Paying for food with our lives

The sadness of children is palpable. 

Omar Ashtawy APA images

In Gaza, you can pay with your life for a bag of flour.

My friend’s brother paid that price. He was killed when Israel attacked a crowd waiting for aid.

Bread is necessary for our survival. It is baked in a clay oven using flour, yeast, a little water and cooking oil.

Before 7 October, we could buy bread in our neighborhood bakeries. Most of those bakeries have now been destroyed.

Women in Gaza are now baking their own bread with whatever ingredients they can find.

Israel repeatedly attacked people queuing for bread when bakeries were still open.

Even if people were not attacked, they faced a horrible situation. Often they would have to wait for eight hours, without any guarantee they would get bread.

They braved death to try and bring back some food for their families.

Gaza bears the dubious distinction of being a place where you can observe an airstrike and an airdrop on the same day.

Staying alive feels like a miracle here.

The Israeli occupation considers civilians as targets. It has no compunction about attacking people who are ill due to malnutrition and the lack of healthcare.

It is obvious that Israel targets civilians intentionally.

As well as killing directly, Israel is causing starvation by blocking the entry of food.


Before 7 October, our food tasted better.

We would prepare maqluba – a delectable dish of stewed meat, rice and fried vegetables.

Once cooked, it would be flipped onto a plate. It looked like an edible tower.

Another dish we enjoyed was molokhia – a meat stew containing jute mallow.

Musakhan consists of roasted chicken, seasoned with sumac and baharat. It is accompanied with onions, lemon juice and pine nuts.

We served it with flatbread known as taboon.

Families would gather around the dining table, enjoying each other’s company and the delicious smell of the food.

Palestinians are well known for their tasty cuisine and the comforting touch of a mother’s hands.

We consumed love and warmth. Every person in Gaza was known for their generosity.

The aroma of food has disappeared now. It has been replaced by the stench of death.

Our mothers’ kitchens have been destroyed.

Everyone is famished.

People are eating things that nobody should ever have to eat.

The sadness can be observed on the faces of children throughout Gaza. Both in the north and the south.

It is a sadness caused by violence and hunger.

Eman Alhaj Ali is a journalist, translator and writer based in Gaza.