GAZA CITY: Palestinian national Mohammed Al-Diri misses the many beautiful, joyous moments he experienced in his home throughout the years, especially during Ramadan.
Since Ramadan last year, Al-Diri and his family of seven have been living in a rented house, after they lost their apartment in the Al-Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City when it was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes.
Sixteen apartments that housed about 120 people were also destroyed in the airstrikes — the occupants are now living in rented apartments as refugees, with the rent being paid by the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Al-Diri said: “It is our fate to be displaced over the years, our grandpas were displaced from Sarafand at the time of Nakba of 1948, and after 70 years we also tasted the bitterness of displacement.”
“We have lost our home and everything we own,” he said.
This is the first Ramadan for Al-Diri and his family outside the neighborhood in which he was born and raised for many years. “Houses are not only made of stones ... they are our safe zones where we have made memories and spent beautiful days. These are things that we miss now, and I feel very sad that I will not be in my home with my children for the first time in Ramadan,” he said.
During Ramadan, families such as Al-Diri’s miss spending time with neighbors, and at gatherings and prayers.
Al-Diri and thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes during the war were hoping to quickly rebuild their homes and return to them again, but today they are living a different reality due to the slow pace of the reconstruction process.
Official figures from Hamas’s Ministry of Public Works and Housing show that only 5 percent of what has been destroyed has been reconstructed in Gaza. Many in Gaza share the same feelings of sadness and anxiety experienced by Al-Diri and his family.
War has caused the complete or severe destruction of 1,335 housing units, while about 12,886 units were moderately and partially damaged, according to data from the Government Information Office in Gaza.
Alaa Shamali has tasted the bitterness of homelessness twice; the first time was after an Israeli airstrike destroyed his family’s home in the Shejaiya neighborhood in Eastern Gaza in 2014, and then when his apartment, which he bought in installments, was completely destroyed during the last war.
Shamali, a journalist for a local organization, said that an Israeli airstrike destroyed the apartment building in which he lived with his family of five.
He and his family miss the few Ramadan months they spent in their apartment, which he describes as a “dream house.” He said: “We only lived for a few years in the apartment, but it is filled with a lot of love and beautiful memories, which we miss during the month of Ramadan.”
Shamali added: “The atmosphere of Ramadan this year is different, and it is overshadowed by sadness, pain, and even a lot of despair.”
These sad feelings were reflected in the Ramadan rituals of Shamali and his family. This year he did not buy the Ramadan lanterns and decorations that the family normally would to decorate their home.
“Ramadan comes this year under complicated conditions in Gaza, and not only for the owners of destroyed homes. Everyone in Gaza suffers from deteriorating living conditions, which have worsened recently due to the massive rise in prices,” he said.