Dispatch / January 26, 2024

How I Get Through Just One Day in Gaza

Every day that we don’t give up is an act of defiance, holding on to the threads of hope.

Afaf Al Najjar
In Gaza, simply getting ahold of some bread counts as a win these days.

Making it through: In Gaza, simply getting ahold of some bread counts as a win these days.

(Abed Zagout / Anadolu via Getty Images)

With its unceasing bombardment of our homes and neighborhoods—which has killed over 23,000 people, reduced our cities to nothing, and made millions of us internally displaced refugees—Israel has transformed Gaza into a slaughterhouse. And with its continuous targeting of hospitals, bakeries, water wells, solar panels, and markets, Israel is depriving us of all the necessities of life. It is a gruesome attempt to break our spirit and destroy our hope, and it has turned every second of every day into a gamble with death.

This is what it takes to get through just one day in Gaza.

Each day, my family, along with three other families, goes on a mission to get what we need to make it to the next morning. When someone leaves the house, my mother and my aunts say a prayer.

Usually, two of my cousins are the first to go. From 4 am to 4 pm, they are trying to get bread at the bakery. The lines are endless, and Israel has no problem bombing bakeries, so this is not a simple task. Sometimes they will return victorious with one bag of bread. Or they return filled with disappointment: Either there was no bread, or people started fighting in the line and my cousins were afraid to stay there any longer.

My aunts, my mother, and I are usually responsible for going to the market twice a week. Our markets were once filled with delicious treats and lively colors. Now they look like they’re part of a ghost town, and so do we. We move like phantoms, eyes scanning desperately. A good day is when we get some potatoes, onions, salt, a small bag of rice, and two cans of beans or tuna.

Meanwhile, my brother and another cousin collect our phones and batteries and try to find a place to charge them. This could be a shop, a neighbor’s house (if the neighbor has solar panels that haven’t been bombed), a school, or a hospital.

Current Issue

Cover of July 2024 Issue

We remain terrified until everyone returns. Every sound we hear is alarming; every time a bomb goes off, our hearts sink. Once we hear a knock at the door, we can finally catch our breath.

When the sun sets, the darkness seems to swallow even the faintest glimmer of hope. The bombs are like a thunderstorm that never ends.

How do we keep doing this? The simple answer is that we love each other too much not to.

The other thing that carries us forward is an all-consuming desire to know what is happening to our friends and our world here in Gaza. I spend every day looking for news about all the places and names I have ever known. Just as I breathe a little easier when someone returns from an errand, a loved one’s reply to my messages brings me a brief inkling of peace.

The Nation Weekly

Fridays. A weekly digest of the best of our coverage.
By signing up, you confirm that you are over the age of 16 and agree to receive occasional promotional offers for programs that support The Nation’s journalism. You may unsubscribe or adjust your preferences at any time. You can read our Privacy Policy here.

But Israel’s war is targeting even these fleeting connections. Telecommunications in Gaza have been repeatedly cut off. When this happens, I find myself on the edge of going insane. Questions race through my mind: Do people realize we are disconnected from the outside world, and each other, again? If we cannot transmit our messages, will people forget about Gaza? Are my friends OK? Are my other family members alive? What did that bomb hit? What will I do if they bomb us and no one knows about it? What will I do if I am stuck under the rubble? When the connection comes back, a part of me wants to do anything but open my phone or check the news. Those actions inevitably bring heartbreak and grief. But I need to know. Far too often, I find something I don’t want to find. My cousin, gone. My friends, gone. My colleagues, gone. As I lie down to try and sleep, my constant prayer to God is that I wake up without having lost anyone, and without anyone having lost me.

All of this barely feels like living. But here’s the thing: Israel has made getting through even 24 hours a challenge beyond description. Yet in doing so, it has ensured that, each morning, when the sun rises and the birds sing and the loving wind of my homeland blows, the people of Gaza have another victory to savor. Israel wants to wipe us out. It wants us to give up. Every day that we don’t is an act of defiance, a proclamation that we are still here, still holding on to threads of hope. We survive. We endure. We love each other. We live. And the next day, we do it all over again.

Thank you for reading The Nation

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply-reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Throughout this critical election year and a time of media austerity and renewed campus activism and rising labor organizing, independent journalism that gets to the heart of the matter is more critical than ever before. Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to properly investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories into the hands of readers.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Afaf Al Najjar

Afaf Al Najjar is a student, activist, and journalist from the Gaza Strip.

More from The Nation

Five people (four in suits, one woman in traditional Palestinian dress) stand behind Olympic rings. The middle two hold a certificate.

Palestinian Olympians Are Competing as Their World Burns Palestinian Olympians Are Competing as Their World Burns

Palestinian Olympians will make history in Paris, despite unfathomable conditions of genocide.

Dave Zirin

International Solidarity With Palestine

International Solidarity With Palestine International Solidarity With Palestine

Street mural, Barcelona, Catalunya, Spain.

OppArt / Andrea Arroyo

Palestinian children watch as an Israeli bulldozer works in the West Bank hamlet of Khan al-Ahmar, Thursday, July 5, 2018.

The Horror in Israel and Palestine Began Half a Century Ago The Horror in Israel and Palestine Began Half a Century Ago

From the very start, Jewish violence has accompanied the proliferation of settlements.

Ellen Cantarow

Wayne Smith, former top US diplomat to Havana during former President Jimmy Carter's administration, is seen on May 2, 2002, in Havana, Cuba during a meeting with the media.

Wayne Smith Devoted His Career to Dialogue and Diplomacy Wayne Smith Devoted His Career to Dialogue and Diplomacy

The former Foreign Service officer liked to say “Cuba seems to have the same effect on American administrations as the full moon has on werewolves.”

Obituary / Peter Kornbluh and William M. LeoGrande

How Microfinance Became the ‘It’ Development Program

How Microfinance Became the ‘It’ Development Program How Microfinance Became the ‘It’ Development Program

Microfinance has been touted as a miracle cure for poverty in the global south. The reality has been a lot messier.

Feature / Mara Kardas-Nelson

People are seen celebrating on the statue of Marianne on the Place de la République to celebrate after the Nouveau Front populaire, an alliance of left-wing parties including La France Insoumise came in first on July 7, 2024, in Paris, France.

The Risky Politics of France’s Hung Parliament The Risky Politics of France’s Hung Parliament

In the days since the New Popular Front won the largest number of seats, political gravity has again exerted itself.

Harrison Stetler