Rana E. Manna
Last updated: 1 November, 2012

Enormous challenges for widows in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict causes a lot of suffering on both sides. In the Gaza Strip, one of the many problems are those faced by families where the sole provider is killed.

There is no joy of Al-Adha Eid in the Abu Al-Jidan household this year. While others in the besieged strip happily welcomed the enjoyment of the religious holiday, this family stayed at home to mourn the death of their husband and father.

A member of the Al Qassam brigades, the military arm of Hamas which is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and United States, Yusef Abu Al-Jidyan was killed by an Israeli air strike while launching a rocket towards Israel.

He left behind a wife and two young children – Farah, 3, and Mosaab, 2, who muttered the word baba, meaning father, for the first time just days before the death of his father.

“At this time of the year, he would usually buys his children new clothes and then takes us to visit family and friends. Dressed in his best clothes, he would go to the Mosque where he would thank Allah for our blessings and later take the children out for some fun,” Um Mosaab said, holding onto her son and daughter. She doesn’t believe anyone could ever make her feel as safe and happy as he did.

Instead of welcoming visitors during this occasion of Al-Adha Eid, Um Mosaab is receiving women dressed in complete black who accompany her in grieving over the death of her husband.

“All young widows in Gaza Strip stick around to raise their children. We believe that only around 20% remarry,” Mrs. Hiba Al Balbesi from the Woman Affairs Center said.

The life of the growing number of young widows in the impoverished strip is considered quite a challenge. Due to the Israeli blockade, there are barely any jobs for men, let alone for women, who have even fewer employment opportunities. Many families where widows are the sole providers are thus driven into even deeper poverty.

Like many other widows in Gaza, 20-year-old Um Mosaab hasn’t worked and is accustomed to relying on her husband for support. With the family’s only source of income gone, she finds herself without an answer.

“Many widows in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder several weeks after the loss of their husbands. In fact, she can lose the will to carry on living and this generally gives way to depression,” said Samir Zaqut, a psychologist at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.

“My husband always treated his two children and me with much love and affection. May God rest his soul. Although the future lays uncertain, I pray God will grant me the strength and courage to assume the responsibility of raising my children with no obscurity,” Um Mosaab said.