Families in Gaza face harrowing winter in makeshift homes as reconstruction stalls

Israel/Palestine
on 34 Comments

It’s damp, dirty, and a smell resembling sewage coats the air. Walls made out of thin pieces of corrugated iron have been crudely put together and tied onto poles creating a misfit structure creating two rooms. While pieces of discarded fabric lie on top of the stony wasteland creating a cobbled together floor – an attempt of sorts to make the shack seem more like a conventional house. Large holes still remain between pieces where sunlight pierces into the dark interior. It’s cold and miserable, but for Suad Najar and her family, it’s home.

“The youngest children are already getting sick,” Najar says exasperated, looking around at the shack she lives in with her husband and their eight children. “They get so wet, their clothes get wet, they are suffering from the cold. They all have diarrhea.”

Najar’s house was destroyed during Israel’s fifty-day bombardment of Gaza in the summer of 2014. Living close to the border area in central Gaza, when Israeli forces began a partial land invasion of the besieged Palestinian territory they bulldozed her home down. With no money to rebuild independently or afford apartment rent, Najar and her family are gearing up to spend a second winter in a row in the makeshift home.

Last year at least four residents of Gaza living in similar makeshift and unsuitable accommodation, died of pneumonia – including three children – during the cold winter months. Now Najar fears for her children as the cold weather sets in.

“The situation was so terrible,” she says recalling living in the shack last winter. “There is one corner of the ground that is higher up than the rest, when it rained we all crowded to there especially for sleeping, the rain didn’t always manage to flood that part. Of course I’m worried about the cold again this winter, the children always suffer.”

Najar is one of around 100,000 residents of Gaza that the United Nations estimates will be living in unsuitable conditions again this winter.

With their homes destroyed during last year’s war, reconstruction efforts remain stalled despite promises made by Arab nations such as Qatar, United Arab Emirates and others to provide funds for the reconstruction process. While some of those funds have made it to Gaza, a majority still remains unaccounted for. Palestinians left in the lurch now believe the donations were empty promises made for PR purposes in the aftermath of the war, an Israel bombardment that decimated the Gaza Strip and helped push an estimated 80% of the population into poverty.

Najar, who’s whole house is destroyed, says she has checked the lists for who is eligible for reconstruction money, but says her family hasn’t been included on any rebuilding list. She has no idea why.

Even if a family is included on the list, there are other problems with the reconstruction effort.

With his home destroyed during the 2014 war, Nasif al-Falujah, now lives in a former goat and sheep shed in Gaza's Beit Hanoun district. (Photo: Matthew Vickery)

With his home destroyed during the 2014 war, Nasif al-Falujah, now lives in a former goat and sheep shed in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun district. (Photo: Matthew Vickery)

“The problem is they only rebuild the first layer of each family’s house,” Nasif al-Falujah tells Mondoweiss from the animal shack he and his family now live in, situated on a patch of waste ground in Gaza’s Beit Hanoun district. “But my family lived on the fifth floor of the house.”

After three airstrikes hit his extended family’s complex in the 2014 war, Falujah used his savings to rent a small apartment for his family, however their money soon ran out after a few months. With the highest unemployment rate in the world, and an economy that is on the verge of collapse according to a World Bank report earlier this year, gaining any form of regular employment has been almost impossible for Falujah.

Walls made out of fabric and tarpaulin are commonplace in Gaza's makeshift homes. They provide some privacy, but barely keep the cold, wet, weather conditions out. (Photo: Matthew Vickery)

Walls made out of fabric and tarpaulin are commonplace in Gaza’s makeshift homes. They provide some privacy, but barely keep the cold, wet, weather conditions out. (Photo: Matthew Vickery)

Unable to continue paying rent for a flat which the family had been living in since the war, six months ago Falujah began to rent an animal shack, turning the former sheep and goat shed into a place his family could live. Using tarpaulin and scrap pieces of fabric Falujah created walls between the metal poles that served as the skeleton of the structure, and with the little money he had, bought a few bricks to create a small foundation to try and keep rainwater from flowing into the shack.

“We can’t afford concrete so we are using sand for concrete,” Falujah says.  “And this is tarpaulin for the walls,” he says touching the plastic sheeting that makes up the majority of the wall. “We had no place to go, it was the only option.”

Falujah’s children run in and out of the makeshift structure, playing games and chasing each other. The Israel-Gaza border is just a couple of kilometers away, many of the buildings around continue to lie in ruins.

