An Open Letter From Gaza


As the Gaza Strip enters a new year of the siege, Gazan’s find themselves without electricity. From Gaza, Sameeha Elwan tells the story of a dark night in Gaza City.

Tonight, too, we are having a romantic candle light dinner. Well, thanks to Israelis, of course.

Setting the candles on the table for dinner is not due to a special occasion. It’s the birthday of none of us tonight. In fact, candles have become more of a necessity for us, Gazans, than of a tradition. A real compassionate yet dangerous companion in our thick dark nights when we are left with no electricity.

Candles burn as Gazans break bread

The lights go off. My father exclaims as usual on seeing nothing in the dark, “Is the electricity off?” We, laughing at his question, give him approval. Mother, who would be preparing something in the kitchen, gets out with the now-useless food processor in her hands losing her temper. Raising her hands, holding that food processor, she starts to curse the day the Israelis stepped into our land. Realizing that none of those machines would be of any use, she goes back to the kitchen to use her bare hands in preparing dinner. My sister, having nothing to do, as she claims that staring into the books in darkness hurts her eyes and causes her headache, she goes to spend the eight or ten hours sleeping. Failing to sleep for a single minute, she gets up and goes to my mother who would tell her the stories of the past of her journeys to the West Bank and the occupied territories. Poor Israelis! They don’t know that no matter what they do, they would reinforce our tie into this land.

My little brother, a Barcelona fan, awaiting the next Barcelona match would rage at the thought of another game without him shouting at every goal his favourite team scores.

Honestly, I like studying at candle light. Isn’t it sort of romantic? And it is definitely less distracting. At least, I have no chance to surf the net and waste my time, especially at the time of exams. Unfortunately, a lot of people wouldn’t feel the same. I know many who cannot study at candle lights or who have sight problems which would prevent them from seeing properly with a candle light.

My mother, shaking from the severe cold, asks me to turn on the heating, forgetting that it works on electricity. I grudge at the thought of those who, in such severe cold, find no shelter after their houses have been partially or wholly destroyed on the last Gaza War. Looking at the matter from a positive side, they are mentally relieved as they don’t have to calculate when the electricity would go off or would come back, and live miserably ever after. They have more important things to think about like how to survive another day in such unbearable cold.

Rumors, well, they used to be rumors, but now they are facts which news sites are reporting. Al-Dardasawi, the director of the Public Relation in the electricity company in Gaza, has declared on Saturday that the company is suffering a shortage due to the decline of the fuel supplies on the Israeli side. No reasonable justification was made for not providing us with fuel to run on the station, for Israelis definitely needs no justifications for whatever they do. Is that another collective punishment? I wonder what else wrong we did to deserve such a penalty!

The funny but the bitter thing is that we, Gazans, can get used to and adjust ourselves to the worst circumstances. It’s not a weak point; after all, it is actually what a life of more than three years of a brutal siege has taught us, we should not keep adjusting ourselves to the worst, however.

The Israelis, adopting their usual foxy strategies, would start depriving us from our basic human rights little by little till they think that we would be thankful for the least basic human rights we get. They diminish the amount of fuel, getting into the Gaza Strip. We had drawn in darkness only for eight hours every couple of days. Well, eight ours every couple of days is better than eight hours every day. Then the amount provided declines. So, we have to bear life with no electricity daily for eight or ten hours. Well, we can live with that; we still get electricity, isn’t half a loaf better than nothing?

Finally, we get no fuel and no electricity at all. After all this, they wonder why we turn angry while asking for our basic rights!

It has always been this way, not only with electricity but with other basic needs of food, fuel, and even children milk.

Israel would deprive us all our rights and then wants us to be grateful when they would give us back what they have aggressively deprived us from. But, do they really think that depriving us from our basic needs would make us forget about the siege, the refugees, the right of return, the occupied land, Jerusalem? Do they think we would be grateful if we get back what is essentially ours?

Well, Israel, we are not grateful, for you grant us none which is originally not ours.
We have our rights as humans. We have our rights as Palestinians.

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Gaza 2012