Within Gaza: Life in Gaza

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Human spirit perseveres even in the face of tremendous adversary. Inside the besieged coastal enclave of Gaza people have to struggle for the very basic daily activities that are generally taken for granted in most other parts of the world. “Within Gaza” series- in 5 episodes- peaks through the walls of occupation and siege to try to reveal how the Gazans go about their lives. Each episodes deals with one harshness that afflicts the residents and portrays their ingenuity in coping with Israeli occupation and intermittent onslaught. Episodes’ titles: Ambulances and Hospitals; Journalists and the Frontlines; Life in Gaza; Mass Execution; Workshops and Factories.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

Narration: Palestine overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the East with a coast 224 kilometers long. This coast starts from Rosh Hanikra in the North to Rafah in the South … Along history, people living on all coastal cities including Acre, Haifa, Jaffa, Ashdod, Magdala, and Ashqelon have worked in fishing as their major profession to earn income. The fathers inherited the profession from the grandfathers, and now their sons inherit this profession. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Adham El-Habeel, Fisherman: “We are fishermen father and son. Fishing is our only craft in life. My father, my brother, my grandfather, my uncles, and I are all fishermen. We have no craft other than fishing and the sea.”

Narration: Since Palestine was occupied by the Zionist gangs in 1948, fishing as a profession has been subject to many violations, like the occupation of all Palestinian coastal cities and forcefully displacing their inhabitants, who found refuge in the Gaza Strip and resided in coastal refugee camps … Fayez Abu Foul is a fisherman originally from Hamam village near Magdala, and Adham El-Habeel is a fisherman originally from Al-Joura village near Ashqelon, and both are coastal villages in the occupied Palestine in 1948. These two fishermen use fishing as their major profession, which they cannot live without.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Fayez Ahmed Abu Foul, Fisherman: “My name is Fayez Ahmed Abu Foul from Shate refugee camp. I work as a fisherman. I’m married and have a family of twelve in my house. Our capabilities as fishermen do not cover one quarter or one third of our needs. I leave the house everyday at 5:30 AM and walk to the port.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Adham El-Habeel, Fisherman: “We all come here to the port very early in the morning, around the dawn time. Then we get on the boats depending on Allah, and follow the fish wherever they go, East or West, from Sudania area to Rafah. To the West, we are allowed to go only 3 nautical miles were fish is very scarce. Some days we can’t find any fish. This is our life, we can’t live a different life, and we don’t have any other profession.”

Narration: Hence, one of the violations by the Israeli occupation is limiting the distance allowed for fishing to three nautical miles, and allocating gunboats to chase Palestinian fishermen who exceed these three miles where fish is scarcely found.

T SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Adham El-Habeel, Fisherman: “Three years ago, we were one nautical mile away from the port in Sudania area riding four boats. An Israeli gunboat came and started shooting at us. My boat was in the back and other boats were in front of me. They kept shooting at us for ten minutes and we stopped. We had to stop; otherwise they would keep shooting and call us with microphones to force us to stop. They closed up on us and kept shooting for about an hour while we were stand still. The boats were hit and holes started leaking water. They started shooting right at fishermen, so they jumped in the water, while I got stuck on the boat.”

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Fayez Ahmed Abu Foul, Fisherman: “Suddenly one boat got on fire; they hit it with a shell which directly hit the gas tank, which made it catch on fire very quickly. The boat for Habeel family was burned, so the other boats closed up at it and tried to put the fire off. The gunboat left the area, so one boat was able to get close and drag it to the shore.”

Narration: Adham and Fayez’s boats were attacked when Adham tried to sail to an area where plenty of fish could be found.A month and a half after the boat was burned, it was fixed and Adham and Fayez went back fishing. Fishing as a profession is the major source of income for more than three thousand fishermen and hundreds of others in the Gaza Strip.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hussein Qasem, Artist and Fish Seller: “After I pray Fajr or dawn prayer, I take my stuff and go to the fish market. Fish market starts around 6 AM, so every day I buy some fish and take it to the public market to sell it from 8AM to 5 PM. While staying there, I see different kinds of people. Those who can buy, and those who can’t buy because of poverty. You can see these things from dealing with the people. At the end of the day, you have a lot of things that bother you and you could make a poem of our lives out of it. I mean how we are humans and feel for one another. It is these things that we feel that make us write.”

