Two complete days without electricity or water. My life is paralysed.
My kids are bored. I’ve run out of ideas for how to make them have fun. Nothing keeps them occupied anymore. When there’s no electricity and only candlelight, you have to be creative to keep children busy; you have to be patient, telling them stories, encouraging them to play with the shadows cast by the candles. No point in worrying about the housework in those moments - the laundry, cooking, ironing. I used to fill the bathtub for the kids and they would play in the water for hours. They loved that, especially when it was hot. It gave me time to do some work around the house too. Now, with the water shortage, I can’t do that anymore. I ask myself, are we really living in the 21st century where all people have an equal right to their basic needs?
When my husband arrived home last night, he felt sorry for the kids. Without electricity for days on end, they hadn’t been able to watch their favourite cartoons or to play on the computer. Although it was already 7 p.m., my husband convinced me to go for a walk. The kids were so excited to go out. We went to the market. Just imagine, there were crowds of people everywhere, groups of young and old men sitting in the streets, looking for respite. There were some old women there too, though the younger ones had to stay in their homes, in the dark and the cold.
I thought to myself, well, the good thing about the halting of fuel supplies to Gaza is that people have time now to see their relatives, friends and neighbours, to sit together. That’s something we haven’t done for ages. Maybe it would be a good time to build bridges in Gaza, to bring together families that have been divided by factional differences, brothers who no longer speak to brothers, and friends who no longer say hello to friends.
My son Mustafa asked me if we would remain without electricity forever. "Perhaps," I replied. Then my five-year-old son Ahmed said that he wished he had a spaceship so he could leave the whole universe - not just the earth. I felt sad - aged only five and six my children have already had enough of this life.
Gaza, January 2008
Najwa Sheikh Ahmed is a Palestine refugee, who lives in Nuseirat camp with her husband and three children. These are her personal stories.