Displaced Palestinians are baking traditional holiday cakes under Israeli bombardment, to bring joy to their children.
Gaza City – When Elham Elzanin fled her home in Beit Hanoun, she only had time to grab her terrified children and evacuate. Now sheltering at a school in Gaza City, Elzanin’s nine-year-old daughter Nima cries over missing one of the sweetest parts of the Eid holiday: cake.
«I said to myself, ‘We ought to make the children feel the atmosphere of Eid, even if warplanes are bombing,'» Elzanin, 39, told Al Jazeera. She said that the idea quickly spread among the children seeking refuge with their families at al-Hud school, and soon, a group of mothers began baking.
«The Israelis should know they will not stop us [from] finding some joy in making Eid cake,» she said. The cake, she added, represents «resilience and resistance».
The cramped al-Huda school provides shelter to many internally displaced Palestinian families from across the Gaza Strip.
According to United Nations figures, more than 240,000 Palestinians have now sought refuge at UN or government-run schools, informal shelters or with friends and relatives. At least 747 residential buildings in Gaza have also been destroyed or damaged.
On July 20, Israeli shells hit a UN school that was sheltering displaced families, killing at least 19 people and wounding dozens more. In response, the Israeli military said Palestinian fighters had been firing from near the facility.
It was the second time in a week that a UN school being used as a shelter was hit by Israeli attacks. The UN has reported that at least 133 schools in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli strikes, while 23 health facilities have also been hit.
The more you displace us, we will remain. The more you kill us, we will plant happiness in the hearts of our children.
More than 1,303 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s military operation in Gaza began over three weeks ago, while more than 7,203 others have been injured. Fifty-three Israeli soldiers have also died, along with two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.
Meanwhile, at al-Huda school, Khitam al-Fayomi, a 46-year-old mother of nine, said that her son Abdullah, 7, and daughter Fatima, 9, begged her to make Eid cake. «We can’t deprive them just because of what Israel is doing to us,» Fayomi, who fled her home in Tuffa, near Shujayea, told Al Jazeera.
Sitting in a long corridor, she was among a group of 40 women rolling the cake mixture and pressing crushed dates inside. These Eid sweets are well-known throughout the Gaza Strip as marking the Eid al-Fitr holiday. Usually, families happily compete over whose version of the cake is tastier.
Next to Fayomi, Nawal Abu Asi smiled as she helped make the treats. Eighteen members of Abu Asi’s family fled their home in Shujayea after heavy Israeli bombardment two weeks ago. She told Al Jazeera that she witnessed the bombing of their house with her own eyes.
«The more you displace us, we will remain. The more you kill us, we will plant happiness in the hearts of our children,» the 24-year-old said. She lost everything in the bombardment, including her wedding dress, which she planned to wear for her nuptials, planned for August 15. «My wedding dress, my clothes, and my new bedroom have all turned into ruins.»
Khader Abelkas, 48, was the only man among the women making the cakes. An Israeli F-16 missile hit his home, forcing him, his wife, and their six sons and three daughters, into the shelter. «We also want to tell Israel [that] despite the siege, destruction and killing, we will continue to make [the] cake of resistance,» he said.