The shack is cold, and illness is already a worry for Falujah, especially for his young children.

“Now it is already so cold,” Falujah tells Mondoweiss. “We just have to put on more and more clothes at night and hope that we can keep warm enough.”

Up and down the Gaza Strip, thousands of families are experiencing winter in freezing conditions, some in makeshift homes and animal shacks such as Falujah, others in what remains of their homes after Israel’s deadly assault on the besieged Strip.

Saad Fathi speaks to Mondoweiss from his destroyed house. Three rooms still exist, though two of them barely, blown off walls patched up with pieces of fabric to give some privacy rather than keep the weather out. The ceiling above dangles precariously looking as though it could fall at anytime.

“I know it’s dangerous, but there’s nowhere else we can go. We don’t have the money to move out,” Fathi says standing under the dangling concrete. “We can’t keep the weather out very well, I worry that the concrete could fall if there are bad weather conditions.”

“Even if it rains for one minute, the whole place is flooded. Last winter was terrible, only God knows how bad it was for us.”

For the thousands of families living in a similar situation, the coming weeks weigh heavy on the mind, so does the uncertainty of not knowing when their housing struggle will end.

“I have no idea how long I have to live like this,” Najar says with a palpable sadness while pacing her makeshift home. “I can’t see an end right now,” she says, echoing the words of the war-displaced throughout Gaza.

About Matthew Vickery

Matthew Vickery is an independent multimedia journalist based in the Middle East with a focus on the Levant and Iraq. Vickery has extensively covered the Palestine/Israel conflict on the ground, and has been published by numerous media outlets in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He holds a Master of Arts, Research Masters, and is a graduate of Qasid Arabic Institute. Follow Matthew on Twitter: @MMVickery

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34 Responses

  1. James McGinley
    December 22, 2015, 1:25 pm

    Fourth request. Please provide relief agencies that you recommend. If you have done so already please just provide the link.

  2. MaxNarr
    December 22, 2015, 11:15 pm

    Please recall that all Jews were ethnically cleansed from Gaza and their homes destroyed. These Jewish refugees would much rather have their homes back even in the form of a hut than the situation they are in now. Never forget Gush Katif.

    • Marnie
      December 23, 2015, 10:40 am

      Gush KaWhat?

      • zaid
        December 23, 2015, 2:55 pm

        Max

        Expulsion is when you are legally residing there, like the Zionist expulsion of Palestinians from Ledda and Ramleh in 1948.

        The settlers Gaza in were evacuated by their own government and not expelled, since they were illegally residing there.

      • Marnie
        December 23, 2015, 3:06 pm

        I don’t give a rat’s behind about the whining, sniveling, tantrum throwing trailer trash that was removed by the state of Israel from Gaza. The only tragedy is what’s happening in Gaza NOW.

      • eljay
        December 23, 2015, 3:15 pm

        || MaxNarr: … expulsion and ethnic cleansing is no laughing matter. ||

        You’re right, and I’m glad to see that you have finally chosen to advocate the return to their homes and lands of all refugees ethnically cleansed by Zio-supremacists from Israel and Palestine.

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2015, 3:40 pm

        “Hi Marnie, expulsion and ethnic cleansing is no laughing matter. If you care at all about refugees and right to life and property I think you shouldn’t make light of the tragedy of the 2005 uprooting”

        That’s it “MaxNarr”. Don’t just walk through it, jump in it, with both feet, and throw big hand fulls around.

        Oh BTW, were the people effected by the “2005 uprooting” any particular type of people? Cause I mean, wow, if they were from a group of people who had a 1000 year history of persecution, well, that makes it even worse!

      • MaxNarr
        December 23, 2015, 4:48 pm

        And Marnie, your lack of empathy for men, women, and children, expelled from homes they lived in before 1948 even is callous and morally wrong. I am shocked at your abhorrent viewpoints and there can be absolutely no peace with hateful attitudes like these.

      • amigo
        December 23, 2015, 6:05 pm

        “And Marnie, your lack of empathy for men, women, and children, expelled from homes they lived in before 1948” max narr.

        Let,s see , the children (victims of their illegal squatter parents ) who were removed from someone else,s land by the IOF in 2005 had previously lived there before 1948.At what age do Zionists stop being children.

        And as to zionist preaching morals to someone , that,s a hoot.We in Ireland have a term for your verbal diarrhea.It is referred to as , “Gobshite”.

