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Living in an Open-Air Prison.


I was born in Izhevsk, Russia, but I was brought up in Gaza, Palestine. My father is originally from Gaza, once he got married in Izhevsk and I was born he came back to his home city along with my mother. I was about one year old when I came here.

The UN has deemed Gaza unlivable, but here I am living in it. Life here is difficult for sure, and there are many aspects that I struggle with, especially the social aspect, but there is something beautifully scary that keeps drawing me to love this place. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up here and have nowhere else to call home, or if it’s because I force myself to like it.

It was hard for me to fit in with the people here because When I was a kid everyone looked at me like I was some sort of alien living among them. I looked different than the average person here and everyone treated me based on that. That is not a bad thing, but I never felt like I belong here. That feeling only grew my aloofness and made me stay home, where I watched movies and TV shows and where I learned English to a native level.

Conditions of life

The unemployment rate in Gaza is nearly 50%, and the poverty rate is over 80%. The youth of Gaza, which make up around 65% of the population has an unemployment rate of over 70%. Financially and economically the city is struggling. Parents are having to decide carefully on what to eat every day and how to ration their food. Over a million people in Gaza lack decent food security and rely on foreign aid for food.

Due to the severe lack of job opportunities and the spread of nepotism, people turn to the internet in search of income. There has been a huge surge in recent years of designers doing freelance work on the usual websites like Fiverr and Upwork, as that is their only source of income.

97% of water in Gaza is not potable. People in Gaza are being slowly poisoned by their own drinking water. The World Health Organization has set a minimum daily water requirement of 100 liters per person to cover drinking, washing, cooking, and bathing needs. The average consumption in Gaza is about 88 liters.

Electricity is scarce in Gaza. There is a schedule for it, and for most people, it is on for only a few hours a day. The Gaza Strip gets most of its energy from Israel, with other contributions from Gaza’s only power plant and a small amount from Egypt. People here arrange and coordinate their life according to the electricity schedule. Both the Gaza Power Plant and many individual generators rely on diesel fuel, but supplies brought in via Israel are often blocked causing further disruption.

Gaza is often referred to as an open-air prison, because of the suffocating siege imposed by Israel. The only land crossing point not controlled by Israel is the Rafah crossing point, which leads to Egypt and is under Egyptian control. When it comes to the sea of Gaza, fishermen are only allowed 15 miles of water from the beach to fish. The only airport that Gaza has ever had was destroyed by the Israeli military in 2000.

Due to these suffocating conditions, nearly 70% of the people need some sort of psychological support program. 9 in 10 children in Gaza suffer from PTSD from all the bombings during the past 4 military campaigns carried out by the Israeli army.

The Wars

There have been 4 wars conducted by the Israeli army in Gaza. During which the Israeli army killed over 4000 and injured over 20 thousand Palestinians and wiped out many families. Several thousand families were left homeless after their homes and buildings were destroyed.

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On the Israeli side, 117 were killed, most of whom are soldiers, and over 4000 were injured.

During the first war in 2008, Israel was accused of using white phosphorus to attack the civilian population of Gaza, which would be a violation of international law. The Israeli army initiated a land invasion which failed. Over a thousand Palestinians were killed.

During the longest and most deadly war in 2014, the Israeli army was running out of missiles and shells so they had to restock their inventory because they were bombing so much. Over 2000 Palestinians were killed and nearly 11 thousand were injured during the 51-day war.

All these wars and bombings only exacerbated the already terrible living conditions of Gaza.

The good aspects

I have the privilege of my father being a very well-paid doctor, so my family is financially stable and we are living a comfortable life compared to other people. We have the money to spend on some luxuries like a gaming PC or a new TV, and we can afford to buy these things without them making a large dent in our financial wellbeing.

There are some very fancy restaurants and coffee shops that I go to once in a blue moon, mainly because I personally do not go out as much. There is a street called Al-Remal which is essentially the beating heart of Gaza. It is where most of these fancy restaurants, coffee shops, and malls are. It is always busy and full of life. I call it the Times Square of Gaza. There are also very prestigious and illustrious hotels that only the rich 1% can afford to go in.

These places are very beautiful and are well-kept. They definitely take some inspiration from American and European cultures for their brand appearance and how they handle their business.

Gaza is a coastal city, so the beach is where hundreds of thousands of people come and escape the dread of reality and have fun swimming

The people here rely on humor to cope with their lives, so there are a lot of funny and cynical people all over Gaza.

I find my small dose of happiness mainly by watching YouTube. I basically grew up on the internet watching Youtubers like Smosh, PewDiePie, and Markiplier. These guys helped me out immensely in my life, not only for entertainment but because I learned English from watching them, which opened many doors in my life.

© 2022 Haitham Al Bairouti

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