Narration: Hussein Qasem did not limit himself to writing poetry. His interaction with people and getting introduced to their grief provoked him to write scripts and scenarios for plays and feature films.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hussein Qasem, Artist and Fish Seller: “I wrote four plays for children. Two of them were produced while the others were not. I wrote 60 radio episodes. I used to be a radio director, and I directed 120 radio episodes. I wrote a series of 13 episodes. I also wrote a script for a long film named Bleeding of a Heart, talking about the suffering of prisoners in Israeli jails and the suffering of their families, which is based on a novel for Mohammed Nassar, named Screams. I also wrote the full script of another film named Volcano, under supervision of Dr. Nabeel Abu Ali.”

Narration: Hussein Qasem continued writing till he got the chance to stand on the stage and in front of the camera to play major roles in many plays, series, and films.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hussein Qasem, Artist and Fish Seller:  “In 1996, I went to an organization named Al-Awda for Theatre and Arts. We produced two plays, one named Counted on Who, and the other called The Good Land. Then I shifted to TV work. We produced a Bedouin series called Paths of Yearning. We also produced another series called “And You, Jerusalem-Al-Quds”, talking dramatically about the Judization of Al-Quds, and how the Israeli occupation tries with all means to take over the houses around it, either by offering money or threatening the owners, along with other means. I also acted the role of a Palestinian prisoner showing all sorts of torture and suffering they go through in Israeli jails.”

Narration: If anybody listens to the artist Hussein Qasem, a pressing question will jump into his mind about the reasons why he is selling fish in the market. 

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Wisam Abboud, Actor: “This is the reality in our country. As an artist I have to find another job to be able to earn money to live, otherwise I will starve. Because how often will any producer make a film, every year, or once in two years? And how much will he give me per film? How much will he even profit from the film to give me? Is he going to be able to give me a fixed monthly salary to pay my rent and live with my children? He will not be able to do that, so I have to find another job.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Hussein Qasem, Artist and Fish Seller: “In short, honestly you have to be an artist with nothing; an artist who can’t feed himself; an artist who can’t support his family. I wrote something about that which says: I’m an artist and have a right to be human; I’m an artist and have the right to take my art anywhere, to Tunisia, to Syria, or Lebanon; I’m an artist and do you know that till now, I don’t have a phone and don’t have an address.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Narration: This is the condition of the artist Hussein. However, Wisam, who is an actor, is in a different condition. At night, he works as an actor on stage for wedding parties in the streets, while in the morning he works as an electricity technician to feed his family which cannot depend on what he will gain from acting.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Wisam Abboud, Actor: “We did the street theatre or what we call the weddings theatre. We used to get almost no money for it. After a year or two of doing it, we started to get 5 Dollars. The first time I got the 5 Dollars felt like I received 100,000 Dollars. When I stood in front of the camera in the film on the Palestinian leader Awad Silmi “Rifle Lover”, I did two things. First, I worked as an electricity technician. Second, I acted in the film. I was paid for the electricity work more than for the acting. This is real catastrophe, to be paid for electricity work more than my acting.”

Narration: The “Rifle Lover” was Wisam’s second film in which he stood in front of the camera, while the first film was Imad Aqel which he didn’t get paid for and played the role of a spy for the Israeli occupation. Here, the surprise was after the film was showed.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Wisam Abboud, Actor: “I faced many obstacles, and still suffer after the film on the Palestinian leader “Imad Aqel”. I do not suffer from the film, but from the role I played in the film. Today I got used to it when I walk in the street somebody would say: “hey, you are a spy”, and I would smile at him. But I would say to myself this is not a problem. As long as the people know me and remember me, this is a success. This acceptance from people makes me feel better.”

