on creativity in gaza

image from the BBC
image from the BBC

there is an amazing slideshow on the bbc website of palestinians building mud brick homes given the fact that cement and other basic supplies are banned from entering gaza (click this link to see the rest–the homes are beautiful). djallal malti reported on this for afp:

All of Amer Aliyan’s hopes of rebuilding his life are placed in a carefully folded sheet in his wallet, a document that for the foreseeable future in Gaza is nothing but a worthless piece of paper.

“I’m waiting for the reconstruction, but I know it will take time,” the 36-year-old says.

This is a gross understatement in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip where an Israeli blockade is preventing the rebuilding effort after the devastation caused by a brief but deadly war at the turn of the year.

Aliyan’s house was one of several thousand destroyed during the massive 22-day onslaught unleashed by Israel on the Islamist Hamas-run Gaza in December in response to militant rocket and mortar fire from the enclave.

Since the end of the war, the unemployed dry cleaner has lived under canvas with his wife and five children in one of 93 tents set up on the outskirts of the Beit Lahiya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

The paper secreted inside his wallet is the official attestation that his home was destroyed, and it is a document that will entitle him to funds for rebuilding once the reconstruction starts.

But that is unlikely to begin any time soon, and until it does the thousands of Gazans who like Aliyan lost their homes in the war will just have to fend for themselves.

Reconstruction is a non-event not because there is a lack of demand. Some 4,100 houses was destroyed during the war, as were 48 government buildings, 31 police stations and 20 mosques, among others.

Nor is it for lack of money — in coffers worldwide sit a whopping 4.5 billion dollars that donors pledged to the Palestinians in March, most of it towards reconstruction in Gaza.

The rebuilding is not able to get under way because of the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza in June 2007 when Hamas, a group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state, seized the enclave in a deadly takeover.

The billions of dollars in pledges remain where they are because the international community refuses to release the money directly to Hamas, branded as a terror organisation by Israel and much of the West.

The blockade, under which only essential humanitarian goods are allowed into the territory sandwiched between Israel and Egypt, means building materials stay on the outside, as Israel says they can also be used to make rockets.

In a bid to get around these restrictions, Gazans have dug dozens of tunnels under the border with Egypt that are used to bring in supplies, including construction materials such as cement, paint and wood.

The resulting trade is brisk, but limited and dangerous. The hastily dug tunnels often collapse, burying smugglers alive. The Israeli military still targets them in occasional bombing raids.

Because of the blockade the price of building materials has skyrocketed. A bag of cement now costs 220 shekels (56 dollars, 40 euros) compared with 20 shekels previously.

But the cement is of low quality, according to Hadj Salim who operates one of the tunnels, and it cannot be used to mix construction-grade concrete.

Other vital materials such as the steel rods used to reinforce concrete in buildings are too long to fit through the tunnels, Salim says.

With construction at a standstill, the newly homeless residents of the Gaza Strip where the vast majority of the 1.5 million population depends on foreign aid have had to make do.

The fortunate have found temporary housing. Some stay with relatives in what is already one of the most densely populated places on earth. But people with nowhere else to go are living in tents.

“Those who can go with families, the others stay here. There’s one 12-member family living in a store room and they’re paying for that,” says Khaled Abu Ali, who is in charge of administrative affairs at the tent camp.

Others have turned to innovative measures.

Jihad al-Shaer, 36, was living with his wife and five kids in his parents’ Rafah home when he got the idea to build a house from clay bricks in December, before the war that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

“The idea came from houses I’d seen in Bangladesh and Pakistan,” he says.

He finished their 80-square-metre (860-square-foot) house in February — after the war — and today proudly shows off the results.

“It’s cool in the summer, warm in the winter and only cost me 3,000 dollars,” he says.

The one-storey structure that seems to grow out of its sandy surroundings was happily blessed a few weeks ago with the birth of Shaer’s first son after four daughters.

His idea caught on quickly in tiny Gaza, and in early May the territory’s Hamas rulers announced they would offer the option of building houses out of clay for those who want it.

After weeks of searching, Aliyan has finally found temporary living quarters for the months — or what some fear may become years — until Israel lifts its blockade and reconstruction is finally able to begin in dusty Gaza.

He, his wife and their children have managed to rent a small space at the back of a bakery, next to the oven.

there are other palestinians who are creating art from the ruins of the savaging of gaza as adham khalil writes on his blog:

Life will not stop, I will challenge the Israeli occupation and rise up despite of the hurts, said : Shireen Shamia, 26 years old, a Palestinian art teacher. Shireen lives in Jabalia Camp in northern of Gaza Strip. She has lost Two of her brothers . Israeli Occupation army shelled her house around ten o’clock in the morning on 19 January 2009 by F16 warplanes where she lives with 20 of her family.

Before the war, she sent a letter to the ministry of culture asked to make exhibition for the olive tree, she would like to use the destroyed olive tree in order to change it from a rubble to a beautiful masterpieces.

What a pity, Israeli warplanes pilot has killed her dreams when targeted her house and damaged her art masterpieces and paintings .
How much strong is Shireen, despite all of sad situation she lives, the dream has become as a challenge. She has taken a decision to go on and make an exhibition on the rubble of her house titled “we will rise up despite of the hurts”.

She presents this an exhibition to her two martyr brothers Zaher and Mohamed, all Palestinian martyrs, Palestinian prisoners, her family and relatives, Palestinian people live under siege and to whom support her in his artistic life .

On her brochure , I find her desired words, Shireen said : we will rise up despite of the hurts, the difficulties, the destruction, and the siege. The land embraces the olive tree for long time till destiny set them apart, their screaming penetrated my ears to the extent that my heart aches me. But I never give up and I didn’t stand the arms folded.

Therefore, I put the olive tree among my tools to start a dialogue in between, they decide to scratch the wood of the sad olive tree to turn it into an artistic masterpieces and immortal one. This true would witness the coward Israeli attack and to express the civilization and heritage of Palestinian and the strong well of patience and struggling people .

Shireen participated in many of exhibitions , one of them was titled The Sand of Palestine, she wanted through that to change the fragile sand into a rigid material in order to express the patience and the strong desire of continuity.

At the end, Shireen asks : for how long we live under siege , but she insists on that we will stay patience on this land .

palestinians in gaza are also getting creative about finding new modes of transportation and also entertainment with motorcycles as ayman mohyeldin reports on al jazeera:

One thought on “on creativity in gaza

  1. i have a few comments about your work. the first your articles complain about “Palestinians” waiting in line for hours to work in Israel, as that is a bad thing. why not look at the glass half full. Israel is allowing Palestinians to work in a country they hate. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria won’t let them work at all. let them get their own jobs in their own towns.
    2nd Palestinians building homes from mud. whats the big deal there also. 90% of the world lives in mud houses. why is so important that it happens here to a few families. go to Latin America, Africa, the far east, entire middle east.
    thank you

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