For Gaza’s children, Eid will be amid death and destruction

Published March 24, 2024
Children stand next to the rubble of Al-Faruq Mosque that was destroyed by Israeli bombardment, in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on March 17, 2024. Photo: AFP
Children stand next to the rubble of Al-Faruq Mosque that was destroyed by Israeli bombardment, in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on March 17, 2024. Photo: AFP

Muslim children will be celebrating Eid at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. They will go for Eid prayers with their families, wear new clothes, partake of special Eid delicacies, visit relatives and friends, receive gifts but alas the children of Gaza will have few of those privileges.

After the October 7, 2023 attack by Hamas that claimed around 1,400 lives, Israel has battered Gaza with deadly aggression from the air, land and sea, taking a toll of more than 32,000 lives and causing injuries to over 75,000 residents of Gaza.

The children are among the worst hit. They watch deafening explosions, death and destruction and wonder amidst this chaos and mayhem whether they will lose their parents or a sibling next.

The holy month of Ramadan was a nightmare for them. While Muslims elsewhere fasted and prayed in the sanctuary of their homes or mosques, the children of Gaza were struggling to survive. Every year when the sun sets during Ramadan, Muslims break their fast with a date – just as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did.

But this Ramadan in Gaza, where lack of food is forcing families to eat leaves and animal food to survive, there were no dates to break the fast. Date harvesting, along with other food production, has been completely decimated. And as part of their restrictions on aid crossing into the Strip, Israeli authorities reportedly classified dates as “dual-use” items–-which they say could be repurposed for military use—and rejected, due to x-ray imaging picking up their seeds as suspicious objects.

Of course, dates are not the only food Palestinians in Gaza lacked this month. After five months of war leading to extensive destruction of food production, and the obstruction of aid delivery, there is barely any food at all.

According to the international organization, Save the Children, there is a total absence of education in Gaza, leaving 625,000 children out of school. Over 1 million children in Gaza are in need of mental health support. 5,500 babies, or 180 per day, are due to be born in the next 30 days. More than 600,000 children are now trapped in Rafah with nowhere else to flee.

The scale of death and destruction is astronomical. And with tanks poised to roll into Rafah, where most of Gaza’s population has been forced to flee amid rising hunger and disease, this war is about to enter the deadliest stage possible.

The majority of Gaza’s displaced population – above 1.3 million people, including more than 610,000 children – are now crammed into an area of just 24 square miles, less than a fifth of the total land mass of Gaza. There is nowhere left to flee as Israeli attacks on Rafah, already one of the most densely populated areas in the world, intensify.

Conditions to provide humanitarian assistance to children in Gaza are not only not being met but are getting worse. Children’s mental health in Gaza is being pushed beyond breaking point after five months of siege and relentless bombardment, they have suffered unimaginable mental harm from the violence, serious physical injuries, including the loss of body parts, and the loss of families, homes and their schools. 

Everyone in Gaza is now at risk of famine and facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. Five months of constant bombardment and restrictions have created the conditions for an exponential rise in malnutrition, with extremely limited access to food and water.

Ramadan brings no relief as Israel-Hamas war rages in Gaza

Children in Gaza are not learning to become the next generation of scientists and artists. Instead, they are being forced to learn to survive one of the most destructive bombing campaigns in history, as well as one of the worst hunger crises anywhere in the world. 

Across the Gaza Strip, hundreds of teachers have been killed and about 75% of schools, colleges, and universities have been completely destroyed or damaged, including Israa University in Gaza City, a learning centre for more than 4,000 students that was demolished. Many of the schools, colleges and universities remaining are being used as shelters for the more than 1.9 million people who have been forced to flee their homes. Children have not attended school for more than 100 days.  

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Almost all education equipment – chairs, desks, whiteboards, textbooks – has been destroyed, either due to relentless bombardments or by desperate civilians who burn the equipment just to be able to cook food and keep warm.  

There are also the attacks on Gaza’s libraries, museums, art galleries and historical sites. These places are part of a wider educational context within which Palestinian children develop a sense of self, and an understanding of their history and heritage and its place in the world. But these places are being destroyed, thus removing the cultural environment within which Palestinian children develop.

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This year, the children in Gaza will experience Eid ul-Fitr amidst the backdrop of immense hardship and conflict. Despite the challenges, they will strive to find moments of joy and connection. Here’s how they might spend Eid:

Families will come together, cherishing the bonds that remain intact. Amidst the rubble and loss, they will share meals, exchange heartfelt wishes, and seek solace in each other’s company.

If there is a break in the incessant bombardment, children will join their families for special Eid prayers at local mosques or makeshift prayer areas. These moments of spiritual reflection provide comfort and hope.

While elaborate feasts may be out of reach due to food shortages, families will prepare whatever they can—a plate of rice, a piece of bread, or a shared sweet. The focus will be on gratitude for survival and resilience.

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Despite limited resources, parents will try to dress their children in new or freshly cleaned clothes. This tradition symbolizes renewal and optimism.

Some families may exchange small gifts or tokens – a handmade bracelet, a drawing, or a hug. These gestures carry immense meaning in times of crisis.

Nearly all families have lost loved ones to the conflict. On Eid, they will visit graves, offering prayers and seeking solace. Children will learn about resilience and honouring the departed.

Children, even in the midst of adversity, find ways to play. They might create toys from scraps, play simple games, or draw pictures. These moments provide brief respites from the harsh reality of the doomsday scenario they face everyday.

Above all, children in Gaza will hold onto hope – for peace, for safety, and for a brighter future. Their resilience is a testament to the human spirit.

Ironically, Jews – who faced Hitler’s brutality in concentration camps and survivors recall the painful memories of the holocaust with horror – are targeting the hapless children of Gaza with brutality and viciousness.

Amidst these gloomy and painful moments, at the 96th Oscar Awards ceremony held at the Dolby Theatre in Ovation Hollywood on March 10, 2024, a heartrending poem “Dear Child”, written and rendered by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Chris Hedges took the viewers on an uncompromising journey into the life of a child from Gaza living under Israeli bombardment.

There was not a single eye sans tears at the Oscar awards ceremony, when Chris Hedges intentionally challenged the viewers to share the painful suffering of the children of Gaza and admitted that the world has failed them in bringing an end to their pain and anguish.

This Eid, as we celebrate in our own ways, let’s remember these children and pray for their well-being and a lasting peace in their homeland.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst


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Khwaja Usman Mar 25, 2024 08:21am
Stop Genocide. Save children.
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AlipBAy Mar 28, 2024 02:07pm
Why Pakistani leadership are coy to talk about saving lives of Gaza Children!
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John Mar 29, 2024 02:07pm
@AlipBAy, Compromised leaders!
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Sumru Mar 31, 2024 12:01pm
@John, Its an $understatement$...
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