Narration: This is regarding art in Palestine, but equestrian has a different story as well.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Rafat Darabeeh,Spokesman, Equestrian Club: “This club was founded in 1993. There were a group of horsemen who used to organize races near the Eastern borders. They were frequently harassed by the Israeli occupation soldiers. They sent a request to the late president Yaser Arafat to allocate a place for them to organize the races, and he gave them this 30-Donm piece of land. But unfortunately, there were a lot of obstacles, especially financial ones, which prevented Equestrian from being practiced as desired.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Aya El-Ajrami, Horsewoman: “The management of the club faces a lot of difficulties in getting the horses in. second, horses in Gaza are very scarce and it is very hard to find good ones. Another problem is prices of the horses, as not every horseman can afford a horse, and this puts pressure upon the management of the club which cannot provide all these horses. This is a big problem.”

Narration: After the Equestrian Club was founded in Northern Gaza, Al-Faisal Equestrian Club was funded in Gaza City. These are the only two clubs in the Gaza Strip that teach horsemen and horsewomen on hurdle jumping. This sport requires having trained horses as well as talented and qualified trainers to arouse this sport in a country where this sport never existed before.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Omar El-Mamlouk, Trainer, El Faisal Equestrian Club: “We in the El-Faisal Equestrian Club are the second place in the Gaza Strip to produce strong Palestinian horsemen. The largest portion of our activities is for hurdle jumping which takes up to 80%, 10% goes to races and 10% to shows of Arab horse beauty. Hurdle jumping is the main focus of the club so we can participate in the external tournaments. All the horses we use here are trained locally we trained them. We did not buy trained horses from outside.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Rafat Darabeeh,Spokesman, Equestrian Club: “Therefore, we believe that many of our horses are not qualified to participate in external tournaments. So when a Palestinian horseman wants to compete outside Palestine, he will have to rent horses from the country he is competing in. when the horseman is not used to the horse he is riding and the horse is not used to him, this is a very serious problem for the horseman to achieve anything.”

TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00

Narration: 16-year old Aya El-Ajrami is a horsewoman training on hurdle jumping, with hopes of achieving an ambition she have always dreamed of; representing Palestine in International tournaments.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Aya El-Ajrami, Horsewoman: “My ambition is to become a famous horsewoman and to participate in tournaments and win high ranks. This way I would represent Palestine and show the world that Palestine is a country that has horsemen like any other country, a country that has everything all other countries have.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Omar El-Mamlouk, Trainer, El Faisal Equestrian Club: “We try to interact with the Arab countries, as most of the tournaments there are based on hurdle jumping. So we always try to pick a suitable team, and we have won advanced ranks in various occasions. We have a good group of horsemen who can achieve impressive results to whichever Arab country you send them.”

Narration: If Aya wants to continue training on hurdle jumping to participate in international tournaments, she has to own a horse to train with any time she wants.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Aya El-Ajrami, Horsewoman: “I have a horse that I bought about a month ago. When I bought it, we faced a lot of difficulties getting it through the side of the Israeli occupation, and it was very hard to get it in. At the same time, this horse does not have all the desired qualities found in external horses.”

Narration: Aya El-Ajrami wishes to someday represent Palestine in international tournaments in hurdle jumping. However, Mohammed Fanouna, who is handicapped, had already participated in international tournaments for athletics and won various medals. He stood in front of the podiums with pride despite the hard circumstances this Palestinian champion went through.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Mohammed Fanouna, Handicapped International Athlete: “Regarding visual impairment, B1 is totally impaired, B2 is partially impaired for a certain level, and B3 is partially impaired to a lower level. I’m diagnosed with B3 which is considered the lowest category. In Athens, I won the Bronze medal for long jumping, and in 2010 I won a golden medal in the Asiad in Guangzhou, China. I also participated in the world tournament in 2002 and won fourth place in long jumping, and fifth place in javelin. In the year 2000/2001 in Tunisia, I won two Gold medals in long jumping and javelin. Each country had a protocol of sounding the national anthem, so my feeling at that moment describe themselves as a Palestinian athlete who was able to get there and reach that level despite the hard circumstances we live, being political division, siege, and lack of resources.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Khaled Abu Zaher, Sports Journalist: “There are countries that created a character and status and value for themselves through sports, and this is related willpower. The Palestinian people are persecuted and occupied, and willpower is their strongest weapon. However, the handicapped who belong to Palestine and are Palestinian athletes should be given more attention and support, and we have to all learn from them.”

