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Gaza's will to survive against all odds

Repurposed car batteries, solar panels, horse-drawn carts and clay ovens are only some of the things Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have been relying on to survive amidst an all-out Israeli war. As a humanitarian pause goes into effect after 45 days of total siege, where no food, water, electricity or fuel have been allowed to enter the Strip, MEMO takes a look at how Gazans have been coping.

November 24, 2023 at 2:05 pm


Our neighbour’s small clay oven is now serving an entire neighbourhood in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza; you bring your dough, they will turn it into bread. It is one of the ways people in the besieged Strip are coping without electricity, fuel or cooking gas. Cooking outdoors with wood, coal or anything that can be burnt is now the norm.

Canned foods are prized possessions; tuna, beans, fava beans, chickpeas, corned beef and processed cheese. Palestinian staples like olive oil, zaatar and doqqa are a lifeline for many families and the go-to breakfast.

But the real pillar of survival in Gaza is community. If someone has solar panels that have not yet been bombed, they have become a phone charging point for their entire neighbourhood and beyond. Repurposed car batteries are also charging stations, because staying connected is not just people’s way of getting their voices out to the rest of the world, checking on their relatives or simply staying up-to-date with what’s unfolding around them, but it is also how they call an ambulance if their house, or their neighbour’s house, is bombed, and maybe save lives. Grocery store owners must continue to go to work despite the bombing and the fear of leaving their families alone, so people can buy whatever stock they have left on their shelves. Anyone who has a garden with fruit or vegetable trees and plants must share. Anyone who owns a donkey or a horse, their cart is now a public mode of transport.

Cut off from essential life necessities including food, water and all energy sources since Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant announced a complete siege of Gaza, people had to find ways to make do with what they have and adapt to stay alive.

In Gaza today, every day is a battle for sustenance and safety, a fight for your and your family’s survival in the most literal sense. You must fashion hope from any and all fragments of despair.

If you grew up in Gaza, you know to always have your ‘war supplies’ stocked. Many households in Gaza, at all times, have shelves of canned foods, things like rice, pasta, sugar, flour and anything with a long-shelf life that can sustain you and your family when Israeli warplanes inevitably start bombing, the borders are closed, and you have nowhere to go and little available to buy.

The 2023 war, however, is on an entirely different scale to anything Gaza has witnessed before. The average teenager in Gaza has already survived 6 wars on this tiny besieged Strip. But this time, within one month, about a million people in Gaza, half the population, were forced to leave their homes. And about 50% of Gaza’s buildings have been bombed.

If you are hosting several of your relatives and their children because they have had to evacuate or flee the bombing, then your supplies are not much at all. Three large backup water tankers may be enough for a small family for a couple of weeks, but it’s not enough even for 2 days when you have several dozen people to sustain. Because that water is not just for drinking. It is needed to clean toilets, because no water mains or power means no flush. It is needed to clean the dishes. It is needed for washing the body and the clothes. Many have had to resort to sea water, a trip to the beach, not for vacation, but to bathe and do the laundry. Water is water after all.

And while rain is posing a real challenge for displaced people in Gaza who have to sleep in tents or in the streets without much shelter, it is also a source of water for many trying to collect it.

Under the weight of an all-out war where no one is safe in Gaza today – Nearly 6,000 children dead – every smile, every breath drawn and every scrap of wood burnt to bake some bread to feed a family is a daily testament to the unwavering will to survive and to hope against all odds.

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