The word “home” will invoke strong emotional responses to just about any person in any country. Home is both the physical place but it also a place where memories are built, where people come together, where meals are shared, where family life is lived. Now imagine watching your home being crumbled before your eyes and you are powerless to stop it. Imagine that your children are next to you witnessing this destruction, becoming traumatized by the idea that home no longer exists. The damage is done. There is nowhere to go. You and your family are homeless.
This is the very real case that many Gazans faced this past summer. According to the NGO Shelter Cluster, at least 17,000 homes have been completely obliterated or severely damaged during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge.
One family in particular was showcased during a documentary showing on campus, called “One Family in Gaza” by filmmaker and activist Jen Marlowe. In 2009, during Operation Cast Lead, the Awajah family lost their home and their 9-year-old son, Ibrahim. In 2013, they finally had a new home. Months after they moved in, it was once again destroyed during the war this past summer. This family has lost everything for a second time. The father, Kamal, states in the film that his family wants the “kind of help that raises our value as human beings, that allows you to feel like a man, your wife’s a woman, your son is a child.” Instead, their most basic dignity is denied them. In fact, this is the ultimate goal that Marlowe wants people to take from her film. Often, Palestinians are grouped into two categories: violent terrorists or helpless victims. In both instances, they become dehumanized. Marlowe wants filmgoers to recognize the common humanity that we share with this family, the determination to live a dignified life, the love we have for our families, and the resilience we have even in the worst of circumstances.
Marlowe is currently taking donations so that this family can rebuild their home. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chelsey Dambro, Evans School of Public Affairs Graduate Student