• 22 Jul, 2024

Palestinian women and girls rely on this protective garment to survive the most difficult times of Israel's war on Gaza.


Al-Fukhari, Gaza Strip - It is a garment that the world has perhaps become accustomed to seeing Palestinian women in Gaza wear when they flee for their lives, hold their children or murdered loved ones in their arms for a final goodbye, or rush frantically into hospital corridors to run. in the hope of finding their loved ones injured rather than dead.

Muslim women will recognize it as a prayer cover-up known as "Isdal" or "Toub Salah", and it is what women and girls have around them in times more difficult than the current war of Israel against Gaza has provoked.

An isdal may consist of a single piece covering the entire body except the face, or two pieces with a skirt and veil covering the wearer beyond the hips. The home of every practicing Muslim woman has at least one essential element.

In addition to prayer time, a veiled woman can wear it to open the door when male guests arrive unannounced – or even if they are simply running around the corner to buy something or go out to chat with a neighbor.
A comrade in wartime

The isdal is a convenient item to throw over a woman's clothes when she needs to leave the house in a hurry and remain modest.

But during the war, Palestinian women wear it 24 hours a day, at home or outside, while sleeping or awake, because they have no idea when a bomb will hit their house and they will have to flee, or worse.

“If we die when our home is bombed, we want to maintain our dignity and modesty. If we are bombed and have to be rescued from the rubble, we don't want to be rescued without wearing anything,” says Sarah Assaad (44). Sarah lived in Zeitoun, east of Gaza City, and was transferred to al-Fukhari school with her three daughters and two sons, all teenagers.

She adds that the Isdal is carried 24 hours a day by frightened women and girls from the school, which is full of displaced people.

“I have three, my daughters each have at least one. We have become accustomed to it over the past 17 years of various Israeli attacks. When the first rocket hits Gaza, we will put on our Isdals. »

Raeda Hassan, 56, from eastern Khan Younis, says she has kept her Isdal close throughout the many wars Gaza has endured, to the point that she adds, that she doesn't sometimes doesn't like seeing it, because it reminds him of violence.

"The first thing I'll do after the war is get rid of this one and buy another one so I don't remember the suffering of the war," Raeda said, pointing to her Isdal.

She is also at school with her daughters and daughters-in-law, who are also wearing their Isdals.

Sarah says Isdalen were so ubiquitous that girls too young to pray or wear the veil still demanded that their mothers buy them Isdalen.

The girls from Sahar Akar are only four and five years old, but they wanted Isdals so they could look like their cousins ​​and the older girls they see around them.

Sahar, 28, fled with his family from Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip. “You never know what could happen.”

Raeda thought for a moment, then exclaimed, "I don't know where the idea that we're ready to be bombed comes from."

“First of all, what does this mean? Ready to see your home, your history, and your memories destroyed? Who the hell is to say you should prepare for this?

“We don't know where the bombs will fall or which house will be destroyed anyway. Let's keep this isdal so we can run out and find our children if they wander too far. We wear it when we run to the neighbors' houses to see if everything is okay after a bombing.

“If I see my daughters or any of the women in the family without the usual, I tell them to wear it, you never know what can happen.”

Raeda's 16-year-old daughter, Salma, sits nearby, nodding vigorously and dressed in her usual. She remembers the day in early September when she and her mother went to the Shujayea market and saw a "cute" visual that couldn't be missed, and Raeda bought it for her.

“I love it and I love wearing it because it reminds me of that day when we walked through the market and had so much fun,” she adds. “When we escaped I was wearing trousers and a t-shirt, but I brought my usual with me so I could pray. When we got here and I saw how crowded it was and how every woman was wearing an isdal, I thought I should keep mine on at all times.

“It's sad because prayer coverings also have happy associations: a fresh, new, colorful veil for Eid prayers, even a hastily put-on isdal to wait for your children to jump off the school bus and tell you about their day. It's all ruined,” Salma continues.

For many other women who spoke to Voice of Urdu, the isdal brings mixed emotions as a symbol of panic on the streets, but also of quiet moments of prayer and reflection. In times of war, the simple act of covering one's head carries a deep weight of pain.