During the Israeli blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip for more than four years, Palestinians found alternatives for cement and steel: sand and clay. Using these two things were the only way they could finish construction projects that had been stopped after steel rods and cement were banned from importation into Gaza. Dr. Hashem el-Farra built a very beautiful house from sand, and topped it with red brick and paint.
“Israel’s blockade caused a shortage in cement and steel supplies and forbade their delivery unless it was for the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, so we had to find an alternative to be able to continue our lives. Engineers have thought about building houses and projects from the sand,” al-Farra said. And el-Farra is not alone. The Beit Lahia Police Department recently inaugurated its new headquarters, a building made of sand and clay. Israeli warplanes had destroyed the old facility.
An officer in the Beit Lahia police department said that everything is back to normal for the force. “The challenge is an important means of resistance,” he said. In addition to building with sand and clay, many resorted to small clay cooking stoves, which many years ago were common but were made obsolete by more modern stoves.
Imad Khalidi is one of the first people to have thought about architectural alternatives as ways to deal with the blockade. “Within four years, a whole generation will be ready for marriage, but there are no potentials such as providing an apartment or a house or even a room for the newlyweds … the situation of these young people, as well as of those who lost their houses in the last war that was waged by Israel on Gaza in 2008, prompted me to think seriously about an alternative.
“We have a great wealth of sand and clay that can be exploited in a practical and very useful way and can last for hundreds of years, and this is what our ancestors have used,” Khalidi said. “I started designing the first house of sand and clay, which was welcomed by the delegates from the European Union and international institutions, and then I obtained the patented on this invention.”
The Gaza Strip was isolated after Israel imposed a tough blockade when three factions, including Hamas, which had seized control of Gaza in June 2007, attacked an Israeli army camp, killing five soldiers and capturing a sixth one. Israel then targeted Gaza with a series of air raids and invaded the northern region of the strip; 185 Palestinians died in the conflict.
In another show of creativity and defiance, Palestinians stacked sand bags to create a wonderful architectural work of art and defy the blockade and poverty. Khalidi said that such projects can solve the housing crisis that many generations have suffered over the years, adding that needs have increased after the destruction of about 8,000 thousand. Other examples of projects in the Gaza Strip include powering homes with solar energy, building a “Formula One” car from wrecked cars.
Translated from Arabic by Sarah Sfeir
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