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Turn the Gaza lights on

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Sarah and her sisters reading books by candlelight during power outage in Gaza

Sarah and her sisters reading books by candlelight during power outage in Gaza

Imagine that you have to spend your night in utter darkness, to arrange your plan for each day according to a power-cut plan, or to force yourself into bed as there is nothing you can do other than to sit in the dark. Picture yourself studying for your exams using a candle, or spending all day long waiting for the electricity to come back, or walking in streets at night that are only lit by cars’ headlights. If you find it hard to imagine all of these things combined, just seek the help of a Palestinian from Gaza. No one could explain it better.

It has been a week since the government announced the new electricity schedule. Yet I still find it very difficult to adapt to. Previously, power used to be off for 8 hours a day. We have accustomed ourselves to that schedule despite the fact that it took us a while to get used to it.

The electricity crisis seems to be moving from bad to worse. Never better.  Currently, we only get to see electricity for 6 hours a day. That means that power is off for 18 hours! When I heard the news about the new power-cut plan, I was stunned, my mind froze. I’m not sure how successful I will be at adapting myself to it. I got mad just wondering how I’ll get through the day. What should we do during the hours of darkness? Or should the question be “How can we make the most of the 6 hours of electricity?” Should I study? Use the Internet? Do the housework? Watch TV? Do the laundry? Ughhh! This is very confusing. Deciding what to do during the 6 hours with electricity is much harder than the 18-hour power-cut!  What a busy 6-hours it’ll have to be!

“What do you do during power cuts?” is a question I frequently start with during my English-teaching classes. The majority of my students choose to sleep so time passes faster or flee outside their homes to the streets to sit wherever there are lights.

I work as an English teacher from 11am until 6pm everyday at an English-teaching centre. One of my classes starts at 4pm and finishes at 6pm. It starts getting dark at 5pm in Palestine. I had to finish these classes earlier sometimes because of power-cuts. There is a fuel shortage at the center I’m teaching at which makes it hard to turn on the generator every day.

When I finally finish work, I keep praying all the way back home that there will be electricity there. However, I usually return to discover that my prayers weren’t met. Feeling very exhausted and hungry, I light a few candles to make lunch. As I have my lunch with the dim light of candles, I try to convince myself that I’m having a romantic lunch. I fail and a malaise falls on me quickly. This is never a romantic lunch.  I didn’t choose to have my lunch over candle lights. I was forced to as I didn’t have any other choice. When I finish my late lunch, I sit powerless staring at the darkness and waiting for the lights to turn on and for the generators’ noise to stop. Oh how slow time passes while waiting! The roar of generators keeps hovering over my head all night long.

My parents and my little brother and sister have started to sleep very early at night. They force themselves into their beds at 8 pm or sometimes even earlier. At 4 am they wake up voluntarily after they have enough hours sleep. Sometimes, my mother wakes up in the middle of the night. She deliberately leaves the lights on during power-cuts before she is off to bed, so when the power is back, some light disturbs her sleep so she can take advantage of it, turn on the washing machine, and then return to bed.

Electricity now controls our daily lives. It controls our sleeping and waking up times. It even decides for us whether to receive guests at home or not. Electricity interferes with every detail. Residents of Gaza are not the only ones affected by the power cuts. Their relatives abroad get their share of this daily suffering as well. I have two sisters in Malaysia pursuing their higher education. My mother used to Skype them every day, but now we can barely talk to them. There is either no electricity or a terribly weak Internet connection.

Ways to endure power cuts

My little brother tries very hard to entertain himself during power cuts. Our people are known for innovating means of entertainment. Once, he decided to buy cards “Shaddeh” for us to play during the daily power cuts. Shaddeh turned out to be great fun and great for killing time.  We gather around a small table, light a candle and start playing. We repeat the game over and over again until we get bored. One advantage power-cuts have brought to us is that our family spends more time together. My little brother and sister seem to enjoy power-cuts because we, sometimes out of boredom, agree to play their ridiculous games.

History of power cuts

The people of Gaza have been suffering from power shortages since Israel bombed the power station in the Gaza strip in June 2006.  Since then, the electricity crisis has gradually become worse. Power-cuts used to last for 8 hours before, but now we only get to enjoy electricity for 6 hours a day. The electricity crisis has a grave impact on all sectors of our lives and all residents of Gaza strip. It has become the main topic that everybody complains about. “Health and humanitarian conditions in Gaza are at risk due to electricity outage  across the Gaza Strip,” The Minister of Health warned. Hospitals are unable to supply fuel to turn the generators on for the whole day. Patients are now at a real risk.

