Gaza’s 2 million residents have been living under siege since June of 2007. The siege is intentionally causing a humanitarian crisis. The UN has described conditions in Gaza as “uninhabitable.” Young people are among those who suffer the most. The median age in Gaza is 18.
I met Nour Masiry on social media, shortly after the war last May. Together with friends, I helped raise money for her husband’s medical needs. She graciously agreed to do an interview. I want to thank her for speaking so clearly and powerfully about the situation in Gaza, and I also want to thank Eman Abdelhadi for translating her words. First, Nour will introduce herself:
Nour Masiry: Welcome friends! I am sending you greetings of peace. I am a Palestinian woman living in the Gaza Strip. I live on a troubled piece of land, whose residents suffer from the layered hardships of living in poverty and under the Israeli siege, not to mention the constant destruction of Israel’s wars. There have been four wars in such a short span: 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021.
We are now suffering from an unjust siege by the Israeli Occupation Forces. The siege seals our borders and bans the entry of food, medical supplies, and other necessities of life from entering the Gaza Strip.
My husband is a perfect example. He has severe asthma, and his asthma attacks cause him debilitating shortness of breath and suffocation. He has not been able to work for eight years. We have two children and there is no one to help us.
I want peace, security, and stability for myself and my family. I hope that all our friends will stand by our cause and lend a helping and supportive hand to the people of the Gaza Strip because everyone here needs help.
Kyle Gilbertson: Could you describe your childhood and growing up in Gaza?
Nour Masiry: First of all, there’s no such thing as childhood in Gaza. It’s a meaningless concept for children growing up here, because the occupation has taken everything related to childhood away. When our children see the way other children grow up around the world their hearts break. They are waiting for the day when they can enjoy the innocence of childhood. A child here only ever chooses a gun or a rifle as a toy. Our kids fear the sound of a balloon popping or a car hitting a curb, because they assume it’s a rocket or a bomb falling nearby.
Kyle Gilbertson: Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world. What is it like for a person who is looking for work?
Nour Masiry: Of course, because of the siege, we’ve had a huge rise in unemployment among youth. Most of them can’t afford basic necessities for their families—and that’s caused a mental health crisis. It’s also led to a lot of social ills like a rise in murders, theft, and fraud. A lot of young men are ending up in jail because they are so far in debt. This is a deliberate, nasty strategy of the occupation, to cut off people’s livelihoods. So many are looking for jobs, but it’s useless. People have even been setting themselves on fire, because they have given up on life. Life has become meaningless.
Kyle Gilbertson: Your husband needs an artificial respirator for his asthma, which requires electricity. Because of the siege, Gaza only gets 4 to 6 hours of electricity each day. Tell us about the power outages and how they affect people’s lives.
Nour Masiry: I could go on and on about the power outages. We all know how important electricity is, especially for the sick who rely on special machines to maintain their wellbeing. A lot of houses have burned down, and children have gotten burned because of the use of candles for light. A lot of businesses have gone under, food keeps going bad when the refrigerators stop working, and so on.
Kyle Gilbertson: What is life like for women in occupied Palestine and are there any specific challenges that women face?
Nour Masiry: The Palestinian woman lives in one of two harsh realities. Either she loses her children to martyrdom, or she’s unable to feed them or bring them joy or provide them with the basic necessities of life.
Kyle Gilbertson: You have lived through four wars in the last thirteen years. Could you tell us about that experience?
Nour Masiry: The terror and the destruction have created mental health crises within families. Children are afraid of loud noises because they’re afraid of air raids. They’re afraid of the sound of thunder or a car backfiring. We’ve gone through so many wars. Four in a row. Who can stand all the terror, the violence, the destruction, and the deaths of so many? War doesn’t distinguish between the old and the young, between the child and the elder, between the man and the woman. War is just destruction and killing. We’ve been living in terror and tragedy. We’ve accepted that this is our fate. Many families have been displaced, they had to go live with their relatives after their houses were destroyed. It’s a bitter and dark experience. We lack all of life’s basic necessities: food, shelter, healthcare. These are the basic things. We just want the basic things in order to live. My family is one of the families that has suffered from the destruction of the war. We don’t have our home anymore. We are sixteen people living in four rooms, and none of us can find work. We are just one of so many families like this in Gaza.
Kyle Gilbertson: Could you tell the story of what happened when you lost your home?
Nour Masiry: What a pleasure it is to live peacefully and comfortably in a house that protects you from the cold of winter and the heat of summer. Such was our home, which was the locus of our happiness in life. However, that blessing didn’t last long. Suddenly an Israeli drone dropped a warning missile [telling us the house would be destroyed]. I had no time to take anything except our documents and the children. After five minutes, an F-35 warplane dropped a missile on our home. My sick husband, my small children, and I went to shelters at which point our saga of suffering and agony began. We have no home to shelter us and we cannot pay rent for a new house. We went to my uncle’s old house, where now my sick husband, our small children, and I live in one room, a room that’s actually uninhabitable because of cracked walls and ceilings. The cracks let in insects and rainwater during the winter. We cannot have a real life under these harsh conditions, a life like those who have money can attain. But we pray to God that he changes these conditions for the better.
Kyle Gilbertson: What does a good future look like to you?
Nour Masiry: A good future would mean having our dignity and our freedom, it would mean living in a society that’s just, free, and dignified. It would mean being able to give our children what they need, like shelter, food, clean water, healthcare, joy, and education. We want peace, tranquility and love for the whole region. We don’t want the next generation to suffer what we’ve been suffering—pain, displacement, terror, and poverty.
Kyle Gilbertson: You share so many beautiful pictures of your country on social media. What do you love about Palestine?
Nour Masiry: Palestine is a country of plenty and generosity. A sea hugs it from its northern to southern tip. It has a beautiful, temperate climate. It’s land is fertile and can cultivate all kinds of crops. It’s full of ancient artifacts and monuments. Palestinian crafts of all kinds are among the most beautiful. That’s why the Israeli state has usurped Palestinians of all our resources. It has left nothing that it has not destroyed, not the olive trees or the buildings or the property; not the factories or companies or anything that belongs to the Palestinian people. But the destruction, the killing, the robbery, and the injustice will not be forgotten by history. It is all etched in our minds, our hearts, and our memories, so long as our sacred land with its olive trees remain. We will remember until the day of our victory against this unjust and cowardly Israeli occupation. It’s for that day that we eagerly await.
Kyle Gilbertson: What can people here in the US do to support you and to support justice in Palestine?
Nour Masiry: We want other people to support our just cause, to stand by our side in solidarity, to support us financially, psychologically, and morally. We want you to stand for justice in Palestine, until we reach complete freedom and peace.
If you want to contact Nour, or to make a financial contribution to help her family, please send me an e-mail at email@example.com, with the subject “Gaza.”