Since October 1 knife attacks, shootings and protests have become near-daily occurrences in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel. At least 57 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed since the beginning of the month.
During these tense times what is life like for Gaza's 1.8 million residents? The 40 kilometer-long strip is still reeling from the effects of the 50-day Israeli offensive in 2014 that killed 2,100 people and reduced 40% of the area to rubble.
In this episode we speak to Omar Ghraieb, a popular blogger and journalist based in Gaza. Omar talks about documenting life in the occupied strip since 2007.
Here are some excerpts from our conversation:
I started the first English language blog in Gaza and I decided to be me. If you want to be truthful, you have to share it as it is. The wars came and went. We survived. And I decided to not just share the news, that 40 people were killed. 100 people were killed. I decided to share stories. Also my own stories and through my own eyes. I shared tips, what to do, not to do, how to stay safe. […]
I live in Gaza. What is safety? What is fear? That is not something that I chose at all. That is something that was thrown at me and I had to live with it. So I decided to keep it real. Funny moments, sad moments, tips, everything.
About Omar's reporting during the 2014 Gaza offensive, he explains:
I think I didn't sleep at all for the first three weeks. I was high on adrenaline. I didn't want to miss anything. I wanted to make sure my family is safe. I wanted to make sure I was tracking news, reporting it. It was a constant battle with you trying to stay safe, stay healthy, stay awake, stay alert, keep everything charged, make sure you have like five hundred backup plans for power outages, for the internet. I secured a generator, I secured three batteries for the router, my mobile, my laptop. It was truly a constant battle, everyday you have to go through it just to get online. You are telling everybody that you are fine. You are reporting. You are showing everything that is happening. I would be running frantically like my mobile is about to die, I have to move to my laptop. Even daily life here is a challenge. So have to through it through war. I don't know how I did it. I didn't lose my life. I didn't lose my house, my family. But I don't know how I got through it.
Bombs are falling. The house is shaking. And what do I do? I am in the corner holding my mobile, reporting of course, in the dark, reminding myself that I'm going to write about what I like in Gaza. Who are the people here that inspire me? Just to hold on to hope. And sometimes it got to the point where my mobile resembled hope and life.That if it was a very loud airstrike, the house shakes and you move. I would be flying through the corridor. Holding on to my mobile so hard, more than life, because for me at that moment my mobile resembled life and hope. Because I was writing my own hope. I was holding on to life by reminding myself that I am going to survive this. Gaza is going to survive this. We have been through this. Gaza is beautiful.
Omar talked about the global network of activists that helped him and other Palestinians continue reporting during the offensive.
I was truly flabbergasted, impressed and heart-warmed that activists around the world who support Palestine came together, kept our accounts as safe possible. They kept us online. They fought back hackers, they sent us links. Told us what to do and how to stay online even if the internet goes out. It was truly a family of local activists, international activists and citizen journalists.
He emphasized that he doesn't want his reporting to be just about war, because that doesn't do Gaza or the people of Gaza justice:
There is something that most media do not show you. And is the beautiful side. People are humans here. We have families. We go out. We laugh. We love life. We love hope. In summer, most Gazans are on the beach, you can't see the beach from the amount of people there. We have amazing sunsets. People here are so warm. We have amazing weather and amazing people. And why shouldn't I shed light on that? That yes, Gaza is a beautiful place, despite what you see and hear, and despite what I see and hear.