We’ve been suffering from hours-long blackouts for the last ten years. When it started, we’d get electricity for eight hours and then have the power cut for ten to twelve hours. I would plan the housework around the power supply schedule, which was set in advance. We knew when we would have power and when it would go off. I did most of the housework at night – making dough, baking, ironing, running the washing machine – because I knew I’d have power for at least eight hours straight. Recently, the supply fell to six hours at a time with 12-hour blackouts, but unpredictably. Then it went down again, to four hours of power followed by 12-hour blackouts. Now the blackouts last twenty hours straight, and supply is irregular.
The disused fan in the Abu Hashish home. Photo by Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, B’Tselem, 13 July 2017
The frequent blackouts, and the fact that even when the power is on, the current is sometimes weak, have caused our appliances to break down. Now, we don’t have a fridge, and there’s no point getting it repaired, because there’s hardly any electricity. We can only buy small amounts of food at a time, to last us three or four days, otherwise it spoils and I have to throw it out. Our washing machine has also broken down.
In addition, when the power is out, there’s no running water either, and everyone in the family has to wash using water from a jerrycan.
I used to use candles for lighting at night in place of electricity, but I stopped because of something that happened about five years ago. My children, who got up at 5:00 o’clock in the morning to go to school, lit a candle and set it down on the television because the house was dark. They forgot the candle and left. My youngest son, Adel, and I were still asleep. I woke up in a panic from the smell of smoke. The candle had fallen over and the TV caught fire. The whole house was full of black smoke. I started screaming and woke my husband. He put out the fire. I’ve stopped using candles in the house since then. Now we use battery-operated LED lights. My cousin got us a battery as a gift to help us out, but now the power isn’t on long enough to charge the battery, and the lighting in the house is dim because the battery is nearly drained.
It’s summer now so it’s very hot. When the power’s on, we use the electric fans. I don’t get a chance to sleep with a fan on, because whenever there’s power, I’m busy doing housework. When the power’s cut off, there’s no escaping the heat and we have a hard time sleeping at night. During the daytime, the house is so hot that no one can stay inside.
We can’t afford a generator, and we wouldn’t have been able to pay for fuel anyway, because a liter costs about 6 shekels [approx. USD 4].
Yesterday, Wednesday, 12 July 2017, my daughter got her the results of her high school matriculation exams. We were planning to have a party with the family. We got a stereo system and speakers, but in the end, there was no power for the whole day, so we couldn’t celebrate.
Dishes piled-up in the sink in the Abu Hashish home, waiting for the electricity and water supply to come back on. Photo by Khaled al-‘Azayzeh, B’Tselem, 13 July 2017
Nibal Hassan Muhammad Abu Hashish, 37, is a married mother of four. She lives in al-Maghazi R.C., the central Gaza Strip. B’Tselem field researcher Khaled al-‘Azayzeh took her testimony on 13 July 2017, in her home.