Adnan Barq, a Palestinian from Jerusalem’s Old City, says Palestinians in Jerusalem have long borne the brunt of “a policy of collective punishment” from the Israeli authorities when there is a flare-up in tensions. [Nils Adler/Al Jazeera]By Nils AdlerPublished On 27 Nov 202327 Nov 2023
On October 7, Hamas launched deadly attacks on southern Israel, prompting a relentless aerial bombardment of the Gaza Strip and a subsequent ground offensive by Israel that has killed nearly 15,000 Palestinians.
The war has changed the lives of people all across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, a 26,790sq-km (10,345sq-mile) area similar in size to Haiti (27,750sq km/10,715sq miles) or Albania (28,748sq km/11,100sq miles).
What has changed, however, varies dramatically from place to place.
In Israel’s north near the border with Lebanon, sporadic shelling occurs throughout the day, and most locals have been evacuated as tensions with Hezbollah rise.
The locals who remain live in near ghost towns and are often heavily armed.
Those who have been displaced also include the residents of the kibbutzim and towns in southern Israel near Gaza. They have been moved into hotels, often in scenic seaside locations. Five-star hotels along the Dead Sea coast no longer exude a sense of luxury as families spread out in common areas, children playing loudly in their new temporary homes.
The seaside resorts in Israel’s southern city of Eilat by the Red Sea and sandwiched between Jordan and Egypt have also been filled with Israeli families from near the Gaza border. The city has been the subject of missile attacks from Houthi fighters in Yemen. Israeli warplanes roar over beach bars and fancy restaurants as they scramble to deal with the threat over the sun-drenched Gulf of Aqaba.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli raids have killed more than 200 Palestinians while Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem have faced regular harassment by police and the Israeli military since October 7. Palestinians there speak of a “collective punishment”, in which Israeli authorities are targeting the Palestinian community for the Hamas attacks, which killed 1,200 people.
At times, there is some commonality to the experience of life at war. At other times, there is profound contrast, from the images of families in Gaza without access to clean water forced to wash in polluted seawater to volleyball matches and sunbathers farther up the coast on Tel Aviv’s popular beachfront.
In Gaza, the bombardments have left swathes of the besieged enclave in ruins. In cities across Israel, regular rocket attacks are largely intercepted by the Iron Dome system. Some people choose to take shelter, and others go about their daily business.
And then, at other times, the different experiences are less visible but no less deep: Scratch beneath the surface and the tensions are palpable. Palestinians living in Israel can go about their daily lives but speak privately of being silenced, unable to express solidarity or even sympathy for the people of Gaza.
Here is a snapshot of life at war.