Gazan children are sleeping on the floor to cool off while the only power plant in the Gaza ghetto is shut down.

Has the pandemic made Gaza feel any normal?

By Aya Alghazzawi • Gaza City

8:oo am

I start my day feeding my four kittens along with their mommy Semsem. They are growing bigger and brighter. My parents think I should gift them to some people who may be interested in having them. But many can barely provide food to their families these days. Having a pet has become a luxury. Imagine me having five along with their coming siblings. Yes, Semsem is pregnant for the second time!

I have had breakfast with my family and picked up my phone for the last updates regarding Covid-19. There are about 326 positive active cases in Gaza. The Ministry of Health says it’s under control so far but we need to stay home until specialists map the outbreak in the long-besieged Gaza. Coronavirus is just another siege, a quarantine inside a quarantine.

Mom asks me about the virus continuously. I find it ironic that we are finally stressed about something other than Israeli assaults!

Many Gazans have begun to think that the world and us are in the same boat under the pandemic. Current casualties reported in the news are not a result of Israeli airstrikes which hit many resistance sites in the last 15 days. Patients who contracted the virus will not have to go through amputation operations as happened in the Great Return March when Israeli soldiers targeted protesters’ limbs. At first, we found, sarcastically, a fortress in the 14-year Israeli imposed siege. The restriction on movement kept us from leaving Gaza and getting infected. We remained out of the pandemic’s reach. The government here did its best to prevent the pandemic from spreading in the community. It placed comers into special places a far from the society for no less than 21 days, but we knew it’s inevitable.

I can’t believe we are seeking a shared humanity in illness and vulnerability! Decades of dehumanization and inequality can do more than that!

Is Coronavirus the great leveler? Is the world really the same as us now?

2:00 pm

Everybody in our house is sweating. We look gloomy and fatigued. Our ceiling is hit directly by the sun heat. The wind blows inferno. We are already experiencing a heavy heat wave in the hottest month of the entire year. Fans are turned off as we do not have electricity because the only power plant in Gaza has been forced to shut down. Boys are sitting in boys’ room and girls in theirs. We change our clothes repeatedly trying not to think of laundry. We are all thinking of having a shower. However, a shower cannot be done without water. Our water tanks have been empty for three days.

An hour later, my dad brings buckets of water carried from downstairs. He gets downstairs, then upstairs many times to get us enough water. There is no elevator, which necessitates he does a physical strain. Two of my brothers help him with it. He insists we use it only for necessary things like doing the dishes and using the bathroom.

4:00 pm

We are all heading to the living room. We leave our rooms because our neighbors are starting a conversation. We can hear every single word they say. They can hear us easily too. Our window overlooks theirs and vice versa. I believe it is a common issue for most Palestinians in the Gaza ghetto. Gaza has been recognized as the biggest concentration camp on Earth where two million Palestinians live in 360 square kilometers. Privacy almost does not exist. Everyone knows every one’s stories. We decide to let them speak freely and sit together in one room to give them some privacy.

“Look! Employees are queuing in front of ATMs for their salaries. “Aren’t they afraid of contracting the virus?” my sister prompts. “They have kids to feed. They need the money”, my brother responds. “They are paid only 50% of their salaries anyway”, my sister replies.

7:00 pm

We have piles of clothes that need laundry. We are also running out of bread. We are supposed to have four hours of electricity every day. Uh, It’s extremely hot in here. It’s getting dark too. Oh God, grant us patience. We start complaining.

9:00 pm

Children are sleeping on the floor to cool off. We urn on the leds which are a safe alternative source to electricity. Candles are not used at our house. Families have died and houses burnt because of them. Mom asks me to call my brother Muhannad in Algeria to check upon him. “My battery is almost dead. I’ll call him tomorrow”, I answer.

10:10 pm

Electricity is ON. Everyone is rushing to plug in appliances and charge phones. Mom turns on the washing machine and then hurries to the flour container and starts kneading the dough for our bread. We help her with baking in the electric stove and packing bread in bags. When I have finished, I surf the internet. Breaking news reads, “Three siblings in AlNuseirat camp die as a candle burns their home”. I gasp shouting Gaza needs no more tragedies.

11:30 pm

I put my head on my pillow thinking of my cat and her little babies, AlNuseirat accident and my brother whom I cannot wait until tomorrow to call. The question jumps into my head again “Is it fair to equate the suffering of the world with ours?” My mind echoes an emphatic hell no!

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