Just Two Weeks Ago, She Flourished: A Middle-Class Mother in Gaza Now Faces a Fight for Survival

by Lucas Garcia
Gaza Conflict

Just Two Weeks Ago, She Flourished: A Middle-Class Mother in Gaza Now Faces a Fight for Survival

Only a fortnight ago, Yousra Abu Sharekh was leading a prosperous life in the southern Gaza Strip, after landing a highly desirable new job. Today, she finds herself in a constant struggle for survival, amid incessant Israeli airstrikes that punctuate sleepless nights with the wailing of ambulance sirens and anxious conversations among neighbors.

Each morning, the 33-year-old mother queues for hours at local bakeries, seeking a single loaf of bread to sustain her two children. With no electricity and disconnected from her extended family, Abu Sharekh hastily makes her way to visit her ailing mother at an overcrowded United Nations shelter located 20 minutes away. Here, she has the rare opportunity to recharge her phone and check on her 66-year-old father, who remains in their northern Gaza City residence, ignoring Israeli evacuation orders.

“Either we lived in a dream before or we’re experiencing a nightmare now,” she remarked. “Once we had future plans and enjoyed our lives. Now, we’re stranded on the streets without fuel, electricity, or even water and food. Lives are being extinguished, and homes are being obliterated.”

Additional Context on the Gaza Conflict

  • Israeli aircraft continue to target locations, as the U.S. seeks additional time for hostage negotiations.
  • Israel intensifies its airstrikes in Gaza while the U.S. urges delaying a ground assault to facilitate discussions concerning captives.
  • Limited fuel reserves in Gaza’s hospitals endanger vulnerable infants in incubators.

The recent conflict has shattered the aspirations of Gaza’s emergent middle class. Just days ago, these individuals were dreaming of successful careers, studying abroad, and acquiring real estate. Israel’s declaration of war, following a violent incursion by Hamas across the border, upended these ambitions.

Currently, contemplating the future seems like an impossible task for many, including graphic designers taking refuge in tents outside overcrowded U.N. facilities, architects sharing homes with an extended family, and U.N. employees who have lost their homes.

Prior to the hostilities, Gaza had a rising middle class that had managed to invest in education and local enterprises, even managing to own private beach bungalows and dine at upscale restaurants, all despite Israel’s 16-year blockade and the decline of state institutions in Gaza.

Abu Sharekh herself was a Fulbright scholar and a recent graduate in engineering from Portland State University in Oregon. She had returned home, elated to have secured employment at al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City and to be reunited with her family. However, within a week, starting October 7, that promising future seemed to crumble as her workplace experienced a devastating explosion.

Now, she resides with 70 other displaced family members in Khan Younis, anxious each day about how to procure bread for the household. Her two sons, aged 5 and 10, subsist on canned beans. Water is strictly rationed at 300 milliliters per person per day, and nights are spent in complete darkness.

Despite the grim circumstances, Abu Sharekh considers this arrangement preferable to the squalid conditions at the U.N. shelter in the Khan Younis Training Center, which is housing nearly 11 times its intended capacity of close to 20,000 people. The shelter is fraught with sanitation issues, and its cramped conditions make it difficult for her cancer-survivor mother, who needs frequent bathroom access, to cope.

According to the United Nations, almost 180 internally displaced Palestinians have been injured, and 12 have been killed, in their shelters since the outbreak of hostilities. Abu Sharekh’s father, scarred by the displacement stories of his own parents from Ashkelon in 1948, is resolved that history will not repeat itself.

In their once stable neighborhood in Gaza City, the situation has deteriorated drastically. Looting for food and resources is rampant. Abu Sharekh fears that each call to her father might be the last, or that her own home could be among the many destroyed almost daily. An airstrike severely damaged her residence and completely destroyed her brother’s building.

“All the things that made my home are now in ruins—furniture, memories, doors, windows—all shattered,” she says.