      • talknic
        December 23, 2015, 7:40 pm

        MaxNarr does really really stupid soooooooooo well

        @ MaxNarr “Hi Marnie, expulsion and ethnic cleansing is no laughing matter.”

        Indeed it isn’t Max 1950 “.. refugees from Israel- controlled territory amount to approximately 711,000”

        ” If you care at all about refugees and right to life and property I think you shouldn’t make light of the tragedy of the 2005 uprooting”

        They’re not refugees Max. They have the State of Israel to live in, that’s where they hold citizenship and that’s who BTW uprooted them from their illegal settlement

      • Annie Robbins
        December 23, 2015, 9:27 pm

        max is spamming again

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2015, 11:10 pm

        “max is spamming again”

        I am aghast, shocked, at the uses “MaxNarr” will put the word “Jews” (Jew, Jewish, whatever) to. I’m amazed at what he thinks it entitles people to, what it entitles them to do, what it can be used as an explanation for.
        I’ve never seen “MaxNarr” use “Jewish” to explain an act of generosity, an act of justice, peace or mercy. Let alone forbearance, or even strict scruples.
        But everything else, it excuses or explains. Every act , albeit illegal, immoral, violent or fattening can be charged to it. And there’s no limit on the account, and no interest. And there will never be a bill. Are you sure it works that way “Max”?

      • Marnie
        December 24, 2015, 12:25 am

        Newsflash – this article isn’t about Gush Kawhothehellcares. They didn’t have to wait at all to move into their shiny new trailers while awaiting their shiny new homes built on another illegal settlement. They still had access to and abundance of Palestinian water, electricity and roofs over their stupid heads. There were no stories in the papers about them not having blankets for the winter or food insecurity. It was just a game of chess by the GoI. And you cry like a baby.

        What you’ve made crystal clear is your hatred of the Palestinian people and, just guessing here, all non-Jews.

      • talknic
        December 24, 2015, 3:15 am

        @ MaxNarr “your lack of empathy for men, women, and children, expelled from homes they lived in before 1948 even is callous and morally wrong.”

        I’ll take your word for it Max. Go whine to the ‘callous and morally wrong’ Israeli Government

        ” I am shocked at your abhorrent viewpoints and there can be absolutely no peace with hateful attitudes like these”

        Uh huh. Seeking to have a State adhere to the law is hateful. Right. Got it!

        Stupid illegal Israeli settlers and their idiot supporters deserve their comeuppance

    • RoHa
      December 23, 2015, 6:49 pm

      “Please recall that all Jews were ethnically cleansed from Gaza and their homes destroyed. ”

      I have very little sympathy for the Jews expelled from Gaza by the Israeli government.

      They were illegal settlers in occupied territory. They were encouraged to settle there by a government which had previously demonstrated its willingness to lie, cheat, and expel populations according to its whim.

      And, if they had paid the slightest attention, they would have known that. They chose to put themselves into a false position, and thus to accept the consequences.

      Furthermore, the Israeli government did try to help them afterwards.

  3. MoCHo
    December 23, 2015, 12:01 pm

    Thank you MaxNarr for that marvelous example of Zionist delusions, lies, blindness. Instead of seeing illegal squatters who were removed from land they had stolen from an occupied people, you and other Zio-freaks see them as sympathetic characters who were forcibly removed because of ethnic cleansing. Try opening your eyes to the truth and stop sniveling. YOU are NOT the victims here. Get it?! (And no way they would want to be in Gaza with all the destruction that has happened there since 2005, all the brutality and hatred that has been heaped on the people of Gaza. Or maybe all that has just been punishment from Israel for forcing the land thieves out.)

    • MaxNarr
      December 23, 2015, 3:41 pm

      Is that why Kfar Darom existed in Gush Katif BEFORE 1948?

      That land was just sand dunes.

      • zaid
        December 23, 2015, 6:16 pm

        Kfar Darom was also an illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine.

        all Jewish presence in Palestine after 1882 is illegal , before that (the good days) Palestine was 99% Muslim/Christian , 1 % jewish

        And the Sand dunes belonged and still belong to the Al Mawasi Bedouins before or after the Zionist movement started.

      • talknic
        December 24, 2015, 12:11 am

        @ zaid

        Let’s be precise..

