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For this humanitarian worker living in the West Bank, "Every minute, it feels like we are dying"

Razan seen here in her office in the West Bank. Photo: CARE

Razan seen here in her office in the West Bank. Photo: CARE

My name is Razan. I am a humanitarian worker. I am Palestinian. I live in the West Bank.

We are now over one hundred days into this war, but it feels like decades.

Every minute, every hour, every day, watching people dying in Gaza, it feels like we are dying.

The most difficult moment for me is to see what is happening to the children trapped in this war.

I never imagined that in any given circumstance I would bear this much pain.

Try to imagine

Gaza is less than 30 miles away from where I live. I hear the bombing from my home and from my office.

If you are reading this at home or in your own office, try to imagine.


Imagine you can hear the bombs killing thousands while you’re sitting at your computer, lying in your bed, feeding your children.

While for some, Gaza might seem to be a different entity from the West Bank, we are one country.

A Palestinian woman reacts after seeing her house destroyed by an Israeli airstrike in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Grayscale/CARE

As part of my work on health programming at CARE, I was supposed to visit Gaza in November. It was a rare chance. For those of us who live in the West Bank, because you need a special permit granted only if you are part of a humanitarian organization like CARE, it can be extremely difficult.

I was not only excited to visit Gaza and explore the sea, the nature, the landscape there, but to meet with my CARE colleagues and the people we work with there.

I’ve read their success stories and about how our efforts helped change their lives, but I’ve never met any of them in person.

CARE partner PARC (Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees) distributing hygiene kits to displaced families in southern Gaza. Photo: CARE

While Gaza is considered “the biggest open-air prison,” we still see innovation, success, and resilience from our work.

It’s always amazed me, even in the most difficult situations under siege, to see the work of these incredible people. I was so looking forward to it, but, after the war began, the permit was cancelled.

And my visit, too.

I don’t know when I’ll have a chance to go again.

I no longer can remember how my life was before war. I wake up every morning, and I have no idea how I am able to do it. Just waking up feels like a miracle.

The West Bank is also affected by war in Gaza. Even before war we were not able to reach the beautiful places in our land — the sea, natural sites, beaches, mountains, and hills.

From what you see on your screens today, would you believe we grew up amongst such beauty? But we are not allowed to enter these places without a permit.

We are under occupation and under siege at the same time.

We face daily attacks and have restricted movement due to the checkpoints that are spread everywhere between the cities.

It makes daily life feel like a daily prison.

But every day I wake up, and then I head to the office and start working on CARE’s response in Gaza.

“The simplest thing is impossible”

CARE partner PARC (Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees) distributed 596 hygiene kits to displaced families in two shelters in Rafah, a town on the border with Egypt. Photo: CARE

My focus is health, one of the basic human needs severely affected on different levels by this war — medical facilities have been destroyed, people lack necessary medical supplies, and the capacities of medical teams to address the massive needs on the ground have been decimated.

It is no wonder that each time I call to check in on what we want to do and what we can do in Gaza, our colleagues and partners describe the situation as a nightmare.

The simplest thing is impossible.

Now, I find myself working for more than 12 hours on a daily basis to help secure immediate and basic needs for saving the lives of people in Gaza. Just like my colleagues in CARE International, in Gaza, in the West Bank, and around the world.

When I call or text our colleagues and partners in Gaza, it’s very clear that people in Gaza might not die from shelling, striking, or being wounded, but from hunger or thirst or disease as well.

As one person told me: “It feels like we are sentenced to die in different ways.”

And now we’ve started to see the war’s impact on the West Bank.

We are unable to move between cities, due to high risks and potential continuous attacks, and we’ve designed our work to fit with potential escalation here.

Each hygiene kit CARE and its partners deliver covers the needs of a family of five during one month and contains a bath towel, soap, shampoo, laundry powder, toothpaste and toothbrushes, wipes, sanitary pads, and disinfectant. Photo: CARE

Saving one human life makes a difference

The only thing that gives me the strength to wake up every morning and go to work is this:

I am a humanitarian.

The only reason you see me sitting in this chair, in this office working non-stop with tears in my eyes and a broken heart is this:

I am a humanitarian.

I remind myself that my work can help save lives in Gaza and the West Bank. No matter how big or small the projects are that I’m working on, I put my heart and soul into them, because I believe that every drop in the ocean makes a difference. Even if we save one human life, that makes a difference.

Hearing about how we succeeded in distributing water, hygiene kits, medical aid, and shelter items looking at the photos we receive from our team and partners with smiles on the faces of people receiving hygiene kits, this makes me feel good at the end of the day.

I feel like a human. Someone who was able to do something.

What are human rights?

When I was a child in school, we were taught about human rights. The right to play, to live and to move freely. But with this catastrophe as described by the UN, I was so close to giving up on all of that. It feels like “human rights” might just be a phrase. A myth maybe. A story to tell kids.

But then, I see on television, all over the world people calling for respecting international human law and human rights, and I know that I too will stand for humanity, just like all humans around the world.

I wish we could live in peace. I really do. Desperately.

On our own

My husband and I wanted a small piece of serenity and peace, and so we recently bought a small farm. This land is so special to us, because it’s an olive grove with almost 25 trees.

Due to war we are trapped and unable to access our olive grove, and for me this too has been taken away from us. We are unable to reach our land, to our land that we own. And I’m sad we missed the harvesting season this year and left those olives to dry and fall down.

The olive oil is delicious.

The Palestinian soil, along with our centuries-old tradition of olive cultivation, gives our oil a distinctive flavor. It has a strong, fruity, peppery taste that, when you try it for the first time, you’ll get goosebumps.

You’ll want to put it on everything. You’ll never want to have any other kind of olive oil again.

I wish that we will one day be able to harvest our olives and make our own olive oil on our land.

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