Latest Updates

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ramadan in Gaza

Hatem Shurrab is an aid worker with Islamic Relief in Gaza. In a recent diary entry he reflected on the mixed emotions felt by Gaza's population during the holy month of Ramadan, just eight months after the last conflict.

Ramadan in Gaza is different this year. Every year the poverty gets worse but this Ramadan many hundreds of families are also trying to cope with the agony of having lost so many loved ones in the last conflict. As they sit at the table to break their fasts their thoughts are with those who are not joining them this year. Mothers who have lost their sons and daughters, children who have lost their fathers.

Each day after work, I come home and help my family prepare the food for our evening meal. For me, Ramadan is the only time when I am able to have meals with my family. At night we spend time visiting and greeting our relatives and friends. My neighbors are Christians and they often come over to break the fast with us. Ramadan unites us all.

In the evening, the children gather on the streets holding little fawanees – symbolic lights – and some spark small fireworks. They are so happy and enjoy looking at the shops in the bustling markets, even though few of their parents can afford to buy them anything.

But pain, as well as joy, is heightened during this month. Asma is a 14-year-old girl I met a couple of months after the war. She lost her father in the conflict and her feelings this Ramadan are a mixture of longing and pain as he is not alive to share the month with her. When I spoke to her two days ago she told me that she still cries whenever she thinks of him and when she remembers how they would all sit down together to share the iftar meal last Ramadan.

The start of Ramadan also coincides with the start of the new school year but thousands of students in Gaza are unable to access quality education. The conflict damaged and destroyed many schools so the number of students in each classroom has more than doubled, despite being already overcrowded.

Months after the last Gaza conflict, there are still many thousands of people who are suffering as a result – people who were injured, paralyzed and who lost their limbs. The hospitals I visit are struggling to cope with lack of medicine and equipment, and their wards are in urgent need of repair so they can adequately treat their patients.

Islamic Relief is trying to meet some of these challenges and more. Islamic Relief-Palestine has already repaired many schools, allowing hundreds of students to resume their studies. IR-Palestine is also running and expanding the only artificial limbs center in Gaza. Many hospitals and health centers have been repaired and IR-Palestine is continuing to supply equipment, machines and medicine.

This Ramadan, I am helping Islamic Relief [Palestine] distribute food parcels to around 10,000 of the poorest families in Gaza. Each family receives enough food to last them for the whole of the month including staple foods such as rice, sugar, beans, pasta and oil. By the end of the first week of Ramadan the first round of distributions will be done. I hope that the parcels make some difference to the hardships faced by so many Palestinian families.

In Gaza, the demand is high and the need is huge but I feel happy that we are moving forward and helping create a better situation for the people here. The support of kind-hearted people from around the world means that we can help ease the pain of the people of Gaza this Ramadan.


  1. Keep up the good work. May people be generous and assist the needy. Allah bless.

  2. Jazk Allah Khair. My heart goes out to people of Palestine. May Allah bring victory and peace to Palestine.

  3. may Allah SWT shower His utmost Rahma & Barakaa on you, Br Hatem, & the people of Ghazza. May He grant you & the people of Ghazza the finest sabr & ultimately, Jannatul Firdaous. My heart is with the Ghazzans and Palestinians always & I think of them as much as I can.

  4. I have family in Gazah and with all the suffering their,When I talk to them they seem more concerned with the hardships I have here and have stayed patient, amazing people, with the purest of hearts.

  5. Perhaps if Hamas would recognize the existence of the reality of the State of Israel, and repudiate and punish those who send unauthorized bombs and terrorist missions into Israel, there could actually be peace.

  6. people from around the world means that we can help ease the pain of the people of Gaza this Ramadan.