“I thought I would return to my home in two hours…but I haven’t returned for 200 days”

The Israeli military’s indiscriminate bombardment and total siege of Gaza has now been ongoing for 200 days. Almost the entire population of around 2.3 million people has been displaced, and the majority of homes have been damaged or reduced to rubble. Everyone has been affected, including Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s own team in Gaza.

In the first of our ‘Voices from Gaza’ blog series, Wasim Ashour, MAP’s Programme Support Manager, reflects on how every aspect of his life has turned upside down in the last six months, and shares his hopes for the future:

Six months ago, on the weekend of 7 October, I planned to go to the beach and swim with my friends in the sea. I lived by the beach and would go for a walk there most days to get fresh air. I also used to go to the gym every morning. Regardless of the 17 years of Israel’s blockade, I still felt some kind of security: I had my job, my home, my family, and I took care of my food and my health.

Instead, that weekend in October, I woke up to the sounds of bombs. I went straight to the market to get food and basic essentials – I knew a war would be starting soon. I was only thinking about the coming days.

For 200 days in Gaza, I’ve never felt safe or secure. When I go to sleep, I know that I might not wake up the next morning. My entire life has changed since October, and it will never be the same. Today, I don’t do a single thing I used to. Now, the only thing I have is my work. I constantly worry about those around me and try to take care of them.

As a parent of two children, the worst feeling was knowing I cannot protect them. They can be killed at any time, and there is nothing I can do it about it. Before the war, I felt that I was the provider and protector of my family. Now, I just feel so powerless.

I cannot secure the basic needs for me and family, like food, or gas for cooking. For the longest time in my life, I haven’t been able to eat any meat. I have lost around 13kg, I look like a completely different person. Any food that is available here is now too expensive.

Finding transport in Gaza is impossible and there is no fuel available, so people can’t reach their families. I’ve lost so many loved ones. My best friend was killed. Another of my close friends was killed, along with his whole family. My friends who I used to see every day are all gone. 

“For 200 days in Gaza, I’ve never felt safe or secure.”

In the first weeks of the war, I spent most of my days with neighbours and friends trying to dig out dead bodies from under the rubble. One of the most painful days for me was when my friend’s house was bombed, and he and his brother were the only survivors. It took us days to find the tools to dig their bodies from under the rubble. People in Gaza are just hoping to find the bodies of their loved ones in one piece. They want to bury their bodies, rather than just find shattered pieces or nothing at all.

In the last six months, I have been displaced 13 times. I won’t move again. There are only three options left for me – either I will be killed, I will flee to Egypt, or this war will end. I am now sheltering in Rafah, where there are more than one million people. It is extremely overcrowded here. The streets are always full of people. If an Israeli military invasion goes ahead, it will be an absolute catastrophe.


When I left my home the first time, I left because Israeli forces bombed a house right next door to us. I didn’t take anything with me, just the clothes I was wearing. I thought I would go home in two hours…now I haven’t returned for 200 days. I’ve tried to find clothes to buy, but I’ve hardly found anything. I have two summer shirts, two sweaters and two pairs of trousers. For the past six months, this is all I’ve been wearing.  

Day to day I am trying my best to continue my work for MAP. I stay at a MAP guest house and I work. I only leave the house for work purposes. I don’t see my brothers or sisters, because they are far away in the Middle Area of Gaza – it is really dangerous to move between areas. I’m also supporting them financially as they can’t work now. I’m supporting my two brothers and their families, as well as one of my sisters. Any spare time I have, I search for food for my family.

But the work is nonstop and I’m exhausted all the time – I can’t give anything more than I am every day. Even if I wanted to take a break, what would I do with myself? If I’m sitting around doing nothing, I’ll be depressed. There is no peace, there is no rest in Gaza, but what can I do? I can’t leave Gaza either, so what other option do I have?

I miss my whole life before October. I miss my home. I miss going to the office, going to the beach, going to the gym. I miss coming home and sleeping knowing that I’m relaxed and safe, not scared of bombs that could kill me.

I wish I could go back to my old life, where life was more normal. I want the war to end, the crossings to be open, and I want work to go back to normal. I want us to rebuild Gaza. It will need at least 10 years, but we will rebuild it. I hope I don’t lose anyone else. I hope my family and friends will be safe, and God will grant them happiness and peace.

MAP’s team in Gaza were among the first to respond to the current emergency and remain one of the only international organisations working to provide humanitarian and medical services, including in the north. Please support our emergency response today.


This is the first of our ’Voices from Gaza’ blog series where we hear from members of MAP’s team in Gaza. Stay tuned for next week’s blog.

Photo: Wasim Ashour, MAP’s Programme Support Manager in Gaza.

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