In the thirst for electricity, many people had to buy generators powered by petrol.  However, they had to pay a huge price for it. In some cases, people paid with their lives. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 30 people have died since the beginning of this year due to the unsafe use of generators.

Who’s to blame?

The situation in Gaza is complicated. We don’t really know who to blame for the current crisis. Israel? Egypt? Hamas and Fatah? Or all of them combined? Israel is imposing a suffocating siege on the Gaza strip turning it into an open-air prison. Egypt seems to be collaborating with our jailers in tightening the siege. The Egyptian Authorities have destroyed most of the tunnels along the Gaza border with Egypt and imposes a closure on the Rafah border, the only exit for our people outside the strip. Our people used to bring in fuel through the tunnels into Gaza which managed to ease our lives to some extent. Whoever is responsible for darkening the Gaza strip has to stop. Most of the Palestinians living here are under 18, where is the justification to collectively punish them? We have a right in Gaza to see light.

The condition in Gaza is becoming unbearable.  Every day is another challenge for us. Each day we have to show steadfastness in order to survive and go on. Israel has deprived us of our very basic rights. It has deprived us of our land, our freedom, and our right to lead a normal life like any other human. I wonder when we will be able to stop worrying about such basic needs like electricity. On behalf of every civilian of the Gaza strip, I scream, LET OUR LIGHTS COME ON IN GAZA.

 (Originally published at Sarah Salibi’s blog Dear World,)

Sarah Salibi
About Sarah Salibi

Sarah Salibi is a Palestinian blogger with a degree in English literature from Al Azhar University. Sarah lives in Jabalya Refugee Camp-Gaza, and is originally from Deir Snayd , a village near Gaza. She teaches English, blogs at and tweets at @SarahSalibi

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17 Responses

  1. just
    November 19, 2013, 7:37 pm

    One way or another the Zionists are trying to commit expulsion, genocide, violations of International Laws of Occupation against the indigenous and beautiful people of Palestine………… and more… much more heinous crimes of murder, incarceration, and terrorism.

    Please, don’t give them one tiny millimeter– NO MORE. How can anyone ask more from these amazing and resilient humans? We have to shout, scream, have dialogue, make peace and justice happen, and Stand With Those Who Shall Be Named and Never Forgotten.

  2. talknic
    November 19, 2013, 8:28 pm

    Israel delegitimizes itself daily

    The Occupying Power is legally obliged to make up any shortfall in essential requirements. In this day and age electricity is essential.

    No doubt someone will be along attempting to dispute the fact that Israel is the Occupying Power and likely saying electricity isn’t essential …. as they propagate their BS by using computer likely made in China and running on ….. electricity

  3. NormanF
    November 19, 2013, 9:43 pm

    The Hamas government refuses to buy fuel from Israel at market prices. And it prefers to spend its money on building tunnels to export terror to Israel.

    Its all about priorities. Palestinian Arabs live in literal darkness because their leaders have other ideas than their welfare in mind and they’re either too afraid or intimidated to demand change.

    The current crisis is not Israel’s fault. Hamas manufactured it the way other totalitarian regime have manufactured crises – to keep their people in line and quiescent. People preoccupied with daily survival are also highly unlikely to have the strength or to find the time to challenge the existing order.

    I don’t see that changing in the foreseeable future.

    • NickJOCW
      November 20, 2013, 8:15 am

      The current crisis is not Israel’s fault If by fault you mean Israel is not responsible then you are under a misapprehension since it would be perfectly possible for Israel to alleviate the situation regardless of how it arose. I sympathise with the lady and the difficulties she endures but the effects of Israeli inaction extend much further.

      …the shut down of the besieged region’s sole functioning power plant has caused the failure of the strip’s main waste water treatment plant.
      Residents of the al-Sabra neighborhood in al-Zaytoun in central Gaza City were surprised Wednesday night to find the streets of their neighborhood flooded with refuse and waste, compounding the suffering of Gaza residents amidst escalating power outages.

      If you are able to despatch photo-op aid to the Philippines you can certainly let fuel into Gaza.

    • SQ Debris
      SQ Debris
      November 20, 2013, 5:50 pm

      Of course bombing the power plant wasn’t Israel’s fault. God Almighty pressed the button. And it isn’t Israel’s fault that most of the people under the Israeli imposed blackout aren’t living in their own homes but in this concentration camp called Gaza. God put them there and refuses to let them return to their lands and homes. No Israel is not responsible for anything, not even its own behavior as a modern nation state. But Hamas is responsible for the cold weather, and the early darkness of winter, and bunions and ingrown toenails and the fall of the value of the shekel…..

