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John Pendygraft Photo Essay

Returning to ruin in Gaza

A family’s broken home: Mohammed Khadar, 48, (far right) and his family have returned to the rubble of their home. Clockwise, from Khadar, are three daughters (2-year-old Mona, 8-year-old Heba and 10-year-old Reham), his brother Khadar Khadar and his brother’s wife, Bothina; and his 39-year-old wife, Soad, holding their 1-year-old daughter Khlod.

A family’s broken home: Mohammed Khadar, 48, (far right) and his family have returned to the rubble of their home. Clockwise, from Khadar, are three daughters (2-year-old Mona, 8-year-old Heba and 10-year-old Reham), his brother Khadar Khadar and his brother’s wife, Bothina; and his 39-year-old wife, Soad, holding their 1-year-old daughter Khlod.

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Mohammed Khadar and his family live in what used to be a professional, middleclass neighborhood called Abed Rabbo, a suburb of Gaza City. During the height of the Israeli incursion in January, a tank unit called out to residents by bullhorn and ordered them to evacuate. They walked together down the road from their home, waving white headscarves and a white T-shirt tied to a broom handle. “On both sides of the road, the Israeli soldiers were shooting into the air. It was terrifying for the children. Everyone was crying,” says his 38-year-old brother Khadar Khadar. “We felt scared for our lives.” Days later they were allowed back into their neighborhood. Their house and the homes of their neighbors were leveled. They moved back in anyway. “This is our home, there’s nowhere else to go. We will go on living here, and are willing to die here,” says Khadar Khadar. The family’s Gaza roots date to 1956. They owned a chicken farm, which was destroyed in the offensive, an Israeli response to Hamas missile attacks. “We are not terrorists,” says Mohammed Khadar, who says he has no affiliation with Hamas or Fatah. “Do not treat us as terrorists. As you have kids, we have kids. As you love yours, we love ours. Our kids want to live in peace. And so do we.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in traveling to the Mideast last week, is hoping that people truly believe that — and can find a way.


The ruins of Hasan Abed Rabbo’s home. He says the area was “a nice village decorated with trees and beautiful houses, buildings and factories. Most of the people who live here are cultured: doctors, teachers and intellectuals.”
The ruins of Hasan Abed Rabbo’s home. He says the area was “a nice village decorated with trees and beautiful houses, buildings and factories. Most of the people who live here are cultured: doctors, teachers and intellectuals.”

A YOUNG BOY'S EYES:

As part of her first trip to the Middle East as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt last week, where donors raised $5.2 billion for the Palestinian economy and to rebuild the destruction from the Israeli incursion into Gaza. The United States has pledged $900 million in all; $300 million will go for the reconstruction of Gaza, which will be funneled through Western nongovernmental agencies to ensure it is not used by Hamas. The other $600 million will flow to the Palestinian Authority. To understand the point of the rebuilding fund, look into the eyes of 10-year-old Mahmud Khadar, standing near the remains of his home in Abed Rabbo. He’s still plagued by nightmares. In the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza, more than 1,300 people were killed and more than 5,400 wounded, mostly civilians, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics. The Abed Rabbo neighborhood was especially hard hit. Many neighbors have moved back into the concrete remains of where they lived before the bombing. There is no electricity, no running water. Nothing that gives the homes any advantage over the clean white tents offered to refugees by the United Nations. Except that a tent feels like a tent, and this new rubble, with its Dali-esque patterns and nonsensical angles, still feels like home.

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

PICKING UP THE PIECES:

Children salvage designer tile from the home of Yossef Abu Eida. He had worked as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates after earning a degree from Toledo University in Ohio and later moved to Gaza, where he owned a chicken farm like the Khadars. His was destroyed, too. "I do not have a future," he says. "I have 12 sons. I do not know how to feed them."

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

ANY HOPE FOR THE FUTURE?

Ahmed Jonaid, right front, sits with family and neighbors in front of his home. Before the second intifada, he had worked inside Israel as a builder, but Israel closed the borders to Palestinian workers so he had to seek work in Gaza. Why did Israelis level the neighborhood? "I think the Israelis attacked our area because it is a border area with the Israeli lands and they try to secure themselves," said Hasan Abed Rabbo, whose home is shown above. Echoing other neighbors, he said no rockets were fired from the area. His family has been living in Gaza for several generations. As Secretary of State Clinton visited the Mideast, broad U.S. outlines became clear: Open doors to Syria and isolate Iran; hope to offer cover to Arab states and moderate Palestinians to negotiate with Israel, forcing Hamas to ease its hostility toward the Jewish state. Eventually that could lead to a calm in the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

[JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times]

As the United States re-engages in the thorny Mideast peace process, what's it like in Gaza and the West Bank for some regular folks at the heart of the "Palestinian problem"?

Returning to ruin in Gaza 03/06/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 1:17am]
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