Gaza without Cement!! For How Long Will This Last?
By Mohammad Arafat
Our Gaza Correspondent
While walking west through the streets and lanes of Gaza to my university I noted something that was out of the usual. I noted that many of the homes were only partially constructed. Stanchions were there supporting the unfinished ceilings because there was no cement to finish them.
Gaza has become a place without cement. You don’t stop to notice such things until you realize something important is missing. At the entrance of one building, there was a guard I know named Abu-Osama. He had made a chair to sit on from two stones. He was boiling unsweetened coffee in a small kettle.
“Hello Abu-Osama,” I said.
“Hello Mr. Mohammad, you are so welcome,” he said. I took a seat, also made of two stones, beside him.
As soon as the coffee had boiled, he quickly brought an empty cup and filled it for me. Soon we were talking about Gaza and all its problems.
As we sipped our coffee, I told him about how sad my heart was at looking at all the unfinished homes, and about how I could not get to the university because of that. I asked him what he knew about the cement crisis and what he thought was going on. I wanted him to explain it to me.
“I guarded many buildings in Gaza before this one,” he said. “I guarded them until people could move in and live in them. Eight months ago the owner of this building, for example, asked me guard his building until it could be completed. That’s when I began working here. Everything was going alright until the Egyptian government ordered blocking the tunnels that connected us to Egypt.
Abu-Osama said when construction started on the building, the Israeli government allowed us to import cement. But that didn’t last long. The Israelis stopped the cement from coming in, on some clumsy pretext, and then construction stopped. That’s why, he said, construction was stopped on this house before the columns were even finished.
Then Abu-Osama stopped speaking, and just nodded his head sadly. I realized that his mouth could have produced tons and tons of speech on my ears. But I finished the coffee and said I had to go. As I was about to leave, the contractor–a man named Abu-Mohammad came by. He asked me to retake my seat for a bit and talk. He wanted me to tell his story and try to show the world what was going on for the builders and contractors of Gaza.
Abu-Mohammad began his story by saying “I am the contractor on this building and another to the east of us. I had more than 20 workers and it was a good time. They worked for three years after the tunnels were dug, and all of them are without work now. All of them now sit at home with their wives and children. Most have at least six children, so at least 120 people are now without money. I know that there were 60,000 builders who are now without work and money.That means there are 360,000 people in Gaza without resources. I myself, I have four sons and two daughters. Three of them go to university and three are in school. I have two babies to care for. But I say Alhamdulillah, I`m better off than many others.”
After finishing his story, Abu Mohammad begged me to tell the world his story, and let them know how badly the people of Gaza are suffering. I promise him I will do my best to tell the story and let the world knows, and hopefully something good will finally be done for the long suffering people of Gaza. I finally take my leave, telling him I will do my best and I ask for both of them to be patient and try to be positive and not negative.
So now I ask, will the world–especially the Egyptians–answer the cries of the workers of Gaza Will the leaders open their eyes and look at what they have wrought inGaza and see how the babies and children of Gaza are suffering from a slow death. Maybe they can force the countries besieging Gaza to open our ports and allow us to get cement.
I should note–my father was one of those builders who had a big family.