Abu Jawad’s heart breaks daily as he buries the people killed by Israel

Burying the dead isn’t new, but the 64-year-old undertaker is overwhelmed with the sheer scale and horror of the war.

Abu Jawad buries a 14-year-old child shot by an Israeli sniper in Khan Younis

Abubaker Abed reports in AlJazeera on 28 February 2024:

Before October 7, Saadi Hassan Sulieman Baraka, nicknamed Abu Jawad, had a routine.  He would pray the dawn prayer, have dukkah and zaatar with olive oil for breakfast, and then head east of Deir el-Balah to tend to his palm and olive trees. No more.  The 64-year-old is an Islamic undertaker, a job he has done for decades before Israel’s war on Gaza broke out. Now, the Palestinian father of 10 and grandfather of 116 is working long hours, burying more people a day than he would ever have thought possible.

Tranquility lost
Abu Jawad is one of the first residents of Deir el-Balah refugee camp in central Gaza, where he lives in a small house with his wife and 104-year-old mother.  He is a simple, vibrant, generous man known as “Deir el-Balah’s Heartbeat”, and he feels the disruption of his tranquil life very deeply, mentally and physically.

“I’ve lost 30kg (66lb), I’m not able to sleep at night, or eat, after my burials. The images I see are … pure horror. They won’t leave my mind.”  “I’ve buried about 10 times more people during this war than I did across my entire 27 years as an undertaker. The least was 30 people and the most was 800. Since October 7, I’ve buried more than 17,000 people.  “Every day, the cemetery is full of people crying over their beloved’s graves or by their bodies as they wait to be buried,” Abu Jawad said.

“Now, my life is this,” Abu Jawad says. “I work at the cemetery from 6am to 6pm, sometimes longer. I prepare shrouds, build graves, lead funeral prayers, mourn, and bury.  “There are four displaced men from Khan Younis who help me. What we do is voluntary, we’ve been offered money, food, and aid, but we don’t want anything except our reward from God and mercy for the martyrs we bury daily.

“The fact that almost all of our funerals are mass is utterly heartbreaking; most of them included families wiped out. We prepare big family graves in the expectation of a massacre. We only have two cemeteries in Deir el-Balah; one is now completely full, and the other is running out of space.”

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