        “Kfar Darom was also an illegal Israeli settlement in Palestine”

        Israel didn’t exist when it was founded in 1930. Until the LoN Mandate for Palestine “terminated” at midnight May 14th 1948, under **Article 7 Jewish folk had a right Palestinian citizenship, to purchase land and to settle. AFAIK the land was legally purchased. Later sold to the JNF (1946)

        On the Israeli Government proclaiming Israel’s borders as being ” within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947″ the land was not in Israeli territories and the JNF was not a citizen of what remained of Palestine. It was subsequently abandoned during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

        “all Jewish presence in Palestine after 1882 is illegal , before that (the good days) Palestine was 99% Muslim/Christian , 1 % jewish”

        ** Article 7 LoN Mandate for Palestine gave Jewish folk who’d legally immigrated to Palestine the right to attain Palestinian citizenship, buy land, legally settle.

        “And the Sand dunes belonged and still belong to the Al Mawasi Bedouins before or after the Zionist movement started.”

        The territory in which they are situated belongs to what remained of Palestine after Israel proclaimed its borders. I’m unsure of the current status of Al Mawasi Bedouin land ownership in that area.

    • zaid
      December 24, 2015, 12:48 am

      You can own a land if you purchased it, but you cannot purchase sovereignty.

      If a Chinese man bought a piece of land in the USA that does not make that land part of China.

      He owns it for use only but he must obey the law of that country and if that country wanted to strip it from him as per the law then they have that right.

      That is what i meant by illegal.

      • talknic
        December 24, 2015, 3:08 am

        Claro, no hay problema!

  4. MaxNarr
    December 23, 2015, 6:09 pm

    You people are so anti-Jewish rights. Let’s put it this way, you want to see so called “Palestinians return after 60 years but JEws cant return after 20?

    • zaid
      December 23, 2015, 6:21 pm

      Max

      Palestine belongs exclusively to the Palestinian people, and it always did since the dawn of history, even before the Savage Israelite’s (who have nothing to do with modern Jews) attacked the indigenous population of Palestine (the ancestors of modern Palestinians) 2500 years ago and stole their land.

      ““Palestinians return after 60 years but JEws cant return after 20?”

      I am that guy LOL

    • RoHa
      December 23, 2015, 6:32 pm

      “You people are so anti-Jewish rights.”

      Are you suggesting that Jews have rights that other people do not have?

      If not, what do you mean by “Jewish rights”?

    • diasp0ra
      December 23, 2015, 6:39 pm

      @Max

      You need some serious professional help if you can’t see the difference, good god.

      It’s also so Zionist of you to whine about rights and then in the same sentence attempt to put Palestinians between quotation marks.

      Troll on.

    • talknic
      December 23, 2015, 8:09 pm

      @ MaxNarr

      “You people are so anti-Jewish rights. Let’s put it this way, you want to see so called “Palestinians return after 60 years but JEws cant return after 20?”

      Jewish AND non-Jewish ISRAELIS are prohibited from illegally settling in non-Israeli territories held under Israeli Military occupation. It’s part of the Laws Israel obliged itself to uphold Max.

      Go kvetch to the Israeli Govt who proclaimed Israel’s borders May 15th 1948 http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/documents/newPDF/49.pdf

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2015, 9:09 pm

      “MaxNarr” if you are going to tell people, over and over again, that all your religious identity is good for is to excuse murder and theft, they will end up believing you.

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2015, 10:15 pm

        BTW, “MaxNarr” I don’t know this for sure, but I have a doubt that younger Jews are reading your comments and saying “Such fervor! Such implacability! Such a devotion to Jewish rights! Such a protector of the Jews! I want to be a Zionist just like “MaxNarr!!”
        Somehow, I just don’t get the feeling they are. Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps I’ve taken too much codified estoppel for my cough, but we seem to be losing the kids.

      • talknic
        December 24, 2015, 12:19 am

        @ Mooser ” if you are going to tell people, over and over again, that all your religious identity is good for is to excuse murder and theft, they will end up believing you”

        Too late!

        When will they send us a new toy?

        Or a new olde toy with a new abuser name even

    • eljay
      December 23, 2015, 9:48 pm

      || MaxNarr: You people are so anti-Jewish rights. … ||

      Jews are entitled to the same rights as non-Jews.

      Despite your whinging, Jews:
      – are not entitled to more rights than / different rights from non-Jews; and
      – are not entitled to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    • mig
      December 24, 2015, 6:36 am

      MaxNarr “You people are so anti-Jewish rights.” Can’t really tell for sure. Maybe you should ask your Rabbi what are those Jewish (or anti)rights. I only know national laws, human rights, international law etc.

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