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How to Build the Home of Your Dreams in Gaza

From Gisha’s Gaza Gateway.

Building the “perfect home” is a dream shared by many people, especially if you are one of the tenants of the 3,500 homes that were destroyed or of the 56,000 homes that were damaged in last year’s military operation in the Gaza Strip. This week, we’ve pulled together some instructions to help you build your dream house in Gaza. Make sure to keep these useful tips handy!

First of all, because of Israel’s prohibition on the entry of building materials to the Strip since the June 2007 start of the closure, we will need to use locally available materials. Mud will be used to build the foundation and the walls of the house, easily found during the wintertime in Gaza’s natural surroundings. Make sure to avoid collecting mud from areas where raw sewage flows. Have patience, once the ban on the entry of spare parts, equipment and fuel is lifted, the water and sewage systems will operate at better capacity.

We’ll need to mix the mud with gravel. Due to Israel’s ban on the entry of this material, we will use limestone instead. To the limestone-mud mixture, add rocks found scattered around the area and mix for a long time until a thick mass is formed. In order to hasten the hardening of the mud, approach the nearest wheat field, cut off some shafts of wheat, and add them to the mixture. Place the mud into a baking dish, wait until it dries and presto — you now have material to make bricks and begin construction!

One of the mud houses recently built in Gaza, which serves as an example of the way the Strip's residents are coping with the ban on the transfer of raw materials.

Now, to build the house. For the support structures we will need iron. However, as you can already guess, since June 2007, Israel has prevented the entry of iron to the Gaza Strip. If you can afford to pay for the iron available in Gaza coming in via the tunnels at 4000 shekels ($1,060) a ton compared to only 2600 ($690) before the closure, fantastic! If not, you will need to mix sand, straw and glue and then roll the mixture into long beams.

Next, we will use the most basic building material, which we have avoided using so far: cement. Cement, the entry of which is also banned by Israel, will be purchased from the tunnel operators. Due to the fact that cement is extremely expensive — 900 shekels ($238) a ton, compared with about 450 shekels ($119) before the closure — we will only use it to build the bathroom, though we’re itching to use it for the rest of the house!

We’re almost finished. All that’s left to build is the roof and for this we will use plates of glass. Finally, something that is found in Gaza! Despite the prohibition on the transfer of glass to Gaza for two and a half years, since the end of December 2009, glass is no longer considered a security threat, and so far about 100 trucks of glass have entered the Strip.

Now, after all your hard work, turn on the light switch that you’ve just installed and look around at the fruits of your labor. Oh, is there a blackout in the area again? At least you can enjoy the magnificent view of the sky and the light of the stars shining through the glass ceiling of your cozy, little house.

Gisha reiterates its call on Israel to lift the ban on the entry of building materials so that people in Gaza may rebuild their homes with dignity.

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Written by

JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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