Gaza has been forced back in time

Healthcare workers are trying to save lives under the worst conditions imaginable. 

Naaman Omar APA images

War is the graveyard of dreams, ambitions and everything that blossoms.

I remember how I was always hoping for a brighter future.

I would travel the world looking for fun and knowledge.

In fact, I had already started making the dream come true.

I will never forget how thrilled I was when I traveled to Cairo for the first time. I went there to take part in a major dentistry conference.

It was exciting. I jumped from one workshop to another, from a lecture to a talk to a panel discussion.

Not once did I feel bored.

I, then, spent some time exploring what Cairo had to offer – from the impressive National Museum of Egyptian Civilization to the cozy yet bustling streets of Khan al-Khalili.

I went back to Gaza with even more dreams of exploring and ambitions to explore this big diverse world.

I was determined more than ever to persevere. I resolved to attend more dentistry workshops and training sessions.

My leadership skills would be honed, my communication skills would be enhanced.

A dream to survive

Then came October 2023 and the war destroyed everything.

My dream now is simply to survive and not to lose the people whom I love.

Since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza, so many places have been forced to close: schools, colleges, organizations, companies. Some governmental clinics, including the one where I worked, have been forced to close, too.

The clinic had provided dental care, vaccinations, services for women during pregnancy and so much more.

In recent days, the clinic has reopened for emergency cases.

I went back on duty hoping that I could provide whatever support was necessary, hoping that I would be able to play a positive and humane role during this very tough time.

But I was shocked that we could only provide the bare minimum.

Root canal treatment was not possible.

Imagine you arrive at a clinic in a great deal of pain, that you have been deprived of sleep, that you couldn’t eat or drink and that you need an urgent dental intervention. But the doctors send you home because your case is considered a “luxury” with all the horrific cases we are handling and the very difficult circumstances under which we work.

After Israel carpet bombed our neighborhood, the water infrastructure and cables needed for a steady internet connection got destroyed. The solar panels used to generate electricity and provide lighting after the complete cut-off of electricity and fuel supplies were also damaged.

We have gone back in time – to the stone age.

No water or electricity or internet.

Imagine living in the 21st century and you don’t have access to life’s basic necessities.

My father is doing the best he can to keep us alive.

He leaves early in the morning, looking for someone that he can pay to help bring water from a station far away.

This is not even drinking water. It’s just water for daily activities.

My dad gets home and we start baking bread on a fire as there has been no gas for the oven since the war started.

Some boys who know a little about IT sell tickets for mobile data. They give us a very slow internet connection for a limited time – two hours in the morning, two in the evening.

I miss “normal” life.

I miss the routine.

I want access to water and food – without the need to exert that much effort.

We need a ceasefire.


Alaa Abu Shammala is a dentist in Gaza.