‘Window into my lockdown life in Gaza’

Two young achievers in Gaza tell Al-Qalam journalist Ismail Suder of their challenges under the Coronavirus lockdown as thousands face a bleak Ramadan.

Tagreed Saeed (33) stares grimly through her apartment window at the deserted streets of Gaza City and wonders how much more suffering her people would have to endure.

Gaza has been under lockdown for over a month following an outbreak of Coronavirus cases, and most of the neighbourhoods are eerily quiet, although some shops and markets have been allowed to remain open.  However, the tiny enclave has been spared the widespread contagion compared to its neighbour in the West Bank which reported over 250 cases. Perhaps, some say, Gaza’s geographical isolation may have stemmed the tide of a wider contagion in the 375sq kilometer land under Israeli blockade.

 “I wonder if the world NOW realises what it feels like to be isolated and confined to a tiny strip of land. For us, being under lockdown is nothing new – we have been living like this for the past 13 years under Israeli siege – but this time, it’s a double blow,” she tells Al-Qalam in an interview from her home in Gaza City.

Tagreed, a project coordinator working with an NGO that feeds poor families, said Coronavirus or not, her organisation makes sure that hundreds of families are provided basic food parcels to stave off mass starvation.

“The days are passing by slowly and sometimes I forget what day it is,” she says.

“All I think about every morning is how I can go out and relieve the suffering of thousands of poor people who are forced to stop work and stay locked indoors.

“This lockdown is not something unusual for the people of Gaza – we have been under Israeli siege for over a decade and somehow we have learnt to adapt to living under Occupation.

“However, the Coronavirus lockdown is a double blow for our people who will be left even poorer, especially now that we are on the doorsteps of Ramadan,” she said.

“My only wish is for the whole world to realize what the people of Gaza, all 1.9-million of them, are going through,” Tagreed added.

Disruptions

Meanwhile, another young Gaza resident, Amani Ahmed (28), who works as a top marketing voiceover artist for radio and TV, told Al-Qalam that since the lockdown, jobs (for her) has been slow to come by. Add to that, the numerous electricity disruptions and slow internet connections.

“Do you know what it’s like living under siege…and now under Coronavirus lockdown? she asked, almost with a sigh.

Amani said the masajid in Gaza are all closed and there was a high possibility that they might remain shut throughout Ramadan.

Amani gave Al-Qalam a brief window into her lockdown life in Gaza.

“My day starts with logging onto social media to check on what’s happening locally and in the outside world. Thereafter, I join my parents, two older brothers and two older sisters and their spouses, for an early breakfast where I update them on the Coronavirus situation.

“I then go to my “studio” which “luckily for me, is in my bedroom” and start checking my emails for possible online job requests for voiceovers. 

“After completing my voiceover marketing work, if there are any, I prepare lunch for our extended family, using whatever ingredients that we have – the choices are limited due to many specialty shops being closed.

“My brother is the only one who goes to the shop for basic supplies, but we make sure he protects himself well with gloves and a mask.

“In the evenings we catch up with the news on TV provided there’s electricity – or play card games to pass the time. Sometimes, I chat to my friends on social media.

“Ramadan is almost here, but the mood is sombre. In past Ramadan, the municipality would decorate the street with colourful lights, but there’s nothing like that this year.

“With the closure of the mosques, we will surely miss the vibrant atmosphere of Taraweeh. It is saddening, but we will try and make the most of the valuable time by praying at home, InshAllah.

Asked what special dishes are especially prepared in Gaza during Ramadan, Amani paused for a moment.

“You know…traditional green soup called molkia is a must in Ramadan, but I don’t think many people will be able to afford to prepare it this year as they have lost most of their earning during this lockdown.

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