Abu Sharekh was reluctant to leave, but her husband insisted, arguing that their children should at least be spared the terror of the airstrikes. However, they soon realized that nowhere is truly safe.

For more coverage on the Israel-Hamas conflict, visit AP’s dedicated page.

Note: The information presented in this article is based on the original source and has been paraphrased for comprehensiveness and clarity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gaza Conflict

What is the primary focus of the article?

The primary focus of the article is the drastic change in the life of Yousra Abu Sharekh, a middle-class mother in the Gaza Strip, due to the ongoing conflict and Israeli airstrikes. It illustrates her daily struggles to provide basic necessities for her family, like food and water, and offers a broader view of the emergent middle class in Gaza that has been severely impacted by the recent hostilities.

Who is Yousra Abu Sharekh?

Yousra Abu Sharekh is a 33-year-old mother of two residing in the southern Gaza Strip. Before the conflict, she had a promising job and was a Fulbright scholar with an engineering degree. Now, she is struggling for basic survival needs for her family.

How has the conflict impacted the middle class in Gaza?

The conflict has devastated Gaza’s budding middle class. Prior dreams of career success, foreign education, and home ownership have been shattered in the wake of Israel’s declaration of war following violent actions by Hamas. Many are unable to see a future beyond the immediate dangers posed by airstrikes and other hostilities.

What are the conditions of the U.N. shelters?

The U.N. shelters, such as the one in the Khan Younis Training Center, are severely overcrowded, housing nearly 11 times their intended capacity. Conditions are squalid, with limited access to sanitation facilities and food or water supplies. The shelters are not immune to attacks, with the U.N. reporting nearly 180 internally displaced Palestinians injured and 12 killed since the start of the war.

What happened to Abu Sharekh’s family residence?

Her family home in Gaza City has been severely damaged by an airstrike. Similarly, her brother’s residence was completely destroyed. Abu Sharekh has had to move into a different home in Khan Younis with 70 other displaced family members, where they face extreme resource shortages.

How is the international community responding?

The article indicates that the U.S. is urging Israel to delay a ground assault to allow for discussions concerning captives. However, the broader international response or aid efforts are not discussed in this specific article.

Where can I find more coverage on the Israel-Hamas conflict?

For more comprehensive coverage on the Israel-Hamas conflict, you can visit the AP’s dedicated page linked at the end of the article.

More about Gaza Conflict

  • UNRWA Official Site
  • Israel Defense Forces Official Updates
  • U.S. State Department Statements on Israel-Gaza Conflict
  • Human Rights Watch: Crisis in Gaza
  • International Red Cross: Gaza Emergency Appeals
  • Fulbright Program Information
  • Portland State University News on Alumni in Conflict Zones
  • AP News Israel-Hamas War Coverage
  • Khan Younis Training Center Relief Efforts

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SarahJ October 24, 2023 - 10:57 am

can’t even fathom standing in line for bread for hours and the fear of losing your home any moment. We take so much for granted.

LindaK October 24, 2023 - 7:57 pm

I’m seriously worried about the UN shelters. If they’re overcrowded and still not safe, where can these people even go?

TomW October 24, 2023 - 8:18 pm

Very hard to read but necessary. We need to know what’s happening to ordinary people like Yousra in conflict zones. Could be any of us.

Robert_M October 25, 2023 - 12:38 am

is it me or does it feel like the world is falling apart? Yousra and others like her deserved a future, but look at them now. Makes u wonder.

Mike87 October 25, 2023 - 8:23 am

Gotta say, this is an eye-opener. We complain about gas prices going up or our wifi being slow. Puts things in perspective, doesnt it?

EmilyS October 25, 2023 - 8:32 am

Heartbreaking to read. Makes you think, where’s the humanity in all of this? She was a Fulbright scholar for god’s sake and now look at her life.

JohnDoe October 25, 2023 - 8:41 am

Wow, just can’t imagine what Yousra is going thru. Everyday life turned into a nightmare. Our problems seem so small…


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