Narration: What we can learn from the handicapped is their ability to achieve victories. Khamees Zaqout is an international athlete in javelin, discus throwing, and shot put. He won various medals in international tournaments, but he suffers from very hard circumstances which any handicapped athlete suffers in getting to the podiums.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Khamees Zaqout, International Athlete: “These are the achievements in Arab and international tournaments. We proved our ability to the world despite all the suffering and hard circumstances we went through, especially the siege in full meaning of the word siege, and despite our humble resources, or simple resources, or maybe I can say without any resources compared to the large countries we have faced and beaten in these competitions.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Mohammed Fanouna, Handicapped International Athlete: “One of the major obstacles is that the athlete needs an income to continue. If I were not an employee, I wouldn’t have come to train in the first place, and sports wouldn’t be important to me, because I would be concerned mainly about supporting my family and fulfilling their financial needs.”

TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00

Narration: Numbers of people with special needs rise day after day in Palestine as violations by the Israeli occupation continue. During the war on Gaza in 2008/2009, about 5000 Palestinians were injured, 600 of them were handicapped and they were mostly youth. Therefore, some civil society organizations started to respond to some of their needs, which was the case with Al-Tayseer Society for Marriage and Development.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Adham El- Balougi, Al-Tayseer Society Manager: “The goal or mission of Al-Tayeer Society is to provide some financial support needy young men to get married. In 2010, we decided to help young men who were injured during the war, because they became a deprived group. After they were young and strong and able to do anything they want, they suddenly became disabled and unable to do basic things. We found it our duty as Palestinians who can help these people to take the decision of helping them by providing anything they need to get married.”

Narration: Monther Kareem is one of those who were injured during the war by shrapnel of drawn missile while he was walking in one of the streets in Gaza.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Monther Kareem, Victim: “I was injured on the 4th of January 2009. We were in Jaffa street after evacuating our house during the war. I was injured in my left leg, my cheek, and my neck. My injury in the left leg cause a disability as it became ten centimeters shorter. In the surgeries I had, they took bones from my right leg and put them in the left leg, so the shortage became eight centimeters.”

Narration: Abdel Fattah Jadoa was injured inside his house on the fifth of January 2009 when he was 16 years old. Abdel Fattah’s family gathered in one room in an attempt to find peace together, but their gathering did not last for long.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abdel Fattah Jadoa, Victim: “Around nine PM, we were sitting upstairs in the balcony. Suddenly, the Israeli occupation’s apaches targeted us with one or two missiles. When the missile exploded, my eyes popped and exploded and my head was fractioned. They put platinum in my head, and these are plastic eyes now. My brothers who were in the room, Lutfi, Hashim, and Ghazi died immediately and they are martyrs in the paradise, may Allah have mercy on them, while Wesam, Mahmoud and I were injured.”

Narration: Three years after the war, Al-Tayseer Society organized a communal wedding for some the war handicapped. Kareem and Jadoa were among the grooms in this wedding.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Islam Esleem, Mother’s wife: “I was very happy and delighted that I’m getting married to an injured man who was defending Palestinian people. All the people around me were happy that I’m marrying an injured man defending his fellow Palestinians.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Islam Esleem’s husband: “Thanks to Allah after we got married, we had a baby. She was a girl and thank to Allah we were very happy to have her. I forgot about the injury, the pain, and the suffering. When I play with my baby girl we laugh a lot, thanks to Allah.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Abdel Fattah Jadoa, Victim: “I registered in Al-Tayseer Society for marriage. They held a communal wedding for a large number of people injured during the war, and they provided them with money covering their costs of getting married. They helped us find brides by offering registered girls, giving us the freedom to choose from outside the society. Thanks to Allah I found a good bride from outside the society.”

SOUNDBITE [Arabic], Islam Esleem, Mother’s wife: “After we got engaged, I was very happy to get married to Abdel Fattah. I got pregnant after we got married, and nine months later, I gave birth to Lutfi. Thanks to Allah he brought happiness and joy to his father and I, to his grandmother, and to the whole family. We were very happy to have him, thanks to Allah”.




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