Raghad, just one year old, is already ‘ziggit min el dinnia‘, fed up with life, says her father.
No, she wasn’t born this way. But just possibly, at this tender age, Raghad is ziggit.
Certainly she has reason to be. Her family lives in Khan Younis camp, which like all Palestinian refugee camp comprises tight alleys serving as paths leading to houses, and poorly constructed, over-crowded cement homes, too cold in winter, too suffocatingly hot in summer.
Her father has bicycled to busy Khan Younis city streets, to buy iftaar foods. He’s proud of his daughter and happy to share her with the camera. But he has a long ride home, it’s still hot out, and the siege is still suffocating.
I have a hunch that it is he who is ziggit… but give young Raghad time and she will learn from the suffering of those around her.
Jaber has every reason to be ziggit. His chicken farm, home to 3,000 birds, was destroyed by Israeli bulldozers and soldiers in May 2008, along with some 2,000 different fruit and olive trees and grain plantations over 150 dunams. Yet he is the epitome of Palestinian resilience, and of the decades-old and widely practised non-violent resistance to Israeli attacks and land annexation.
Humourous and quick-witted, Jaber provides much insight to the mindset of a farmer who has repeatedly faced personal and economic loss but defies the Israeli attempt to clear Palestinians off their land. His home is roughly 500m from the Green Line border, and its pock-marked walls are testimony to the routine firing from the IOF soldiers along the border fence.
He continues to farm his land, though is pragmatic enough to have abandoned the hundreds of dunams closest to the border, on which he previously grew wheat and barley. Even while farming the garden areas behind his house, further from the border, he is regularly shot at, as are his neighbours, by IOF soldiers from the border.
Since the January 18 ‘ceasefire’ –which should have meant a halt to the Israeli aggressions in Gaza, but which in reality has meant little save the halt to the widespread and daily F-16, drone, helicopter, tank and IOF shootings, shellings and bombings — in the border region [the so-called ‘buffer zone‘] alone, IOF soldiers have killed at least 8 Palestinian civilians [including 4 minors and one mentally-disabled] and injured at least 29 civilians [including 8 minors], by shooting, shelling and the use of ‘flechette‘ dart-bombs on civilian areas.
But Jaber, today, spoke of the vegetables he is growing: peppers, onions, endokhriyya (a tough spinachy vegetable used in soup), beans. And spoke of the difficulties of providing for his 16 children. School has resumed, and they each need new clothes, school books (which are mostly unattainable in Gaza under siege) and materials.
Leila was ready with a spread of dishes to welcome iftaar and share with guests. Much of the food came from their own land. They are fortunate to grow the comparatively small amount of vegetables that can at least contribute to a more nutritious diet for their children than a great many in Gaza who cannot afford fresh produce. But when it comes to paying for the home they are forced to rent (driven out of their home 500m from the border), their electricity bills, and the expenses of their children, the beans and onions don’t cut it.
*once was lush: the now disused land contained fruit and olive trees and crops of barley and wheat.
*planted in peril: newly planted onions
*Jaber Abu Rjila’s home roughly 500m from the Green Line border; shot at numerous times [the room on the far left of the house is the bedroom]