Gaza exile challenges freed West Bankers

2012-05-22 12:06

kalahari.com

  • Breaking Ranks
    These accounts and interviews will surprise, sadden, shock, infuriate, but most of all, stimulate... Now R226.00
    buy now
Gaza - "Gaza is a big prison, but some prisons are better than others," admits Nihad Abu Kishk, a former detainee from the West Bank who was exiled by Israel to the Gaza Strip.

"I feel uprooted and it is difficult to adapt," says the 34-year-old who was sentenced to life in an Israeli prison but freed and sent to Gaza under terms of a prisoner swap deal with Israel late last year.

The deal saw the release of 1 027 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for the freeing of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who had been held in captivity by Gaza's Hamas rulers for more than five years.

Most were allowed to go home, but 163 of them were exiled from their homes in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, and sent to live in Gaza.

"We have to make do with the situation of exile," says Abu Kishk with a sigh.

"I suffer when I see the trouble my family has to go through to visit me, travelling through Jordan and Egypt, the exorbitant expense, and that's if Israel lets them travel," he said.

Few guests at wedding

Since his release, Abu Kishk, a Hamas member from the northern town of Tulkarem, has married a woman who also comes from the West Bank and moved to Gaza to be with him.

But, with the extremely tight Israeli travel restrictions in place, which all but bar West Bankers from going to Gaza, there were few guests.

"There were hardly any guests except my mother and my sister-in-law, who were the only ones who could come to Gaza," he says.

Ibrahim Elian, another former prisoner who comes from east Jerusalem, says that despite its isolation, the Gaza Strip remains "an integral part of the Palestinian nation".

"It's painful for my family, but I was imprisoned for 25 years," says Elian, who was also serving life when he was freed as part of the Shalit deal.

"It's better to be in Gaza than in the occupier's prisons."

Hunger strike


Before the Shalit deal, there were already another 26 Palestinians living in exile in Gaza following the Israeli siege on Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity in 2002, as well as another dozen who were banished there in recent years.

"Life in Gaza is similar to life in the West Bank, but we remain separated from our families," admits Fahmi Knaan, spokesperson for the Bethlehem deportees.

"When an exile loses a relative, the Israelis forbid him from attending the funeral," he said, explaining Israel treats Gaza as an entirely separate entity from the West Bank.

One recent arrival who has adapted slightly better is Hanaa Shalabi, a former prisoner from the radical Islamic Jihad movement who was sent to Gaza in April for three years in exchange for halting a 43-day hunger strike.

She was also one of the prisoners freed in the Shalit swap, but was rearrested in mid February and held without trial, prompting her to begin an open-ended hunger strike in protest.

Shalabi, whose family moved from a village near Jenin in the northern West Bank to be with her following her release, says she feels neither "uprooted or imprisoned".

Financial problems

"I live with my mother and father in an apartment in Gaza and I communicate with the rest of my family in the West Bank by phone and on Facebook," she said.

But she does miss her home village and says the shortage of petrol and electricity makes life hard in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

"No place is dearer to me than the house and the area where I was born and where I grew up," she admits.

"I miss the Jenin countryside."

Aside from the emotional cost of living in exile, the former prisoners also struggle with financial problems in Gaza, which has been languishing under an Israeli blockade since 2006.

Abu Kishk says his monthly allowance of $420 from the Palestinian ministry of prisoner affairs is not enough to make ends meet in Gaza, where unemployment is around 45%.

Studies


"I still don't have work and I can't set up any business enterprise," he said.

But Knaan says such difficulties are faced by everyone living in the Strip and not just those exiled from the West Bank.

"Even people from Gaza struggle to find work," he said.

Despite the difficulties, the ex-prisoners were managing to get by, he said, adding many had finished their studies in Gaza, some had found jobs and others were working as taxi drivers to improve their living conditions.

- SAPA
Read more on:    gaza strip  |  israel  |  middle east peace
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
10 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may be bothering you. A flooded mind and impulsive reactions are not a good combination as you are not thinking clearly....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.