said Rehab, whose husband Nabil rents tables and chairs for local weddings.

They have just moved back into their home. Fully aware that visitors have to climb over rubble to get inside, Rehab remains house-proud.

The new floor tiles are coated with sand from the work but plastic chairs are laid out for their guests and a small table with a red floral tablecloth is the centrepiece.

Bottles of olive oil are stacked on a desk, a diesel generator and broken washing machine are nearby and wooden cabinet has a big 'Love' sticker on it.

UNICEF are helping to the family to get a limited water supply to cook and wash but every drop is precious. The electricity supply is unpredictable and the days are long.

Pernille Ironside, Chief Field Officer with UNICEF in Gaza, says that the family are dealing with the same problems as thousands of others.

“Their lives are shattered. That’s a very difficult experience for any young person, let alone adults to cope with.

“There’s a lot of fear and apprehension because quite frankly until the underlying conditions that led to the last war and the one before that are addressed in terms of lifting the blockade, allowing goods and people to come in and out of Gaza - until these conditions are addressed there won’t be a lasting prospect for a ceasefire to hold,” she says.

It's only six weeks since the rebuild started, but the scene is one of a live-in construction site, where the work has stalled.

Saif's sisters, Eman (15) and Nada (13), and brother Mohammad (7), stand in for a photograph.

Their wheelchair-bound grandfather Mohammed (80) has seen it all before - in 1967 when Israel occupied Gaza, in 2005 when they pulled out, in 2009 when the city was bombed, in 2012 and all the years in between.

He grimaces as we ask the girls what they would like to do when they are older. "It's not going to be stable. There is no peace," he says, defeated.

His son Nabil (45) agrees: "Everything has the feeling of being unsafe. I want to live in peace but war is coming fast."

Eman and Nada are more hopeful, perhaps innocent. The latter wants to be a doctor and she's going the right way about it.

Despite being scarred by war and not having a proper space to study, Nada is top of her class.

Young Mohammad got 99.8pc in his summer tests.

"They are very talented and distinguished in school. Although we are suffering, my children are still very clever and do very well at school," says Rehab.

Saif is struggling more than the others though. At 16, he is getting headaches, had bathroom problems and can't get past those days huddled in the corner.

The family wanted to take him to the hospital for his stomach problems but he saw pictures on the television and refused to go.

He argued "why would I go to the hospital with a sick stomach. I have nothing compared to those other children".

Indo Review

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in Life