During the 11-day brutal Israeli offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinian people lost families members and relatives and thousands losts their homes and businesses, and they became jobless.
“I am left with nothing,” Ramadan al Njeli, a Palestine refugee who lives in Gaza said, “but thanks to God that I am still alive and that’s enough to start over.”
Ramadan lost his printing and advertising company when Kuhail building in central Gaza City was completely destroyed in an Israeli airstrike. “My business was not just my source of income, my life’s dream,” he says.
Ramadan’s struggle to achieve his dream is no different than the stories of others with a clear vision of the future within context of the blockaded Gaza Strip.
“At university, I always wanted to be a programmer and to that end, I studied computer engineering and paid extra attention to programming Courses. But it’s never easy in Gaza,” he said.
“My father lost his job in 2007 due to the blockade imposed on Gaza, so that, I had to work to continue my university studies. I never let despair seep into my life. I worked with a printing company where I learned the basics of designing and printing.”
Determination, commitment and vision are all Ramadan needed to make his head start. He used all the knowledge and potential he had honed in university to establish his first career milestone: starting his own business.
“I always liked sculpture and when I worked at a printing company, I found that I could pair my knowledge in computer programming with my love for sculpture to start up my own company of printing and advertising,” he said.
From the first time he recognised his potential to the moment his business took off, Ramadan narrated his journey, holding on to the remains of his company’s products that he salvaged from the rubble.
He couldn’t hold back the tears in his eyes. He recalls every detail, set back and challenge he has faced since launching his career in 2010 to the moment the Israeli missile struck Kuhail building.
“I used to sleep in the office to save on transportation money. During the Israeli offensive in 2014, I was in severe debt and was about to lose my business, but I remained focused and started again.
“I have spared no time or effort in my quest to succeed. The word impossible is not in my dictionary. And because of this, I’ve been engaged in a continuous learning process.
“Whenever I find a new printing technique, I studied it until I became an expert. I spent days and nights crafting a design or adjusting raw materials for certain printing techniques. Even during the COVID-19 related pandemic measures, I adapted my deliverables to meet the demands of my clients.”
On his determination, he said: “I like to remember these moments when I am on the brink of success. It reminds me that I am strong and capable enough to start again and again as long as I live. No matter how many times I fall, I’ll start again.”
The 2020 was the first year Ramadan felt a sense of stability with his business. He was finally able to garner regular income from his projects. His unique brand was getting recognised and his business was free of debt for the first time since 2010.
Just days before the start of the last Israeli offensive on the besieged Gaza Strip, Ramadan was preparing a package of printed products.
“When the building was levelled to the ground, it was not rocks that were crushed and turned to dust and rubble - it was my dreams, my passion, my future, my source of income, my past and every moment I spent to get here - to my dream.”