A day’s work to find internet

People gather around a charging station for cell phones in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza. (Omar Ashtawy / APA Images) 

The day began, as it always does, with no internet and no electricity.

Israel has destroyed communications infrastructure and routinely imposes communications blackouts, and electricity depends on fuel supplies, which are always scarce due to the blockade.

With no internet or electricity, I can’t work.

I went back to sleep.

I woke up again around noon, determined to find an internet connection and charge my devices, determined to do my work as a journalist.

I went with my nephew Ahmad to the clothing store in Rafah, southern Gaza, where I normally charge my devices. But the store was closed – the first time it’s been closed since I’ve been going there.

My nephew and I wondered if something terrible had happened to the owner. I rushed to phone Omar, one of the shop’s employees, and he assured me that they were all fine.

My nephew asked me where we would go next.

I considered the question. It was a cloudy day, so that ruled out our neighbor’s solar panels.

I told him that our next stop was the hospital.

Charging a phone is now more exhausting than the work itself.

No outlets free

At the hospital’s reception area, the outlets were all full. I was told it would be an hour’s wait for the next open spot.

Then someone told me to check in another department and to ask for a specific nurse.

This worked out well, and I plugged my devices in. The ward was full of agonizing cries and wailing, many from pregnant women in pain.

The area was full of women like me, there to charge their phones. I stayed for as long as I could but I had to get out of there.

On the street outside the hospital, I saw hundreds of young men at the back gate, sitting on the sidewalk and charging their devices from an extension cord at the hospital.

The cord isn’t always reliable, though, as the power turns on at 8 am and turns off at sunset.

I was about to head back to the hospital reception area to see if an outlet was open. But then Ahmad, my nephew, noticed something.

An advertisement near the hospital for a falafel shop. The sign said: “Phone charging available.”

We rushed to the falafel shop. The owner said it was about 25 cents for one hour of charging.

I paid him $1.50. It felt like a triumph to finally charge my devices.

Working on the street

Once I got my charge, I went back to the hospital for internet. But the signal was too weak to do anything.

I couldn’t email my stories or chat with editors via email or WhatsApp. I couldn’t contact sources for interviews.

I returned home, planning to call it a day. Then, I stumbled across an internet signal in the street with a powerful connection.

I sat on the street corner for hours, doing my work, the only woman in a group of men.

I was finally able to send off my drafts to editors. It was 5 pm, the sun half-set. The sky filled with red-orange rays.

I was hungry and hadn’t eaten all day.

Back at the falafel shop, I retrieved my devices that were charging. The owner’s mother said she knew I was from Gaza City, both because of my clothes and my courage to sit in the street.

The owner told me to not be shy and to feel free to come inside to use their internet.

Airstrikes in Rafah’s market

On the way home, about 15 minutes from the hospital, I heard three close explosions. They shook Rafah’s commercial district.

I hid inside a clothing store to avoid shrapnel. My heart was beating out of my chest.

I was flushed and tried to calm down.

The explosions lit up the market. Gray smoke settled on every surface.

I couldn’t see outside.

When the smoke cleared, I went outside. A house next to the clothing shop had been demolished.

I had miraculously survived, just a few seconds earlier and I would have been killed.

People around me were bleeding, and they were transported to hospitals. Others gathered around the rubble of the house and tried to see if anyone was alive.

I arrived home, still alive. I ate a meal.

I went to bed. I knew that the next day would be the same.

Khuloud Rabah Sulaiman is a journalist living in Gaza.