Ramadan in the Occupied Land

Palestinians in Gaza fast in a very hard situation caused by Israeli blockade.

Live is suffering. For around 1.5 million people in Gaza Strip it’s not only a slogan. They have been living in suffer at least for the last fourteen months.

Israel blockaded in area of 380 square meters since mid of June last year because that region was controlled by Hamas, an Islamist movement which anti-Israel. All borders in sea, air, and ground have been closed, included the crossings of Erez and Sofia (Gaza-Israel), Rafah (Gaza-Egypt), and Karen Shalom (Gaza-Egypt-Israel). The passages of people, goods, and services have been so limited.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprisingly if Ramadan this year which began last Monday tortured Gazans. It was hard to get food to eat before sundown and to break their fast. “Israel has tried to limit our necessities for Ramadan,” Jamilah Abdallah Syamsi, 38 years old, who lives in Jabaliyah refugee camp told Tempo by phone last Thursday.

The goods price increasingly. As samples, the price of each kilogram of goat meat (US$10), rice (US$ 3), oil (US$ 5), and flour (US$ 1). Certainly, it was so complicated for Jamilah who must hold the life of his seven nephews after their parent killed caused by Israeli strike three years ago. But this unmarried woman has pushed her self to save US$ 500 monthly from her US$ 2,000 salary as a parliament member from Hamas.

The condition has become more difficult caused by influent water supply and without fixed schedule. Some times at night or early in the morning. “Supply of water just one hour in a day,” Jamilah said. Therefore, she put all braziers on in her house. She has also asked her nephews to fill the bath tube and all buckets while water flowed.

The same condition also felt by people in central Gaza City. The water supply runs for only a half day. In some areas, the water supply stops 1-2 days in a week. The supply of electricity had also problem. The regular blackouts become routine. “At my place, we get blackout four hours in a week,” said Kamlin Shaath, 57 years old, President of the Islamic University of Gaza.

Even though, Jamilah and Shaath’s family are still lucky. Their enough wages have made them can enjoy delicious food during this Ramadan. They can eat nagloda (rice with vegetables and meats), baqlawa (sweets), soup, and salad.

But not for Salim Abid, 46 years old, a father of nine children who has been unemployed for six years. He couldn’t also pay for his children’s study. His life was so depend on assistances from United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). “My kids have not eaten meat fro more than five months.”

Mahmud Mustafa Diri and his family have also the same conditions. There was no meat on the floor, where the gathering family broke their fast at sundown Only rice, bread, and small bowls of cabbage and tomato. The father of eight children has been fired from his job put down tile floors in Israel this year. But he doesn’t want to be a beggar. “Do you thinks it’s a life to turn into a beggar, taking money from here and there?” he said.

The people in Gaza were dying. Professor Muhammad Miqdad form the Gaza Islamic University has explained that seventy percents of Gazans were unemployed and ninety percents depended on humanitarian aids. “We lost everything,” he told Tempo.

Yhe Popular Committee Against Siege (PCAS) has mentioned that 185 patients died, 1,884 were dying, and 470 cancer patients waited for dead. The isolation has closed around 900 factories therefore more than 160,000 people unemployed. It has also made 3,000 fisherman can’t go to the sea, the US$ 370 million project was stalled, and 4,500 farmers of strawberry and flower lost US$ 14 million.

The difficulties have also happened in West Bank. Israeli military has not lifted up about 607 checkpoints and roadblocks throughout the area. Fadwa Barguti still need four hours to see her husband, Marwan Barghuti, in Hadarim prison, Nataniyah, about six kilometers from Tel Aviv. Whereas, the distance between Ramallah and Hadarim could be reached in an hour by car.

“The security measures are very tight. I hope we can be together again with dad,” said Qassam, an eldest son of Marwan Barghuti. He led two intifadah in 1985 and September 2000, and has been convicted for five times life sentenced.

Even live in difficulties, people in Gaza and West Bank have tried to conduct traditions in Ramadan, such as tarawih praying, reading Al-Quran, fasting break together, or walking out until the sunset. They have also committed more closer to Allah. “I want to complete reading Al-Quran twice in this Ramadan,” Mahmud Zahar, the founder and leader of Hamas in Gaza told Tempo.

But it couldn’t hide their sadness. “Most of people in Gaza have blame Hamas and Fatah for this catastrophe. We didn’t feel any happiness when Ramadan arrived,” said Radiyah, 42 years old, who lost her son in the bloody fight in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas last year.

Even sad, hopefully they would have been a part of group described in hadist of prophet Muhammad: “The persons who were happy to face incoming Ramadan, their bodies forbidden from the hell fire.

Statesman/Xinhua/Faisal Assegaf

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