Gaza: Calm before the storm


This must be what they call the calm before the storm.

By 7pm all the main street intersections in Gaza City were filled with guards wearing face masks. It seems every time a new security plan is declared in Gaza the situation gets worse. This morning my friend Jamal greeted his neighbor Baha’ Abu Jarad as he left his home for a days work; ten minutes later Baha’ was dead. Jamal, shaken up, informed me of the incident over the phone, while trying to hold back tears.

This morning I spent with the Sisters of Charity at their shelter for disabled children in downtown Gaza City. One boy, Abbas, can’t stop smiling, always active and excited about something unknown to me.

When I first started going to the shelter a boy called Na’el, with a consistent look of fear in his eyes, would hold on to me not wanting to let me go. Sister Delphina told me that was the first time since he had arrived at the home that he had allowed a male to hold him. Na’el is deaf and she assumed he had been abused by his father before he was dropped off at their shelter. Na’el can walk but he has to be holding on to something, either a person’s hand or a table, door or his little wheeled chair. So today sister Dolphina and I tried to get him to walk on his own because I am sure he can, he just doesn’t trust himself. As soon as I would try to let go of his hand to let him walk alone his face would fill with an immense expression of fear.

Today Gaza is filled with fear. A fear that the economic crisis that affects everyone might overtake them. A fear that one day this seemingly unending hunt for a donation, for charity might leave one empty-handed. And a fear of the looming internal chaos in light of this shaky economic state of being.


The different atmosphere one senses in the Gaza Strip compared to the sister’s home must have something to do with either place’s warden. The Sisters of Charity live out an undying love and concern for the children in their care; Israel, legally responsible for a people they occupy, has thrown away the keys to a piece of land they would rather forget about.

One day soon Na’el will walk on his own.

I trust that one day Gazans will live the life of peace they so long to live, free of the closure, the embargo and the prison walls surrounding them today.

All photos copyright Philip Rizk.

Philip Rizk is an Egyptian-German who has lived in Gaza since August 2005 where he works and writes. Philip runs a blog: