Eva Bartlett | In Gaza
14 November 2009
Graves in Gaza: denied dignity
Long denied cement, a sparse few are able to improvise with over-expensive, tunnel-delivered Egyptian cement. The others simply bury under the sand. Most of these sand-graves in Jabaliya’s Faluja cemetary are from the Israeli massacre of Gaza nearly a year ago. The same inadequate graves can be found in cemetaries across Gaza.
In the Gaza War cemetary, roughly 360 graves were damaged in the Israeli massacre, according to the cemetary groundsman, Ibrahim Jeradeh. He says the majority of the damage was from shelling in the areas around the cemetary, as it lies withine 2km of the eastern border between Gaza Palestine and Israel.
Yet, these graves, mainly of British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the 1st and 2nd world wars, are well-kept and have the funding, and wasta (sway with authorities) needed to have cement allotted to their repair.
The graveyards of Christian and Muslim Palestinians have no such pull, meaning they abound with sandy pits as photographed. Further, a number of cemetaries sustained considerable damage from intentional Israeli bulldozing and shelling of the graveyards.
Walking through the Faluja cemetary, vivid memories of the day after overcome me. The day after the Fakoura school attack, when the bodies, tiny and eldery, were carried on sheets of aluminum, planks of scrap wood, blown off doors…to the overcrowded graveyard in Beit Lahia, that day also overcrowded with mourners. Collective grief hung in the air. These images will never be erased from my memory. Like the elderly father scraping at sand and earth with his bare hands, burying one of his children. Like the many tiny graves marked simply by cement blocks, stones, or plants. Like the teen, sitting on a sand mound, mourning, his jacket covered with LOVE. The irony. So much love here, but so many tragedies.