My ability to tell stories comes from the fact I live them

Tareq S. Hajjaj

Mondoweiss  /  August 16, 2023

Writing stories about Gaza does not come only from interviewing and observing but most importantly they come from being a central part of it, as I experience them as any local living here.

Writing stories about Gaza does not come only from interviewing, observing, and making the rounds on the ground, but also, and most importantly, these stories come from being a central part of it, as I experience them as any local living here. When I tell a story, I embrace nothing but telling the truth, as I discover, hear, and see it. Telling the truth often means telling my truth too. 

Last month I wrote a story about the power crisis amid a heat wave in Gaza. As I wrote the story about families struggling to beat the heat, I felt like I was melting in my office, trying to get some fresh air and hold on to my overheating laptop. But the heat was overwhelming, and the power cuts just worsened the situation. I found myself going to the roof of the building at night to get some air just so I could get some work done. Believe me, it’s not easy to focus when you’re boiling on the inside, not only due to the heat, but the anger you feel because you are not like any people on earth and do not have access to a normal life.

Last month amid the heat wave there were several demonstrations in Gaza that were organized and called for by some people on social media, who were protesting the harsh living conditions in Gaza. As I watched the protests, I could understand why people were leaving their homes and taking to the streets. The extremely hot weather inside the houses I visited while writing the story about the heat wave was unbearable, especially without any air conditioners or fans to cool off the houses. Even the walls inside the houses I visited were very hot. During my visits to conduct interviews, I could not even lay my back on the walls, and it was difficult for me to concentrate on the interviews, as I just sweat through my clothes and waited to run out of the houses. 

The unfortunate reality is that the world will continue to experience rising temperatures because of the climate crisis. And because of the political and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, we are on the frontlines of climate change, experiencing it intimately in our everyday lives.  

During heat waves like the one we have been experiencing this summer, families increase their daily water use. But because water is also a scarcity in Gaza, many people get their water cut off too, leaving them to struggle in the heat with no power or water. 

As I observe the situation on the ground every year during my long years of reporting, As I think about the future, and the reality that Gazans, including myself, are living in, I realize not only that the conditions in Gaza are getting worse, but that many people in the world are not aware of our conditions, and I would be it would be really difficult for them to live under the circumstances that we are. 

These reflections lead me to ask myself whether this is the way we will keep living in Gaza because of the Israeli siege? Are we going to lose our humanity inch by inch in the upcoming years as the summers get hotter and the winter storms become more harsh? 

The crises we face in Gaza are not always new, most of them are seasonal. But every season we face the same crisis, only more developed and more dangerous. And yet, we continue to only find temporary solutions, while the world watches on.

Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of the Palestinian Writers Union