Palestinians going through hell – in Gaza and abroad
“You wake up each morning not knowing if you will hear good news or bad news – or thinking are you going to be able to get any news at all?
“And when I do speak to my family all they can tell me is that they’re alive.”
This is how Melbourne-based Palestinian student Jed Alsabe describes his visceral response to being helpless as his family struggles to survive in strife-torn Gaza, now under land attack from Israeli forces.
“We are all going through hell at the moment. We are living through a big problem,” Jed said.
“A lot of people in Gaza really don’t have anything at all. There is not enough food and clean water and everyone is worried about the attacks.
“Families who have been bombed out literally have nothing. People in Gaza mostly don’t use credit cards and keep money in their homes. So, when they are bombed everything is gone – their money, their photos and history, their papers and IDs – everything,” he said.
Jed came to Australia four years ago with his father who had a scholarship to complete a Master’s Degree International Community Development and Victoria University. Jehad’s father returned home but Jehad stayed on, after completing high school, to study cybersecurity.
He says his father, mother and siblings have found relative safety in the south of Gaza but he knows of people living on the streets in Gaza.
“There are people living from day to day in the streets. Life is a daily struggle for them. Their lives are about finding food, clean water and some kind of shelter,” Jed said
Osama Al-Danaf is a chef at a restaurant in Melbourne’s east.
He came to Australia as an asylum seeker 11 years ago.
A few weeks ago he became a permanent resident of Australia and has started the process of trying to bring his family here.
His wife and six children are in still Gaza. Over the years they have met occasionally in Egypt, the last time four months ago.
“I worry about my family all the time. Originally they were living in the north of Gaza but after the war broke they moved to the south – but nowhere is safe there.”
Osama says his family has found refuge in a United Nations-run school which has been turned into emergency accommodation.
“The UN is trying to provide the necessities but there is not enough food. Everything is restricted and it’s hard to get supplies,” he said.
“A big problem is clean water. A lot of the water people are drinking is dirty. My family are relatively lucky and safe for now but a lot of people are living in bad conditions. And now one in Gaza is safe from the attacks.”
Osama said he had been sending money home to a support his family but recently that became impossible.
“I was sending money but now I can’t. Most Palestinians living overseas send money home to help their families in Gaza. But 25 days ago the Western Union office closed and we are not able to send anything,” he said.
Osama says his fears are being elevated by communications problems
“Sometimes I have been able to talk to my family but not all the time. Often the connections are cut off.
“Recently the internet got slower and it was taking hours to get emails even. Then two days ago there was no connection at all.
“My wife and kids are safe so far but some of my family members have been injured in the attacks.”
Osama says he feels a sense of Deja vu about the latest conflict.
“It’s just like four times before… war breaks out, then stops. But nothing changes and even in peace time people in Gaza are effectively in jail – unable to leave or find good lives,” he said.
Osama and Jed both say they would like to see a ceasefire in Gaza.
“A ceasefire would mean our families are safer and then all the other issues can be worked out, Osama said.
“Palestinians love life and we love peace. We have a rich culture and a history of being at ease with all people and all religions. We have had Palestinians who are Christians, Jews and Muslims throughout history,” Jed said.
Osama said he believed the current conflict in Gaza stemmed from the seizure of lands from Palestinians in 1948 with the creation of the state of Israel.
“Palestinians have been refugees for decades. We have been forced to flee to other countries or to Gaza and the West Bank – and this makes things worse,” he said.
Osama says he fears for what the future might hold.
“No areas are safe in Gaza now. They have bombed hospitals and refugee camps. Maybe next the hospitals and schools where people are sheltering will close. I don’t know what will happen then,” he said.