The Struggles of a Christian Family Living in the Gaza Strip
This is the personal testimony of George Anton, a Christian father of three,living in the Gaza Strip:
To explain the situation in Gaza clearly and fairly would need hundreds of pages and hundreds of photos, but I will try to give you a very brief overview
My name is George Anton and I am 36 years old. I came to Gaza in 1995 after the Oslo Peace Agreement between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and The Israeli Government. For some years, I travelled between the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Israel and Europe. Since the second Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation (Intifada) in the year 2000 I started to face difficulties moving and travelling. These difficulties kept increasing day by day.
Since the year 2000 we have had problems with electricity and water. The water received through our pipes is not suitable to drink. Water is cut off for many hours, which means people do not have the water they need for their daily use. In 2006, after clashes between the militants and the Israeli Army, the Israelis hit the electricity power plant - after which all of Gaza Strip drowned in the dark for many days - electricity was reconnected, but only for a few hours a day, and this situation continues today. Providing just a few hours of electricity per day causes many crises in our homes, problems with communications and the internet, problems for studying and difficulties facing the summer and winter seasons.
Whilst still paying monthly electricity bills, we have to find alternative sources of energy such as solar power and UBS (Inverters with batteries) to light up our homes. These alternatives are very expensive, especially when many are unemployed. We also have to buy bottled water, which is not always safe to drink. There are many cases registered with diseases caused by the bought drinking water. It is so risky, but we have no other choice, therefore we have to install water filters for drinking water. There is also lack of cooking gas. We have to wait for weeks, and sometimes for months, to fill up one cooking gas cylinder.
I have been married to Nisreen Habashi, for 12 years and we have three daughters (Laila 6 years, Juliet 3 years and Natalie 2 years). I am now working for Pontifical Mission for Palestine as a Project Assistant in Gaza. When we got married we had many dreams - but because of the difficulties of moving and finding sources of living and working in Gaza, we have not been able to achieve them.
My wife is unemployed, and for many years has tried to find a steady job. More than 43% of the population of Gaza Strip are unemployed and this figure increases every year. There is huge competition to find stable employment, which makes the needs of a family a heavy burden. Further hostilities have worsened the crisis in Gaza and Israeli forces are still in occupation.
As a Christian family living in Gaza, we have so many fears about the future caused by the many dramatic changes in the Gaza Strip. As a Christian community we are very worried about our future and we face difficulties as Christians in many fields of life. For example, prohibiting the celebration of the Christian feasts in public and disrupting the work of the Christian institutions.
Facing all these difficulties in the community as well as the challenges of providing basic family needs makes us so confused about the future and always worried.
As well as everything I mention above, we have been through three wars; our only hope for survival was through our faith that the Lord Jesus Christ would have mercy on this small piece of land. Three wars where we could not sleep, could not travel to work to provide for our families, and could not provide safety for our children. We were always running from one place to another to try and avoid danger, we could not reach our Church for prayers or protection.
We cannot find many places suitable for our children to play safely. According to the UN, more than 70% of the sea of Gaza Strip is polluted with the sewage water. Playgrounds are not properly prepared for children and there are no natural places where the Children can play freely.
The Christian Church in Gaza is working on many programmes for Christian children and young people to keep them close to the Church to strengthen their faith and provide entertainment so they can have a childhood. The Christian population in Gaza is around 1100 and decreasing because of the difficult life they face. To live in Gaza as a Christian family means a continuous struggle between looking for safety and looking for proper opportunities for the family.
How you can help
FHL works in partnership with the Pontifical Mission to raise awareness of the challenges faced by Christians living in the Gaza Strip, to encourage prayers on their behalf, and to generate financial resources to help provide them with a sustainable future. Donations of time and money to support our work in Gaza and across the Holy Land are gratefully received.
Donations of time are also gratefully received. We particularly need volunteers to help in our office in Kenilworth or to speak at events across the country. If you could help in either capacity please contact the office: firstname.lastname@example.org 01926 512980.