Gaza City/ Sderot, the daily life of two mothers

Thirteen days into Israel's Gaza offensive, two mothers from either side of the conflict give their account of events. While in Gaza City the dread of Israeli airstrikes keeps the family awake, in Sderot, just across the border, the fear of rockets fired by Hamas does much the same.  Read more...


Thirteen days into Israel's Gaza offensive, two mothers from either side of the conflict give their account of events. While in Gaza City the dread of Israeli airstrikes keeps the family awake, in Sderot, just across the border, the fear of rockets fired by Hamas does much the same.

Reem El-Nounoun is a 34-year-old mother of three and English teacher from the Tal Alhawa district of Gaza City. Ohana Mari, 58, is a retired resident of Harimoni Road, Sderot, originally of Moroccan descent. She has four children and seven grandchildren. To contact either of the Observers, you can leave a comment on their profile pages. We'll pass it on.

Between dreams and nightmares

7pm, Sderot - more news. In the evening I get my duvet and I settle down in the living room to watch TV. I don't want to go out to the theatre or the cinema. I sit there until about 10pm, by which time I've seen the same images over and over.

I hope we're going to manage a ceasefire and find a solution; God permitting. Before, we got on well with the Arabs, we liked each other. But Hamas are terrorists. We've been suffering for the past eight years. We have no life!

8pm, Gaza City - trying to sleep. We try to sooth the boys. They're even more scared when it gets dark. I already know they're going to have trouble getting to sleep again.

Midnight, Sderot - the shadow of Gaza. If the siren doesn't go off, I sleep well. It's normally quiet. But we're just across from Gaza, and when the army starts bombing, we hear everything. When they stop, it quietens again. So I get a good night's sleep.


Interviews by Catherine Le Lohe

Three hours of respite in Gaza, boredom in Sderot

1pm, Gaza City - respite time. For the first time since the start of the attacks, the Israelis say they're going to stop for three hours. We wait. We sit down for lunch. Today it's rice.

1pm, Sderot - scrambled eggs and chicken. Today I've made myself scrambled eggs and a chicken sandwich. And had a coffee.  

2pm, Gaza City - the street! As promised the Israeli airstrikes have stopped. With my husband and the boys we go out for an hour. The children are overjoyed. But us, we're scared. There are no bombings, but we can hear the planes in the sky. We see that a lot of buildings have been destroyed. We go to the shop to get some provisions. We buy tinned food, tinned beans and meat.

3pm, Sderot - news from the neighbours. In the afternoon, I talk to the neighbours. We always talk about what's going on here. I live in a terraced street. On Sunday morning, a rocket fired by the Islamists landed on a house in my road. My house wasn't hit, thankfully, but my neighbours' house was badly damaged. Their windows and doors were shattered. They'll have to repare everything.  

The Hamas rockets are stronger, bigger and more dangerous than before. They used to be small and land somewhere unimportant. Now, they're landing on our houses.

4.45pm - night starts to fall in Gaza. We get the candles out. At five, it will be pitch black in the town. We can only use one candle and one match in the evening, so as not to waste any more. I don't have many left. And there are no more candles or matches in the shop.

My husband and I can't talk in front of the children. They ask a lot of questions, so we try to reassure them. "No, of course we're not a target! We're safe inside the house... very well protected here...". But really, we don't have any kind of shelter. We just stay in the safest room in the house.

5pm, Sderot - a quick bath. You have to be quick in the bath in case the siren goes off - I don't want to be naked!

Waking at dawn

5am, Gaza City - getting out of bed after a sleepless night. The children have barely slept. Me, I haven't even closed my eyes. The whole family - my husband, the kids and myself all sleep in the same room. Listening to the Israeli Army's constant attacks, the night is hard. The children cry, they're scared. We get up very early. There's no electricity. I'm exhausted.

I try to get some water. Sometimes, a bit comes from the taps. This morning there is some. I get breakfast ready and food for the rest of the day. We've managed to save some food for the next few days: eggs and rice. But no bread as there's no flour.

6am, Sderot - coffee for the family. I get up early to make coffee for my two sons who work in a factory. Afterwards, I go back to bed for a bit. I often hear the sirens, but not today. When you hear the sirens, it means the Islamists have launched a rocket. I used to run as fast as a mouse to hide under the stairs, but now I run to my secure room. It's a haven.

7am, Gaza City - making calls, to find out. Every morning I call all of my family - my parents, my sisters my brothers, to check that they're ok, that they're still alive. This morning, everyone's alive.

8am, Gaza City - the radio, to find out more. I listen to the local radio, we can get quite a few in Gaza: 'Al Aqsa', 'Al Qods' and 'El Burak'. I can't watch TV because there's no electricity. So I listen to the radio all day to know what's going on.

My husband stays at home all day too. Sometimes, he goes to see the neighbours to talk to them, but these days he prefers to stay at home. We feel under constant threat.

9am, Sderot - the news. In the morning I read the papers - mainly Yedioth Aharonot - and watch Israeli news channels on the TV.

Then I do a bit of housework - some washing and ironing. It's not a normal life: I can't step a foot outside. I haven't done so for 12 days. Anyway, there aren't many people left around. At the start of the war, 70% of people from Sderot left, to Tel Aviv or somewhere else, to safer places. But I'm staying because of my sons. The children are very scared. Most people have left to protect their children.

10am, Gaza - the children get bored. They're not going to school. It's been 12 days now they've been trapped inside. They never stop asking me if they can go outside. But I can't let them. So they play a bit. They play a lot of cards.

Two days ago it was little Hamed's birthday. He was eight. He told me "I want us to have a party for my birthday!" But I couldn't make a cake because there's no flour and very little gas for cooking. So I invited the neighbouring children. We lit a candle. My sons were happy.