living amongst the dead II

Friday, 26 July 2013

i went back to the cemetery during my second week in gaza with annamaria, ahmed and mohanad, our translator, at the end of a warm afternoon of ramadan. it didn't take long before the children noticed us. emerging from behind the graves, they formed circles around us turning our visit into an event. we were soon surrounded and our only escape was to enter people's homes.

four families invited us into their homes that day.

in the first one, the mother refused pictures to be taken, so we listen to her story. more than 25 members of her family shared the same roof, where four children had perished due to water leaks and the harsh conditions of living in such a place. when we visited, one of her daughter-in-laws was recovering from a c-section in a room above what can be called a stable shared by horses, sheep and chicken. her baby was just four days-old and she was concerned for his future. all her sons were unemployed and one of them had cancer, only aged 24. the only source of income of the family came from transportation they provided with their horses. she wore her pain on her face and had barely any hopes for the future. this house was by far the worse we visited that day.

her family, just as the others, was displaced during the nakba in 1948, and fled to the gaza strip. when they arrive, the only place where they could afford to live was the cemetery. these families are amongst the poorest of gaza.

when we asked her how the people of gaza city considered them, she replied that people outside consider the people living in the cemetery as dead, living amongst the dead.

we then visited the family you can see on the pictures above, once again three members of the family where suffering of diseases including hiv. their house was made of several rooms built around a concrete courtyard. there, an old lady with an arched back told us her story.

a third family welcomed us into their home and we sat down with father, mother, grandparents and children, in a courtyard shadowed by a grapevine. the house got better as we progressed from houses to houses.

the grandfather, who only had one eye, was wearing a typical white ghutra moving around with a walking stick. he grabbed my attention during my last visit, when he was sitting on a grave as we walked out of the cemetery, he had an aura that you couldn't miss.

the father, pictured below, told us how he had been tortured by the israelis in 2000. the scars on the back of his head were left as only evidence. this treatment lead him to severe mental health issues including schizophrenia and depression. he displayed the medication he has to take on the floor in front of us and told us about his hardship his wife and children surrounding him.


  1. Your words and photographs are beautiful Julia xx

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