Recollections from emergency – Ramadan’s story

09 June 2021
Ramadan stands over the rubble remains of the Kuhail building. The office building - which housed his printing and advertising company was flattened by recent Israeli airstrikes on Gaza. © 2021 UNRWA Photo by Mohamed Hinnawi

"I’m left with nothing, but I’m still alive and that’s enough to start over," said Ramadan Al-Njeli, a Palestine refugee who lives in Gaza. Ramadan lost his printing and advertising company when the Kuhail building was levelled during 11-days of airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip. "My business was not just my source of income, my life’s dream," he says. 

Ramadan’s struggle to achieve his dream is no different than the stories of others with a clear vision of the future within context of the blockaded Gaza Strip. “At university, I always wanted to be a programmer and to that end, I studied computer engineering and paid extra attention to programming Courses. But it’s never easy in Gaza. My father lost his job in 2007 due to the blockade imposed on Gaza. So, I had to work to continue my university studies. I never let despair seep into my life. I worked with a printing company where I learned the basics of designing and printing,” he says.

Determination, commitment and vision are all Ramadan needed to make his head start. He used all the knowledge and potential he had honed in university to establish his first career milestone: starting his own business.  “I always liked sculpture and when I worked at a printing company, I found that I could pair my knowledge in computer programming with my love for sculpture to start up my own company of printing and advertising,” he noted.

Ramadan gathers print materials from his shop from among the rubble of the Kuhail building, Gaza. © 2021 UNRWA Photo by Mohamed Hinnawi
Ramadan gathers print materials from his shop from among the rubble of the Kuhail building, Gaza. © 2021 UNRWA Photo by Mohamed Hinnawi

From the first time he recognized his potential to the moment his business took off, Ramadan narrated his journey, holding on to the remains of his company’s products that he salvaged from the rubble. He couldn’t hold back the tears in his eyes. He recalls every detail, set back and challenge he has faced since launching his career in 2010 to the moment the Israeli missile struck the Kuhail building. “I used to sleep in the office to save on transportation money. During the hostilities in 2014, I was in severe debt and was about to lose my business, but I remained focused and started again. I’ve spared no time or effort in my quest to succeed. The word “impossible” isn’t in my dictionary. And because of this, I’ve been engaged in a continuous learning process. Whenever I find a new printing technique, I studied it until I became an expert. I spent days and nights crafting a design or adjusting raw materials for certain printing techniques. Even during the COVID-19 related pandemic measures, I adapted my deliverables to meet the demands of my clients. I like to remember these moments when I’m on the brink of success. It reminds me that I am strong and capable enough to start again and again as long as I live. No matter how many times I fall, I’ll start again,” he says.

The 2020 was the first year Ramadan felt a sense of stability with his business. He was finally able to garner regular income from his projects. His unique brand was getting recognized and his business was free of debt for the first time since 2010. Just days before the start of the last round of hostilities, Ramadan was preparing a package of printed products. “When the building was levelled to the ground, it wasn’t rocks that were crushed and turned to dust and rubble - it was my dreams, my passion, my future, my source of income, my past, every moment I spent to get here - to my dream.”