Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

What makes us happy in Gaza? Electricity

Aya Nashwan | 18-03-2016

Gaza is dark without electricity. (Photo by Ibrahim Faraj)


In Gaza, many things that are taken for granted elsewhere are precious to us because we we can hardly get them. One of these is electricity. What makes Gazans' happy can be summed up as living the whole day with electricity. 


Gaza has suffered from a lack of power since 2007, but at that time, I was still very young so it didn’t bother me that much. Gradually, I began to understand what it really means to live without electricity for 18 hours daily. I remember when I was 12 years old and it was stormy, rainy day. While my family was sitting in the living room, the balcony began to burn. Earlier that day, the power had cut off then came back again with a high amp, causing an explosion on the balcony. It looked horrific. My young siblings cried, but my father was at his work. Fortunately, our neighbors ran quickly to extinguish the fire; otherwise, we might all have been in danger. 


A few weeks after this catastrophic day, it was a quiet, dark night until all of the neighborhood woke up to the sound of screaming. The sound was from the house of a new couple. The wife screamed when she saw her husband lying on the ground unconscious. Her husband had gone to turn on the generator when the power went off, then stumbled on the stairs. He hit his head and died after a few days.


Photo by Mohammed Zaanoun​

My own serious need for electricity started in secondary school when I had many subjects to study and assignments to do; six hours of power weren't enough. Two years ago, I was in the last year of secondary school, called the Tawjihi. It is the most important year in the Palestinian educational system, so all students try to do their best to achieve the highest marks. I studied for long hours during this year. I didn’t allow the electricity problem to be an obstacle. I studied by the light of candles, lamps and flashlights. One day, I decided to sit on the balcony, looking over the street. It was so dark without electricity; It was a frightening view. I awaited the wee hours of morning eagerly. I couldn’t bear more studying by flashlight. Days passed and I graduated from high school, while I complained of painful headaches. When I went to an ophthalmologist to check my eyesight, the result was glasses. The poor light could not have helped.


University was my next stage of suffering more with electricity. "English with technology can lead to a healthy, wealthy life," one of my professors told us. In the English department, our professors focused on trying to join a mastery of English and with a command of technology by encouraging us to do our assignments, research and exams on the Internet. I will never forget how many times I was under pressure to submit assignments when the power was off in my neighborhood. Take last semester: I had an assignment, but the electricity was off all day. I waited and waited, and finally, dismissed my hopes and tried to sleep. But each hour, I woke up to see if the electricity was on. 


At 4 a.m., I opened my eyes; there was light! I wasn’t dreaming! I immediately turned on my laptop and worked for three hours doing my assignment. I was so worried the electricity would go off again at any moment. I didn’t focus on answering the questions as much as  finishing before the next cut. Finally, I clicked on “submit” to be done with this assignment. After that I prepared myself to go to university without sleeping all night. All my mates noticed my pale face and my red eyes! 


Children protest lack of electricity. (Photo by Mohammed Zaanoun​)

This situation repeats over and over again. When I prepare for my presentations, I am always under pressure until I finish simply because my laptop won’t work more than three hours without charging. My family has noticed how this exhausting life makes me nervous and worried. 


Gazans are such poor people, anything can make us happy. We celebrate when the electricity comes back! I remember my last call with my friend. While we were talking, I heard her young siblings shouting, singing and laughing. The reason? Electricity of course. This situation happens every day in each Gazan's house.


When there is electricity, my sisters and I immediately charge our laptops and mobiles and my mother rushes to do the housework in the next six hours: washing, ironing and cooking. Before we visit friends, relatives or neighbors, we call to ask whether they have electricity. Personally, I refuse to leave home when there is electricity, so I can treasure it. 


Months ago, electricity was rationed to just three hours daily. It was a miserable life; I woke up to no electricity and went to sleep with no electricity. Now we have returned to six hours. All Gazans stopped complaining and thanked God for six hours! We have been taught to feel privileged for getting crumbs.


Mentor: Pam Bailey
Posted March 18, 2016


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