My brother and sister stayed with an elderly man named Abu Wael in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, in the summer of 2009. It was six months after its massive bombing out.
They came home with stories about people’s graciousness and generosity there. I assumed the people they stayed with were relatively fortunate because they regularly served my siblings a variety of fish and dishes I associated with special occasions. Having lived in the Arab world, I knew how costly meat and fish could be.
“Abu Wael, my white-haired host in Beit Hanoun, so gentle and soft-spoken, sat and graciously urged his guests to eat more of the food that he grew with his own hands on his northern Gaza farm,” my sister Marryam wrote in her field notes.
I was shocked to hear, years later, when my brother Ahmad said matter-of-factly about of his stay in Gaza: “Man, and they were poor and they treated us like royalty, as if they had all the money in the world, without ever making us feel that it was a strain on them. Plus, their apartment was just bombed out the month before, and they had to move in with family.”
My mind went spinning. I was still internalizing the fact that they were a struggling family who gave everything they had to their guests. On top of that, their home had been demolished, yet even so they catered generously to visitors for two months.
Abu Wael and the people of Gaza have continued to endure the destruction of their homes even after the conflict further escalated in 2009. Homes across the blockaded refugee camp are frequently demolished. Surrounding land is in a state of maximal ground upheaval when a home in Gaza is bombed or bulldozed. It is not just the mere structure that is demolished. The plowed land, the flourishing seeds, the fruit and olive trees, the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions — they are all destroyed in one fell sweep. Most of these lands are farms, yielding provisions for the family to make a living.
“I could tell from Abu Wael’s story that he felt more connected to his farm than to anything else in life,” Marryam said. “He was the kind of person who hates to be separated from it even for a day. Abu Wael went there, even though he was old and even though he did not have the same strength he used to have.” He did not abandon his home, even though it might once again be ravaged.
The Zakat Foundation of America (ZF) helps the needy throughout the world. A signature mission of ZF is reconstructing homes in ravaged areas. ‘Rebuild Gaza’ is a campaign that offers one of the most basic necessities of life: a secure home.
Rebuilding homes like Abu Wael’s with your help provides the beleaguered people of Gaza a second chance to live a normal life. From general winterization necessities to emergency medical relief, there is almost no limit to the help that can and must be offered.
ZF facilitates the Rebuild Gaza Campaign through your generous donations to help the people of Gaza create a life for themselves. A roof overhead and a sanctuary to call one’s own are a basic human necessities. Abu Wael is one man among hundreds of thousands of refugees in Gaza who have been forcibly removed from their own homes, only to then find opposition for even trying to create a safe shelter.
“They’ll always come back to plant,” Marryam wrote in her field notes of the people in Gaza.
While the people of Gaza stand up against all the odds—and those are many—Gaza is still waiting. Your generous gift can alleviate some of the difficulties for the people in Gaza. Please give now.