Voices from Gaza: What 'day after'? We are lucky if we survive.

Al Majalla speaks to displaced Palestinians who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and even family members. Their existence has been reduced to a daily struggle to find the basic necessities of life.

The daily grind of trying to survive Israel's war on Gaa has kept many Palestinians from actually processing the devastating losses they have endured.
Lina Jaradat
The daily grind of trying to survive Israel's war on Gaa has kept many Palestinians from actually processing the devastating losses they have endured.

Voices from Gaza: What 'day after'? We are lucky if we survive.

Palestinians in Gaza are still waiting for clarity on what will happen to them when Israel finally ends its war—which has rained down death and devastation on the Strip for more than eight months.

Although Washington is said to be pressuring Tel Aviv to put forth a plan for Gaza's future, the Israeli government has yet to outline its intentions for the 'day after'. And although there has been much international diplomatic chatter on this topic, Palestinian voices from Gaza are conspicuously missing. One would think their view of the future would be an important factor to consider, given the fact that it is their streets, neighbourhoods and refugee camps that have to be rebuilt after Israel destroyed them.

Amid the widespread death and displacement inflicted on the 2.3 million population living in one of the most densely populated places in the world, Palestinians in Gaza spoke to Al Majalla about their daily struggle to survive.

It was clear from talking to them that the war had inflicted a massive psychological toll on them. Their daily life has been reduced to searching for the most basic necessities like food, water, shelter and medicine. This struggle is further compounded by the constant threat of being killed in Israeli land, air and sea attacks. With nothing off limits—from schools to refugee camps, hospitals to queues for food and water—the past nine months have proven that there really is no safe place in Gaza.

These dire circumstances have cultivated an atmosphere of despair. Families have been displaced so many times that many have lost count. They are constantly picking up whatever meagre belongings they have and marching into the unknown—not knowing if death will follow them to their new place of displacement.

They are trying to just hold on long enough to survive until a ceasefire is eventually reached. The daily grind of trying to survive has kept many from actually processing the devastating losses they have endured, whether it was losing family members, their homes, their limbs, their livelihoods, educations, futures...the list goes on.

Lina Jaradat

Ihab al-Mughrabi

Ihab al-Mughrabi, a 25-year-old man displaced from Gaza’s north to its centre, spoke to Al Majalla about his personal struggle. He worked as a journalist for Arab media before the war broke out but had to stop work for several months because electricity and internet access were so hard to come by. Constantly on the run in search of the next safe place, he has been displaced multiple times. When he could, he stayed with relatives; other times, he was forced to live in a tent.

"We never know where we'll eat or drink—sometimes in a stranger's house, other times in a mosque or public place. We also spend so much time just looking for a toilet between the tents," he explains.

Four months after the war, he partially resumed work, connecting to electricity and internet at a hospital where journalists had set up tents nearby. But every time he was forced to flee, he had to start over again from scratch, struggling to find safety, electricity and internet before he could start working again.

When asked about his vision for the post-war period, he fell silent for a few moments—his expression visibly tired and uncertain. Finally, he replied, "I don't know." After several minutes, he added: "My focus now is to stay alive and keep my loved ones alive until the war ends."

Ohood Shamali

Ohood Shamali, 36, has lived through multiple wars in her short lifetime. Born during the first intifada, she remembers the second and recalls the 2008 Israeli war on Gaza. But this war is like nothing before. It has not only destroyed her homeland but also her mental health.

"I dread leaving the house and walking on the streets now," she said. "The sight of destruction—homes, buildings, streets, parks, and even the seaside promenade—has tarnished all my beautiful memories of my city."

The daily grind of trying to survive has kept many from actually processing the devastating losses they have endured.

As much as she loves her homeland, she sees no choice but to emigrate after the war. "I want to rebuild my life and build a future without being under the constant threat of war, killing and destruction," she says.

Throughout eight months of the war, she refused to leave Gaza City for the south, choosing instead to remain with some family members. But they were repeatedly forced to flee their home in the Shuja'iyya neighbourhood, navigating between the eastern and western parts of the city depending on where Israeli attacks and incursions were happening. 

Despite the danger she lives under, she has refused to flee southward because she believes no part of Gaza is truly safe. "I would rather face death in my own city than a place I don't know. My focus right now is on surviving until the war ends."

Shamali strongly supports the two-state solution and the need for supportive countries to actively work towards it. She believes this solution is crucial to ending the ongoing wars and massacres perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians— particularly those living in the Gaza Strip.

"We need a two-state solution, even if this means it is imposed on Israel. Palestinians cannot live under the constant threat of war," she says.

Although she hopes to emigrate when the war ends, she does not rule out returning back to Gaza at some point in the future if conditions improve and safety and security are restored to the Strip.

I would rather face death in my own city than in a place I don't know. My focus right now is to survive until the war ends.

Ohood Shamali, Palestinian woman

Ibrahim al-Shanbari

Ibrahim al-Shanbari's high school education was cut short by the war. The 19-year-old from Gaza's northern city of Beit Hanoun in Gaza's north fled to the south after six months of war.

"At first, we just tried moving around within the north of Gaza until we were forced to flee to Khan Yunis. My father and brother refused to leave, and I lost contact with them. I can only pray that they are okay," he explains.

"Right now, I just want the war to stop so I can go back to the north and see if they are alive. If they are dead, I want to give them a dignified burial."

Samiha Moussa

Samiha Moussa, a 36-year-old resident of Khan Yunis, was forced to flee Rafah with her premature infant son Ihab. She returned back to Khan Yunis only to find her home partially destroyed. Her son—who she had after 14 years of trying to get pregnant—needs urgent medical treatment if he is to survive. She wants the war to stop so she can cross the Rafah border crossing with her son and get him the help he needs.

Hussein al-Rawi

Hussein al-Rawi, 27, uses his bicycle to get around the town of az-Zawayda town in central Gaza, where he and his family have been displaced. He stops on a hill overlooking the entrance to Nuseirat refugee camp and the western edge of Wadi Gaza. From there, he can see Gaza City—his birthplace and former home—clinging to the hope of a better future.

"I miss all the details of my life before 7 October—my home, my friends and the familiar streets. Even if everything I know has been destroyed or damaged, I want to return back there and rebuild it."

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