Life in the Dream Palace

The author was forcibly displaced from Rafah to the Dream Palace wedding hall in Khan Younis.

Sahar Qeshta

After six months of writing about others’ displacement stories and the horrors they faced, I am now writing my own.

On 11 May, the war began for me, and I am now experiencing what seemingly everyone else in Gaza has experienced for the past eight months: constantly running for my life to survive nonstop Israeli bombings.

When Israeli occupation forces invaded Rafah at the beginning of May, my family and I were forcibly displaced to Khan Younis.

At first, we evacuated to a relative’s house, until Israeli leaflets fell on our neighborhood, ordering us to leave. The quadcopter shot randomly at houses to scare us off.

My husband called his friend to help find a place for us to stay in the designated “safe zone.” His friend owns several buildings in Khan Younis, but Israel has destroyed them all, except for a kindergarten, where he currently lives with his family, and a wedding hall, called Dream Palace.

I understand the cruel joke of sheltering in a place called Dream Palace, as we have left all our dreams behind. Dream Palace itself is in ruins, half-destroyed by Israeli artillery shells.

We set up two rooms: one for men and one for women. I share a room with seven other women and four children. My husband sleeps with eight men in the other room, and all of us share one bathroom.

Out of the over 20 people who live in these cramped quarters, seven of them are elderly and have chronic diseases. Two use walkers and wheelchairs.

My uncle Suleiman has diabetes. His left leg is swollen and needs constant cleaning. Uncle Ibrahim also has diabetes, and his insulin shots need to be kept cool. In this heat that’s nearly impossible, and we have to rely on others who have refrigeration.

The conditions are dire. I’ve been severely ill from dirty water, suffering from nausea and diarrhea. My daughter was stung by an insect and came down with a fever for two weeks.

At night we take painkillers to fall asleep. We walk long distances to connect to the internet and the outside world. We wash our clothes and bake our bread by hand. Our baths are ice cold.

It’s taken me a month just to write this article.

Being forced to leave your home to save your life is a fate that might be worse than death. I’m now a “displaced person,” no longer a citizen.

Everyone in Gaza is being forced to leave their home. The decision is simple: die in your home or leave your home and live a life as a shadow of your former self.

Though it seems that for the displaced, our deaths are also near as Israel attacks us with greater ferocity each day.

The Israeli occupation is wiping out entire neighborhoods in Rafah and displacing thousands more, all the while killing hundreds of people who were forcibly displaced there.

I wish my words would reach your hearts, as I plea for the world to save what is left of Gaza.

Sahar Qeshta is a writer in Gaza.