The night casts a gloomy and cold shadow over the lives of hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans in shelters (Al Jazeera)

GAZA – For more than 40 years, the phrase "school is my second home" has been associated with the septuagenarian Shehdeh Abu Zureik, a retired school principal who never imagined that it would become his first home, and he was forced to flee his home in the town of Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, and currently lives with 34 of his children and grandchildren in a public school in the southern city of Rafah.

On the morning of the second day of the battle of "Al-Aqsa Flood" on the seventh of last month, Abu Zureik fled his family from the town of Beit Hanoun, adjacent to the Israeli security fence, to a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the vicinity of the Indonesian hospital in the neighboring town of Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip.

"The earthquake of the heart of my life," so describes Abu Zureik (71 years old) for Al Jazeera Net, the impact of the Israeli aggression on him and his family, and they have become homeless and homeless, where he received the massive destruction suffered by the town of Beit Hanoun, from his home and farm.

Shehdeh Abu Zureik spent 40 years as a teacher and principal, and the Israeli aggression turned him into a displaced person living in schools (Al-Jazeera)

Shelter School

Abu Zureik and his family stayed at the Beit Lahia school for 43 days, and despite the intensity of the Israeli air strikes that targeted the vicinity of the Indonesian hospital and ended with its subsequent storming, this septuagenarian displaced person did not leave the school until after a bombing directly targeted it, and says that "divine providence saved the lives of 3,<> displaced people, most of whom are women and children."

From the far north of the Gaza Strip to the far south, Abu Zreik decided to flee his family to the city of Rafah, which he did not find room in UNRWA schools, so he took the initiative with other families to open the Doha Secondary School, where they were the first displaced before dozens of other families arrived.

The Abu Zureik family abandoned their modern private car, which had been purchased for less than three months, and left it on the street, and took buggy to the nearest permissible point before walking for about 3 kilometers, through the "Martyrs' Junction," where Israeli tanks are stationed on the main Salah al-Din road connecting the north and south of the Gaza Strip.

In the Science Lab, with an area of no more than 25 square meters, these beds are stacked on only 4 mattresses, Abu Zureik says that they have to share a number of children in one mattress to sleep wide rather than longitudinally, while adults sleep alternately and each two people on one mattress opposite each other, so that the head of one is at the feet of the other.

Abu Zreik gained extensive experience in school management over four decades, but not including the experience of running a school that has turned into a displacement center that lacks the most basic necessities of life, and the suffering of displaced people increases at night in very cold winter weather.

Shehdeh Abu Zureik was unable to provide winter clothes for his grandchildren to protect them from the extreme cold during the night (Al-Jazeera)

Non-stop suffering

The displaced people in this school look with great respect to Abu Zureik, who finds this a great responsibility placed on his shoulders, so he wakes up early for dawn prayers, and begins his volunteer work in following up on the affairs of his family and the displaced, and containing any quarrels before they turn into problems caused by the psychological pressure that the displaced live due to their harsh living conditions.

Abu Zureik's efforts did not succeed in maintaining his daily routine before the outbreak of the war, as he slept early, woke up at two o'clock in the morning to pray at night, then set off to a mosque adjacent to his house to perform dawn, and stayed there until sunrise, and returned home and slept until nine in the morning, where he begins his day by teaching his grandchildren their homework, and memorizing the Holy Quran.

In the shelter, the septuagenarian man's life was turned "upside down", and he missed many of his daily habits, his borrowed teeth were damaged, and with great difficulty he managed to fix them so that he could chew on the little food available.

These burdens increase at night – according to Abu Zureik – who says, "The night is prolonged, sleep is non-existent, and the heart trembles from the severity of the cold, and during one of its nights, the spirit of a displaced woman overflowed and left behind children," expressing his fear of the outbreak of deadly epidemics if the displacement period is prolonged and the winter intensifies, due to severe overcrowding and the lack of health care and vital facilities, and resorting to lighting a fire from plastic materials for heating and cooking.

As evening fells, this school looks like a "cemetery", according to Abu Zureik's description, where sadness and darkness are overshadowed, and the cold kills children and women inside the rooms, who join each other in the hope of gaining some warmth, while men gather in rings scattered here and there around fires they light from some book papers and tree branches planted in the school.

IDPs fear the spread of epidemics and diseases as a result of overcrowding, cold and lack of vital facilities (Al Jazeera)

When thousands of Gazans were displaced from the northern Gaza Strip, whether because the weather was sunny or because the occupation did not give them enough time to bring their belongings and winter clothes, they did not realize that their displacement would be prolonged and winter would cast a heavy shadow on them.

Abu Zureik himself had a personal experience when he returned from the market with empty hands and did not find heavy pants for his grandchildren, who have disturbing dreams during the night, and now suffer from night urination, due to extreme fear and cold.

Among the Abu Zureik family, there are 5 women and 12 girls, and this septuagenarian man, who grew up with strict customs and traditions that respect women's privacy, says that their suffering is double that of men, and in many aspects you cannot even express it in words.

In a few words, Abu Zreik found an intense expression of the suffering of displaced women in shelters, saying "clothes and tongue chained," and was silent for a moment before continuing with a few more words, "Here the woman has completely lost her femininity."

In order to enter the bathroom, or get a chance to take a shower, women in shelters need complicated procedures, a lot of preparation, and seek help from other women who alternate the role of providing each other with safety and some "temporary and quick" privacy.

Night turns shelters into what displaced people describe as dark, frightening and cold graves (Al Jazeera)

From the benches of the Faculty of Science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, where Yahya, one of Abu Zureik's 21-year-old grandsons, studies physics, to displacement in the science lab in a shelter, this young man is very worried about his future, with the enormous destruction of Gaza's universities, and he knows nothing about the fate of his university.

Yahya suffers from pain as a result of surgery in his leg, intensifying with extreme cold during the night, without finding a cloth to warm his leg, and says to Al Jazeera Net, has smiled on his lips a sense of oppression "Our lives have become upside down, homes and universities destroyed, and wood seats study fuel for fire, and schools for shelter and education in the wind."

Source : Al Jazeera