by Eman Mohammed
Between the shattered memories of the past and an unknown future lies a pile of rubble that is called home. Mohammed Khaderi, his wife Ebtesam and the 22 members of their family live here, in the heart of Gaza. Their house was targeted by Israeli field operations and all but leveled during the last incursion into the Gaza Strip—the 2008-2009 war. Ever since, the Khaderi family has lived beneath a makeshift tent attached to what remains.
TWO WOMEN OF THE KHADERI FAMLY PEER FROM THE WINDOW OF THE TENT WHERE THEY MOVED THEIR FAMILIES, FEARING THE COLLAPSE OF THEIR CRUMBLING HOME.
Until mid-2007, Mohammed and his brother worked in Israel as laborers, but both lost their jobs after the frontier between the two states closed in June 2007, after Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and Israel tightened its blockade. In December 2008, Israel embarked on a series of air attacks against targets in Gaza where, it said, Hamas was launching rocket attacks at Israeli cities. This was followed by a ground assault and, though the Khaderi home was not targeted, everything in the neighborhood was leveled.
RAMADAN IS OVER, AND THE 22 MEMBERS OF THE KHADERI FAMILY GATHER IN FRONT OF WHAT REMAINS OF THEIR HOME TO BREAK THE FAST.
After the houses were gone and the dust cleared, the Khaderis realized that there were no tents available, no supplies to rebuild. Winter had set in and they huddled around a fire to keep warm, occasionally cooking food that arrived from the few aid organizations that remained. In the first weeks after the war, there were no public facilities, no running water or sanitation and no schools. Children wandered idly through the wasteland.
MOHAMMED KHADERI FEEDS PIGEONS WITH HIS DAUGHER, MONA, AGE 4.
Today, the Khaderis are entirely reliant upon aid for their survival. As Mohammed says, “This is not a way of life, we don't know if we will get anything tomorrow or not. Until now we considered ourselves lucky.”
The Khaderis rarely venture into what is left of their two-story home—they are too afraid that what little remains of the concrete structure might collapse.
At the end of Ramadan, outside what was once the entrance to their home, the Khaderis gather on a large blanket and carpets scavenged from the rubble. They break the fast. On the fringe hover several pigeons that Mohammed has raised through the years. It is perhaps the most remarkable and distinguishing mark of the Khaderi family—the long relationship they have had with their pigeons. It is also the one constant through the violence of the war and the bitterness of the aftermath, Mohammed’s confidence that despite the misery, suffering and death surrounding them, no matter where he and his children might go, the pigeons will follow. When nothing else is left, there is this comfort.
Eman Mohammed is the only female professional photographer based in the Gaza Strip. The self-taught, 22-year-old Palestinian, whose photographs have appeared in The Guardian and Le Monde, has been covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 2006.