This time I’m writing my own very personal story. But it is also the story of 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza who are living under the siege and the hurtful cruel occupation and collective punishment.
Last June, I decided to send my 16-year-old daughter for a vacation in the UK. We had to go through a very complicated procedure for her to leave Gaza. The borders opened twice but she, like many students and patients, was not able to leave. My daughter holds a British passport so the British Consulate put a lot of efforts towards getting a permit from Israel for my daughter to leave Gaza with some other British citizens via the Jordan River.
Six weeks after the start of the summer holidays, my daughter was issued the permit to leave Gaza. She traveled north through the Erez crossing then to the West Bank and over the bridge to Jordan. From there she flew from Amman to Manchester. After a short visit she flew back to Amman. She was on her way back to the Jordan River crossing when we were informed that there are new regulations and we would need a new permit for my daughter to enter Gaza again!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I applied for this permit from the Israeli army via the Palestinian coordination office in Gaza several times but received no reply. For six long weeks my child stayed in Amman with relatives, unsure what will happen next. We waited and waited but meanwhile her school in Gaza opened and she was very much concerned, as were we all, about her education.
I tried contacting human rights organizations in Israel to ask for assistance but everybody said it might take months to get her a permit to return home!!!!!!!!!!!!! Just one small piece of paper was preventing my child from coming home!!!!!!!!!!!!! Though she is privileged to hold a British passport this still did not secure her return home. In the eyes of the Israeli occupation she is treated as any Palestinian, because she holds a Palestinian ID card as well.
Our family decided that Sondos should return to the UK and enroll in one of the colleges there. But it was not easy for a 16-year-old girl to adapt to different educational and social systems, new surroundings, and late school entry. All these pressures besides being 16!!!!!!
Back in Gaza I decided to travel to the UK to help my daughter settle in to her new environment. For three continuous months I tried to find a way out of Gaza. The Rafah border was only opened once for 3 days in all that time. I waited among a throng of people at the border but I, like so many others, was turned back when they closed the border again on the third day. After this experience I took a decision to leave Gaza on one of the Free Gaza Movement boats to Larnaka. From there I flew to UK where I am now staying with my daughter. She still finds it very difficult to cope with the educational system, but it is even more difficult for her to adjust to the new social framework or structure.
As for me, I was invited by the Palestine Solidarity Committee, Liverpool Friends of Palestine, and others to give talks about my life in Gaza. So I tell audiences about the Gazans who died because they weren’t allowed to travel abroad for treatment and we didn’t have the necessary medicines or equipment to treat them in Gaza. I explain what it’s like to live in the dark because the power supply is cut off most of the days and nights. I give voice to the hundreds of newborn andpremature babies in our hospitals who are dying slowly , because we cannot accurately measure the gas system in their tiny bodies due to the interrupted power supply.
The numbers are staggering. Eighteen percent of children under the age of 15 in Gaza have stunted growth and forty-five percent have iron deficiency anemia due to lack of proper nutrition. Eighty percent of the population is now living in poverty and two thirds are refugees that were ethnically cleansed from their villages 60 years ago. More than 650,000 children under the age of 16 suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
But the stories are worse. I explain what it PTSD means for these children, how they suffer from all sorts of nightmares, anxiety, and inability to focus at school, phobias, bedwetting, stress, and depression.
But the worst feeling of all is our feeling of abandonment. Enduring the hardships of daily life in Gaza under the siege and occupation is less harmful than having to live day after day without hope. We are losing of faith in the outside world for not taking serious actions against Israel’s crimes against humanity in Gaza.
I'm determined to go back to Gaza, to continue my responsibilities, in the Red Crescent Society ,as well as my responsibilities as MECA Projects director, where I coordinate cultural and health projects , for children community centers and the relief work I coordinate for hundreds of families ,
. My life will be torn between the two things I love most: my children and my work for my people in Gaza.