  4. Liberty
    November 19, 2013, 10:11 pm

    I can’t imagine what it’s like to live most of your day in darkness. The only time I’ve experienced anything similar is when a snowstorm knocked out the power. I wish there was something more the average American citizen could do to help this situation, but we are not in charge. Please know that there are others who feel as I do.

  5. just
    November 19, 2013, 10:44 pm

    The biggest question for me is whether the zionists even have the one belated and illuminating idea that by not crushing the indigenous people, that one day they might find redemption from their heinous sins toward their brethren.

    Turn the lights on, open the dialogue, stop zionist terrorism and end the OCCUPATION.

  6. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    November 20, 2013, 1:42 am

    I heard a horrific story of several children burning to death in a home where they were forced to use candles for light during a power shortage, and one of the candles was knocked over, and the carpet apparently wasn’t fire-retardant.

    So many victims of the occupation who never quite make it to the statistics page, but who would be alive if their situation were a little more fair.

  7. ritzl
    November 20, 2013, 4:51 am

    Does Isrgypt allow solar-charged LED lights into Gaza? I know when we were tornado-damaged for a few weeks w/o power they were invaluable. Last most of the night. Cheap too. Can’t cook or run a washer with them though.

    Maybe a better question is can some be sent to Gaza, and make it there somehow? Adjusting to 8 hours of daylight must be tough.

    Study hard anyway.

    • gamal
      November 20, 2013, 9:48 am

      thats Israypt silly

      • ritzl
        November 20, 2013, 12:42 pm

        Heh, my bad. And to clarify, I realize the issue isn’t the coping with the problem. The issue is the ongoing collective punishment problem itself. But then the better the coping, the less effective and therefore shorter in duration (theoreticlly) the collective punishment.

  8. yrn
    November 20, 2013, 10:26 am

    “The situation in Gaza is complicated. We don’t really know who to blame for the current crisis.”

    That represent the Palestinian propaganda from day one.
    News is that suddenly Israel is not the only one to be blamed.
    What progress……

  9. Citizen
    November 20, 2013, 11:36 am

    @ yrn
    What I do know is the average American has no idea at all that Palestinians are trying to live though this denial of basic modern human needs, and also, that if this was happening to Jews it would be all over the US media. And that most Americans given this awareness would be quick to find it intolerable for themselves, like so many other things Palestinians have to live with due to the PTB, and would feel empathy for the Palestinians. Yes, indeed, turn the klieg lights on what’s happening in Gaza, and on the American enabling role in it. I notice Gilad Atzmon has also published Sarah’s article. Does that make it bad?

    • Liberty
      November 20, 2013, 8:33 pm

      I wish more Americans would get involved with this discussion and I think one reason they don’t is because of the media. A person really has to search to discover the real truth about what is happening. Another reason could be they don’t want to be seen as unsympathetic toward Israel, falsely believing Israel is the only democratic friend of the US in the Middle East. Last of all, people are lazy. If a story doesn’t make the local evening news then they don’t know about it. Hopefully things will change.

      • yrn
        November 21, 2013, 11:04 am

        Get some Info
        I wish more Americans would get the real info.
        Gaza needs 400,000 litres of fuel every day. Most of the supply used to come from Egypt, through the tunnels. Egyptian gasoline was sold at 3.6 shekels (about $1) per litre compared to 7.1 shekels for Israeli gasoline. Egyptian diesel oil cost 3.6 shekels per litre, compared to 6.5 shekels for the Israeli equivalent.

        The Palestinian Authority imports fuel from Israel in accordance with the 1994 Paris Agreement, but since Hamas took power in 2007, Gaza mainly relied on smuggled fuel from Egypt.

        Mahmoud Abdallah, who owns a gas station in Gaza, says that Egyptian fuel is no longer available. He sells Israeli fuel instead, but says drivers cannot afford it because of its high price.
        Gazan officials blame the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority for escalating the fuel crisis in the seaside strip.
        “Taxes imposed by the Palestinian Authority on fuel imports from Israel make it difficult for us to buy this fuel for operating the power plant,” Ahmed Abu al-Omrin, head of the energy authority’s information center, said. the PA buy’s a litter for 4 shekels and sells it to Gaza for 7 Shekel a litter.

      • American
        November 21, 2013, 11:50 am

        yrn says:
        November 21, 2013 at 11:04 am
        Get some Info
        I wish more Americans would get the real info>>>>

        We have the real info.
        This would not be taking place except for Isr occupation of Palestine and Isr turning Gaza into a ghetto—-cutting them both off from the outside world, allowing them no commerce except what comes thru Isr.

  10. NickJOCW
    November 20, 2013, 3:31 pm

    Do you suppose Iran would be willing to send a fuel tanker to relieve Gaza, after all they’re not allowed to sell the stuff.

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