Then my world literally came crashing down.
I watched my TV, shocked, at the news that the Al-Watan Tower – which houses my design studio office – had been completely destroyed. I was scared and overwhelmed.
For the first few seconds, I could only wonder what I had done to deserve my dream and accomplishments being reduced to rubble in an instant.
Thankfully, ever since the recent escalation of conflict started this weekend, my family – including my wife, three kids, and my two parents – and I are unharmed. But this is sadly not the case for others in Gaza.
I was born and raised in the Gaza Strip, but living in a conflict-ridden area comes with continuous suffering and never-ending challenges. Life here is incredibly unstable.
In 2014, I worked tirelessly to set up my studio, where I design jewellery. I made my business into what essentially functioned as a small museum for my private collection of souvenirs and memories that I had collected from the countries I had travelled to throughout my life.
I wanted to create my own special world where I could cope with the pressures and challenges of life in Gaza. And I wanted it to be in a landmark building for homes and businesses – the Al-Watan Tower – in the centre of Gaza City.
It was my workplace and where I earned income for my family, but it was also a safe haven. So watching it on TV literally crumble to the ground was horrendous.
Losing it was not just a devastating material loss and substantial cost, but also felt like the destruction of a life that I was trying to build.
I feel like all those precious memories and emotions, my own place, and my world – are lost. In a moment, an Israeli bomb turned it into a mountain of rubble.
The desolation didn’t stop there. My family and I had to move around to try and stay safe.
We’ve also seen neighbourhood after neighbourhood struck. Thankfully, we’re surviving. Many haven’t.
In all the chaos and horror, I haven’t been able to go back to where my studio once stood because of the non-stop explosions around us. It is extremely dangerous to move in the streets because some homes and buildings are hit without warning and we never know what to expect.
There are hardly any words to describe how I feel. It is exceptionally horrifying and awful, overwhelmingly emotional and incredibly frustrating. There is nowhere to go.
Even writing out my words has been so difficult. I haven’t been able to process the loss of my studio, my neighbourhood, and my world around me. There is not a moment of peace and the nights are most horrible.
As I’m writing this, at least 1,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip and over 5,000 injured. Israel has left us without water, food, electricity. It is unimaginable to be put through this horror and know the situation will only get more desperate.
It is unjust to prevent basic supplies just to survive to civilians. We are being suffocated and cut off from the world.
As a result, we might lose contact with our friends and family, not to mention the world outside of Gaza.
I’m a designer and an architect. My passion is in building and creating. To look around and see only destruction and rubble is unimaginable.
We don’t know what the future holds and what our communities will look like when we have to rebuild. And first we need to worry about now because we don’t know if we will be safe and together tomorrow.
The level of loss is huge and painful. But we will rise again from under the ash and rubble. I want to rebuild my studio and recreate my dream in spite of all challenges and difficulties.
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Platform is the home of Metro.co.uk's first-person and opinion pieces, devoted to giving a platform to underheard and underrepresented voices in the media.
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We still have hope – and it is the only tool we have to survive in our land and under these conditions.
We ask all the free people in the world to support us, speak out for us and against injustice, and stand with the innocent people.
We deserve the right to lead normal lives. We deserve the right to live.
Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing James.Besanvalle@metro.co.uk.
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