Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, August 2009
Gazans Remainded of Suffering During Ramadan
August 26, 2009 (Palestine Telegraph, 8/24)-
Agence France Presse
When Dalal Abu Aisha breaks the Ramadan fast this year the chairs once occupied by her parents and three sibl-ings will sit empty, a nightly reminder of last winter's war in the Gaza Strip.
The 14-year-old was the sole survivor when an Israeli tank shell struck her home during the 22-day offensive over the new year that killed hundreds of Palestinians and flattened vast swathes of the besieged territory.
As Muslims across the world gather in the coming weeks to break the fast with lavish feasts and holiday sweets, Palestinians like Dalal will be reminded of loved ones lost during the fighting. The shy teenager will not speak about what happened to her family, but Umm Adel, an aunt who is helping to raise her, says the scars run deep.
"Now that Ramadan is here it reminds Dalal of the early-morning meals, the breaking of the fast with her family and the presents she used to receive from her father," she says.
"She always seems distracted. She spends a lot of time on the Internet or watching television. She is a very smart child but her studies have suffered."
Her uncle Rashad says this is the worst Ramadan the family has ever seen, with widespread shortages and sky-rocketing prices at the local market.
"The war has added so much to our grief; it's more than we can bear," he says. "Dalal's life is hard, just like all the children of the martyrs."
More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the three-week war, which Israel said was aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire from the territory ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement.
In a rubble-strewn wasteland on the outskirts of Gaza City, Almaza Samuni and her father fast in a tent pitched on the ruins of their house.
This is the first year the 13-year-old won't spend afternoons cooking with her mother and her six siblings, all of whom were killed by Israeli shelling.
"Ramadan is hard without them," she says. "I'm sad because my mother is not around to make the meals for breaking the fast, and my father was wounded so he can't work."
In the aftermath of the war the Samunis earned the grim distinction of having lost the most family members -- 29 in all, many of them children -- and eight months afterwards their homes and farms remain completely destroyed.
Since the Islamist movement Hamas seized Gaza in June 2007, Israel and Egypt have sealed the territory off from all but basic goods.
International donors have pledged billions of dollars for reconstruction, but the sanctions and political infighting among the Palestinians has prevented the money from reaching those who lost their homes.
Even those whose homes and loved ones were spared by the fighting have faced rolling shortages and the highest prices in memory, as they have had to rely on goods smuggled in through tunnels along the border with Egypt.
As a result, the festive Ramadan lamps that line the streets of cities across the Muslim world are in Gaza largely confined to store-fronts.
Sami, a 40-year-old father of seven, says the little money he is able to scrape together will have to go for supplies for the coming school year.
"People in Gaza never know when the next disaster is going to come and how they are going to deal with it," he says. "Most people are without work and without a source of income."
Shopowners, meanwhile, say that while they are able to fill their shelves with goods smuggled from Egypt they have few customers.
Ibrahim Samuni, Almaza's father, says he is determined to rebuild his house one day. But this year he is resigned to fasting in his tent under the sweltering August sun.
"The month of Ramadan opens the wound and reminds us of what we've suffered," he says. "My wife, my children, my siblings and my uncles were all killed and their houses were destroyed ... There are no more happy days."
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