Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (2024)

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Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (1)

As war killed all hope around her, Nevin Muhaisen fought to bring a new life into the world.

Faced in wartime with bringing a fifth child to term, Nevin Muhaisen told her husband, “When God sends a baby, He will handle the rest.”Credit...Rehab Eldalil for The New York Times

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By Nicholas Casey

Nicholas Casey, a staff writer for the magazine, followed the pregnancy of Nevin since her second trimester in Gaza last year.

Before the leaflets fell from the sky telling her to evacuate, before all that was left of her home was its western wall, before the food shortages left her baking her own bread, before her daughters slept under a chalkboard in an abandoned kindergarten, before a sniper killed an in-law who was bringing back blankets because it was getting cold — that is, before the war came to Gaza and obliterated most of what she remembered of life there — Nevin Muhaisen, a middle-school teacher and mother of four, was listening to her doctor give her some good news. Nevin, he said, was pregnant.

It was early August last year. Nevin had dressed that morning, put on some makeup and gotten her daughters — Zaina, Lina, Maise and Doa’a — ready for the day. Her husband, Mahmoud, flagged a taxi, and the couple set out from the warren of buildings in her neighborhood in eastern Gaza City to a leafy street near the center of the capital. She looked up at the clinic. The doctor worked most days in Al-Shifa Hospital and had come highly recommended. There was a long wait to see him; the high demand must have been a good sign, Nevin thought. And now, 90 minutes later, she was there with Mahmoud hearing the news. Nevin had been aware she was having another child. But the doctor knew something that even the mother did not. “You’re carrying twins,” he said.

The couple walked down a boulevard in front of the clinic, past the men playing backgammon in the park and the hookah bars where smoke hung heavy in the summer afternoon. She was 36. Mahmoud was 39. Theirs hadn’t been a love story in the romantic sense: Nevin’s two aunts married Mahmoud’s uncles years before, and their families arranged for Nevin and her sister to marry Mahmoud and his brother. But even at their first meeting, she laughed and felt relaxed with Mahmoud. Their life together began in a tiny bedroom in her in-laws’ apartment where the couple lived for two years before they moved into their own home in Shajaiye, the neighborhood where both their families lived. Zaina and Lina, now 14 and 13, came into their lives first, the two girls growing close because just a year separated them. Next came Maise, now 11, who loved order and memorizing the Quran; and then Doa’a, who, though the youngest at 7, was the most stubborn and strong of the sisters.

The couple stopped for some lemonade in a cafe and thought about the new life they would now be bringing into Gaza. Yes, there had been wars after the births of each of her last three children. But it had been close to 10 years since they had needed to evacuate. And what if one of the twins was a son? Or both? They had never had a son. But they were struggling financially, Mahmoud pointed out, especially because of the home they just built. Nevin was about to start work at a new school, and there would be more income, she replied. As one partner expressed doubts, the other resolved them. Nevin assured her husband that she had been a mother four times before and knew everything would be fine. “When God sends a baby, He will handle the rest,” she said. They took a taxi home.

Image

Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (3)
Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (4)

A photograph of the Muhaisen family’s home before the war.

From Nevin Muhaisen

Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (5)

A video of their home in April taken by Mahmoud’s sister who has been monitoring the damage from repeated bombing.

From Nevin Muhaisen

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Pregnant in Gaza With Nowhere to Go (2024)

FAQs

What is really going on in Gaza? ›

The ongoing conflict has devastated the civilian population of Gaza. On October 7, 2023, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups orchestrated a deadly attack on Israel. The horrific attack killed 1,200 people, with over 200 hostages seized and over 100 still unaccounted for.

How many children have died in Gaza? ›

Children in Gaza have been killed and maimed by Israeli forces at an unprecedented rate. More than 13,800 Palestinian children were killed in Gaza, and 33 Israeli children were killed by armed groups in the 7 October attacks.

How to help the people of Gaza? ›

Donate to support AFSC's emergency relief in Gaza: Your donation will bring humanitarian relief and support efforts to stop the violence and build conditions for peace. Support AFSC's advocacy for Palestinian rights.

How does food get into Gaza? ›

Even as international governments and aid agencies try to find air and sea routes for delivering food and supplies to Gaza, experts say land deliveries are still, in theory, the most efficient and cost-effective route.

Why can't you go to Gaza? ›

Do Not Travel To: Gaza due to terrorism and armed conflict.

What does Israel want from Gaza? ›

“Many of us take [Israel's] real objective to be the endless Israeli presence and takeover [of Gaza] and the liquidation of Palestinian presence there,” Rahman said. Israel's goal is to “ethnically cleanse as many Palestinians as possible from Gaza.

Is child marriage legal in Gaza? ›

In the Gaza Strip, the age of consent is 17 for girls and 18 for boys. Under Article 1 of the Palestinian Childhood Law No. 7/2004, a child is defined as anyone below the age of 18, however the law does not explicitly prohibit child marriage. Article 44(8) only prohibits forced marriage but not child marriage.

Is there poverty in Gaza? ›

Two thirds of the population lived in poverty, and 45% of the workforce was unemployed before the beginning of the latest military operation. The ongoing military operation has displaced 85% of Gaza's population, halting economic activities and further worsening poverty and unemployment.

What is the birth rate per woman in Gaza? ›

According to estimates for 2023, the fertility rate in Gaza was 3.38 children per woman.

Are people free to leave Gaza? ›

Israel controls the Gaza Strip's northern borders, as well as its territorial waters and airspace. Egypt controls Gaza Strip's southern border, under an agreement between it and Israel. Neither Israel or Egypt permits free travel from Gaza as both borders are heavily militarily fortified.

What is life like for people in Gaza? ›

Experts have warned that the whole population of Gaza, 2.2 million people, is now at imminent risk of famine. On average, people in Gaza only have access to two to three liters of water per day, a fifth of what is the minimum needed for drinking, cooking, and personal hygiene in an emergency.

Can you adopt a child from Gaza? ›

Intercountry adoptions to the United States from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and from the United States to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are possible.

What foods are banned in Gaza? ›

Food. According to a UN report, importation of lentils, pasta, tomato paste and juice has been restricted. Pasta has since been allowed.

Is chocolate banned in Gaza? ›

It should be noted that Israel permits some of the "prohibited" items into Gaza (for example: paper, biscuits, and chocolate), on the condition that they are for the use of international organizations, while requests from private merchants to purchase them are denied.

Can Jews enter Gaza? ›

Since 2005, Israelis and Jewish settlers are not allowed to travel in and out of Gaza freely. Foreigners are not subject to those restrictions but must obtain permits from Israeli authorities.

What are they fighting for in Gaza? ›

Key aspects of the conflict include the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, borders, security, water rights, the permit regime, Palestinian freedom of movement, and the Palestinian right of return.

Who is attacking on Gaza? ›

Since Israel launched its war on Gaza on October 7, approximately a million Palestinians from Gaza have been sheltering in UNRWA schools, clinics and other public buildings. UNRWA schools and buildings operate beyond capacity to provide shelter to internally displaced Palestinians who have few safe spaces to go to.

Why is there a blockage in Gaza? ›

Israel says the blockade is for its own security, citing repeated Hamas rocket attacks and incursions. But UN experts say the blockade, and intense bombing during five wars on Gaza, amounts to collective punishment on civilians, a war crime under international law.

Do Israelis support the war in Gaza? ›

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 39% of Israelis say Israel's military response against Hamas in Gaza has been about right, while 34% say it has not gone far enough and 19% think it has gone too far.

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