Every day, when he buryes the individuals Israel slaughtered, Abu Jawad’s heart hurts

Gaza’s Deir el-Balah Saadi Hassan Sulieman Baraka, also known as Abu Jawad, had a routine prior to October 7. He would offer the dawn prayer, eat breakfast of dukkah and zaatar dripping with olive oil, and then travel eastward from Deir el-Balah to tend to his olive and palm trees. Not anymore. The 64-year-old had been employed as an Islamic undertaker for many years prior to Israel’s invasion of Gaza. The Palestinian grandpa of 116 and father of ten children is now putting in long hours at work and burying more people every day than he ever would have imagined.

 

Known as “Deir el-Balah’s Heartbeat,” he is a straightforward, lively, giving man who feels the upheaval of his peaceful existence profoundly on a mental and bodily level. After my burials, I lost 30 kg (66 lb), could to sleep at night, and could not eat. The pictures that I see are beyond horrific. They are ingrained in my memory.During this conflict, I have buried roughly ten times as many people as I have in my 27 years as an undertaker. There were a maximum of 800 persons and a minimum of 30. I’ve laid to rest more than 17,000 souls since October 7.

 

“People cry over their loved ones’ graves or by their bodies as they wait to be buried every day in the cemetery,” Abu Jawad said. “This is my life right now,” Abu Jawad declares. “I work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the cemetery, occasionally staying later. I make burials, lead funeral prayers, prepare shrouds, grieve, and bury.Four men from Khan Younis who are internally displaced assist me. We have been offered food, money, and assistance, but all we seek is our reward from God and mercy for the martyrs we bury every day. What we do is voluntary.

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