I have realized that every single time I go out of the comfort zone of my home, my work sphere and into the homes of the poor all across the Gaza Strip I am faced with the same string of emotions. I sense pain, discomfort, compassion, incredulity, shock, and a deep, deep sadness that this suffering just will not go away. The sea of people I encountered this Monday are beginning to fade, one into the other, their stories so similar, their pain so common place, their struggles one and the same and yet each one of them faces it alone. The people I met, Essam, the wife of Ramzi, Abd Al-Raziq, the names fade much like their stories do, all of them in need of employment, all of them trying to overcome poverty and all of them needing hope. We can bring them a food basket, but I think in this very intricate act of entering a home, sitting, listening and praying a blessing over the home. some of this longed for hope is sensed, through this act what is communicated is that someone, somewhere cares, someone remembers them and someone takes the time to speak a prayer for them.
One man I met, I have now forgotten his name, had five children, two of his daughters were mentally disabled, one of them nearly blind. He doesn’t have the money to keep paying for the latter’s treatment, in the past he has been able to get her some medical attention, but today she can barely see. His oldest son is in his last year of high school and yet unless their situation changes drastically his father will not be able to pay for his college education. I wondered to myself, what motivates this young boy, sitting next to me, to keep studying hard? What is he studying for if once he is done he will so likely be unemployed like his father and the hundreds of other young men in the neighborhood? This man, like the breadwinner in every other home I visited Monday, used to work in Israel as a laborer. Today, he has been unemployed for five years and helps his father in a little shop he runs from the front of the house. I noticed the items for sale on the dusty shelves on my way in, some chocolates, bread, oil, a few small plastic toys, the stock in the entire shop I doubt would add up to more than $200. The man’s sister also lived with him. Her husband, they told me, had been killed when he rushed to the aid of a local militant, who had been shot by the Israeli army. Her husband was shot and killed in the process. What and who was she living for now? Childless and with no prospect of being married again, she is likely a burden to her unemployed brother who is expected to provide for her.
I saw her just briefly as I left the house. A tall woman, cloaked in black, the look of shame and sadness on her face tore at my conscience.