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Lost and found

Tania Krämer, Gaza
October 11, 2014

DW visited five familes in Gaza to ask them what treasured possession they had managed to save from the destruction and rubble of the war and what they expect in terms of help from the international community.

Image: DW/T. Krämer

Riham Tanira, 26, daughter Jodi and her husband Ahmad Tanira, 30. They lived in Thafer Tower, one of the high rises in Gaza City which were targeted during the last days of the war. They are now renting an apartment with relatives in a nearby neighborhood.

Riham: We found the registration papers for our land in Ashkelon (Israel) from which our family fled as refugees in 1948. It is dated from 1943. We found them after the bombing, but our own important papers are still under the rubble and we still cannot reach them, birth certificates and passports. All is gone. I still feel devastated today. We are still unable to realize what happened. Everyday when I miss something, when I cannot find something I remember that I used to have a home, where we had our belongings and privacy. Now everything is gone. When I think of the future we still have to wait and see how the political issues and political situation will develop. And according to that we will see how our future will be.

adults holding baby Foto: Tania Kraemer
Sirham Tanira, daughter Jodi and her husband AhmadImage: DW/T. Krämer

Ahmed:The situation currently after the war is that we are in anticipation mode, high anticipation about whether there is reconstruction or there is not going to be reconstruction, this is what is important to us currently because our lives are currently tied to this matter. We hope to return to our homes at the soonest time possible. Every time we say that the future will be better, regrettably the worse comes. I never expected that harm could affect me in this way, that my house is completely gone. The future here is foggy, matters in Gaza are very gloomy. Currently, our future is tied to the reconstruction conference. This is the future in Gaza, that you are always tied to politics, if politics is good then your future is good, if politics is bad then your future is bad.

Mohammed Ali, 23, Ingenieur, without work, Shejai'a. Mohammed lost his family home in Shejai'a. He lives now with his mother and siblings in a rented apartment in Gaza City.

Mohammed: I left with my pants and a shirt. This is what I recovered. As you can see here all this destruction - this is the picture. It expresses how people feel right now. Those who have money and are in better economic situation, they rented apartments. Those who don't have money have fortified their damaged homes and went back to live in them. I am renting currently a home for $350 per month without electricity. During the war, I left without any mattresses or cover or anything. Now what will the cost be to refurnish this new apartment? Until now I paid $1700 for a refrigerator and a washing machine and bedding.

Man standing Foto: Tania Kraemer
Mohammed AliImage: DW/T. Krämer

People are just devastated, when the war came the economy of the place was already zero. I am an engineer and I haven't worked for 2 years. I did not earn a single shekel. Now I depend on aid. The future? We are not a people that is favored by the international community, by the UN. How will they reconstruct for you if after two or four years a war happens and everything is devastated again? We need a strategic solution, people need to work, eat and drink and we need to live in safety.

Rabia El Kafarna, 37, Beit Hanoun. Rabia lives in a make-shift tent on the rubble of her home in Beit Hanoun. Her daughter was born shortly after the war broke out.

Rabia: The only thing I took from the rubble are these mattresses. Everything else is gone. The situation is difficult, quite difficult, there is no such thing as help that is coming. They tell us help is coming; but there is none. Look at our circumstances, this is our situation, sitting here in this tent. There is no sanitation, washing our hands is a problem. Now we entered the fourth month and the situation is as you can see. We left the house four days after I gave birth, and I had to run with this child, after four days from giving birth to her. I feel I am unable to live like this any longer.

woman with child and baby Foto: Tania Kraemer
Rabia El Kafarna with two of her childrenImage: DW/T. Krämer

The future? We want to live, and then after one year, two years, war will return. Just like that we will have to start all over again. But there are people who have not lived in their homes since the last war, or the house was just rebuilt and has vanished again, what will they say? There is no way or strength except with God, I seek consolation in God, that is all I can do.

Mousa Heles, 50, Shejai'a. Mousa Heles lives now with his family and his six children in those rooms of his house which still have walls. Until the second intifada he used to work in Israel as a construction worker. Since then he hasn't been able to find a regular job.

Mousa: I lost being able to live in my house. This is the most important thing. The most important thing as a human being is to be at home and feel safe. What do I want from Palestine other than living in my own house with dignity. If you live in Poland or in Russia or if you live in Germany, doesn't everyone want their home and to live a life of dignity?

man outside destroyed house Foto: Tania Kraemer
Mousa HelesImage: DW/T. Krämer

I have no expectations from the government of national consensus (interim government). The situation is difficult and extremely miserable, no electricity, no running water, no means for life, not 1 percent of means for life. The life of stray dogs running in the streets is better than our life today. And I don't know when and how I will be able to rebuild my home. The Israelis allow gravel, but they bar steel and cement from entering through the crossing. How will you renovate your house, how will you work on your house? I lost my garden, a beautiful garden with trees. And there is no money, we have been sitting for maybe 12 years without work.

Jamalat El Kafarna, 29, Beit Hanoun and her mother Dalal, 62. The family lives on the ground floor of their destroyed family house in Beit Hanoun, a town in the north of the Gaza Strip. Jamalat graduated in English literature from the Islamic University, but has no work.

Jamalat: I found some of my books. I am a graduate in English from the Islamic University. I found Hamlet, some books are in English and Arabic. The situation here is very difficult. This is no life. When we came back after the war, we saw all the destruction. The house is half gone. But because we don't have money, we cannot go and rent somewhere else. So we stay here, but not all of the family. It is not safe. My brother who has children doesn't want to stay here because of the destruction. I hope the UN will give us some assistance. I don't work, I don't have money to move somewhere else. I hope we get assistance to rebuild the house.

Two women standing in rubble Foto: Tania Kraemer
Jamalat El Kafarna and her mother DalalImage: DW/T. Krämer

Dalal: The situation here is difficult. I have three daughters and a boy and myself, we are five individuals, and I am sick, I have diabetes and high blood pressure. No one brings me income, I have no one who is employed, I have no one and my husband is deceased, as you see. Why did I come back here to this destroyed house? I am unable to pay rent, I don't have money to pay rent for a house. We live here under the rubble. We sleep and pray that nothing happens, this is dangerous for us. We saw bitter days, we saw death, we saw a lot of death. We have been suffering from June until now.

We came back recently, when the ceasefire happened. We were forced to flee during the war. We call upon all with a conscience, we call upon every human being who feels with someone who is a believer, Christian, Druse, from anywhere, that they feel with us, to help us, to see the life we are living. We are coming up on winter and you see how we are sleeping out in the open. We expect, God willing, that things get better.

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