Voices of Gaza: ‘They destroyed the smell of Jasmine, the memories, the love’

November 15, 2023

     By Duncan Green     

Oxfam has been receiving increasingly desperate voicenotes from staff and partners inside the Gaza strip. Here are some edited transcripts and links to give you a sense of the suffering that is unfolding:

The Oxfam Partner

Eman Shanan founded Aid and Hope in 2009, to support women with cancer in Gaza. Oxfam has been funding Aid and Hope through its Women’s Rights Fund.

Here is Eman a year ago

“My name is Eman Shanan. I’m founder and general manager for Aid and Hope for Cancer Patient Care. I’m a cancer survivor. When you have cancer, you feel that you’ve lost everything. [Now] Imagine yourself in a place like Gaza… and you can’t get out to get your medication. This is the main aim of Aid and Hope – to find solutions for all women who have cancer in Gaza.”

Eman’s Voice note: Wednesday 11 October

“As a woman cancer survivor, I feel that our normal life used to be an emergency life in other countries. We are under attack for the third year. We don’t have electricity, we don’t have water and after five minutes the [internet] will disconnect, so we will not have any access to the world. I feel that it’s nonsense, it’s not fair, it’s not humanitarian to be under this attack.

Voice note: Sunday 15 October

“I lost my family house. My house. All my family were evacuated in different places. We lost our houses, I’m talking about hundreds of memories. I’m remembering my mother when she was making my favourite pie. When she [planted] the jasmine and she told me, ‘Eman, one day you will remember me with this jasmine.’ The smell of the house, they destroyed everything. They destroyed the memories. The love, the hope, the feelings.

I saw the people in the streets; if we want to buy water the whole family is going outside to buy water or food, because people fear losing each other, [they prefer] to die together or to live together.”

Voice note: Sunday 15 October

“We have 12,000 cancer patients in Gaza. 70% of them used to go outside of Gaza to get their medication. Those cancer patients, what will happen to them? If the cancer didn’t kill them, the war will kill them. Will kill them while they are wondering why this world is watching us without doing anything to stop the war in Gaza.

Those patients thought they were fighters, thought they were survivors after finishing treatment with cancer. But now after closing all the borders, what will happen? Access to health is an essential right. Getting access to medication is the biggest essential right.”

The Oxfam Worker

Fidaa Alaraj works for Oxfam in Gaza.

Voice note: 16 October, 7pm

What we’re seeing on the news and what we’re hearing from healthcare staff, is that when a house is bombed and whole families are wiped [out], there is no one left to identify the bodies. Yesterday we saw hundreds of bodies buried in collective cemeteries, unidentified. If there is a baby or a small child or a toddler who is left from one of these bombings, there’s no way to identify that baby or that child. This is really, really concerning.

I’m thinking of the aftermath, if there is any ‘after’. What are we gonna do, how are we gonna deal with these children? The registration, identification, documentation, the legal status of these children… if they survive their injuries.

Voice note: October 22, 5pm  

Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday, and to be honest I was glad that she felt excited, she had been counting down to it since the beginning of this month. But last night she was like, “you know what I wish for my birthday? I just wish that it won’t be my death day. I wish I won’t be targeted by a rocket and the people won’t have to say ‘wow, she was killed the same day that she was born.’”

Voice note: October 26, 5pm

There’s [a] huge invisible need or difficulty, that maybe we feel ashamed to talk about in the face of all this death, which is trauma. What we go through is obviously traumatic in so many ways. In ways that it’s very difficult to talk about. You feel that you don’t have the luxury to think about your wellbeing, your mental health or how you feel about things, how it’s affecting you. But I doubt that anyone in Gaza can sleep regularly or normally. Sleep is very rare, very troubled, very disturbed. Anxiety is very high.

We worry about everything and about anything. Sometimes it’s the opposite and you stop caring altogether, like… I’m going to die with the next rocket or the next bombing, so it doesn’t matter.  So you’re not even stable, you go between those two points, the extremes, in one day, multiple times.

This is what we’re witnessing, but we’re currently inside the trauma. Once this ends, if it’s gonna ever end, the actual real effects of the trauma are gonna start showing. It should be at the very least possible to try and help people who are dying, practically, horribly, who are being targeted, who are being killed. But our first and foremost demand is to stop this madness, to stop this war, to have an immediate ceasefire and to stop the killing, the mad killing and targeting of civilians. 7,000 are killed, more than 17,000 are injured, almost all of Gaza is destroyed beyond repair. I think a ceasefire is way overdue.

Voicenote 6 November: Fidaa’s message from Gaza, 06 November – ‘Last night it was indescribable, to be honest’

November 15, 2023
Duncan Green


  1. Thank you for sharing these voicenotes of people living in Gaza, Duncan. It is really heartbreaking and distressing to learn about the terrible suffering that they are experiencing. I very much hope that this suffering will end and that it will not breed another conflict, as it did after the First World War, but rather lead to a lasting peace and mutual tolerance and understanding, as after the Second World War in Europe. Still, I would have found it more appropriate if you had also mentioned, however brief, the terrible suffering and heartbreaking experiences that Israelis suffered at the hand of the Hamas a few weeks before that. Navid Kermani, a well-known German-Iranian public intellectual, author and journalist, recently wrote a very good article about this in the weekly paper Die Zeit (“Das Schweigen vor dem Aber”). I quote (translated by DeepL): “I too am following the war in Gaza with horror. And yes, I too question the proportionality of a war in which over ten thousand people have already been killed… But after an atrocity like that of 7 October, which goes beyond anything imaginable in the Middle East conflict, a pause, gestures of condolence and shame, an embrace would have been appropriate.” I know that the history of the conflict is complex. Still, I feel there is an urgent need to understand both sides and sympathise with the suffering of people on both sides.

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