Grief and relief on a Gaza beach

The sea in Rafah. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

Since 2007, Israel has subjected Gaza to a medieval blockade and a series of major attacks.

During that time, going to the seaside has provided Gaza’s residents with their only real outlet for psychological relief.

My home in Gaza City was around 400 meters from the shore.

I used to sit for long hours, looking at the sea.

In the summer, every Friday was a day for family entertainment at the beach. I would go there with my husband and five children.

My husband would rent a small holiday home. The children would swim and my husband and I would grill meat.

On other occasions, I would go with my friends to resorts and cafés spread along the seashore. They had names like Bianco, Maldive Gaza and Sunset.

I would take pictures and share them with my friends on social media. Israel has turned all of these hangouts and many more into rubble and ash during the current genocidal war.

The waterfront of Gaza City has been destroyed.

After that destruction, Israel forced the residents of Gaza City, including my family, to move south.

My home was destroyed by Israel. Israel has put me under enormous stress due to repeated displacement.

I have spent much of the time in a tent which is about 11 kilometers from the sea.


Before Israel’s recent invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, I proposed a family trip to that city’s beach.

I gathered a few cans of beans that we had received as food aid and placed them in a bag. We could eat the beans on the beach, I thought.

Then memories flooded my mind. I recalled all the things I used to prepare when we would visit the beach in Gaza City.

Pizza, cake and other delicious things.

I was deep in thought when I heard my husband’s voice.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied.

And so we set out for the beach.

From the side of the road, we spent half an hour looking for a car to take us. But we couldn’t find any.

Finally, a donkey-drawn cart passed in front of us.

We asked the driver to take us to the seaside. He agreed for a fee.

Along the way, we saw many destroyed homes, as well as camps and other places where people had taken shelter.

After 30 minutes on the road, the sea suddenly appeared in front of us. I started to cry.

There were many cafés on the seashore – like old times. The difference now was that they were full of people who had been displaced in a genocidal war.

I sat on the sand with my family.

By pure coincidence I saw my close friend Aisha. She, too, was displaced from Gaza City and moved to Rafah.

We hugged and wept.

I went to school with Aisha.

We sat down beside each other and Aisha told me some terrible news. She had lost both her eldest son Kamal, 11, and her father during this terrible war.

They were both killed along with dozens of other Palestinians when Israel attacked the Nuseirat market in central Gaza on 14 October.

They were just buying vegetables.

Where will we live?

Following that horrific massacre, Aisha and her family moved to Rafah.

“I used to love the sea,” Aisha said. “Now I feel like I want to drown in it.”

Trying to comfort her, I said, “We will get through all this. Our beautiful days will return, though our beautiful martyrs have gone to heaven before us.”

We said our goodbyes.

Aisha went back to her family. And I went back to mine.

I prepared a dish of fava beans for our lunch.

My son Zein al-Din asked me if I remembered how we used to grill chicken on the beach.

“Yes,” I told him. “And we will return to our home soon and visit our beach and grill chicken again.”

Like my other children, Zein al-Din does not know that our home was completely destroyed. I do not know where we will live when this war ends.

My kids went swimming. I had never seen them so happy over the past seven months.

There were some fishers in the sea.

The Israelis opened fire toward their small boats. One of the fishers jumped into the water, trying to escape the gunfire.

The strange thing was that none of the people on the beach ran when they heard the gunfire. It was as if they had become accustomed to it.

Or did the way nobody moved reflect a general despair?

Before sunset, we decided to head back to our tent east of Rafah.

Once again, we couldn’t find a car to take us.

Once again, we had to hire a donkey-drawn cart.

On the journey back to the tent, I watched the sea gradually become more and more distant.

“Goodbye, sea,” I said.

Everyone around me heard me speak those words.

Rasha Abou Jalal is a journalist in Gaza.