Documentary filmmaker Jezza Neumann writes about his experiences while making The Children of Gaza.
As my last trip drew to a close it was hard saying goodbye to the children who'd opened their hearts and minds to me and my assistant producer, Khalid.
Whilst at Erez waiting for security clearance I had a chance to reflect on my time in Gaza. I'd first arrived shortly after the war to a population in shock. The first seven days were spent meeting NGOs and families hearing story after story, tragedy after tragedy with the odd glimmer of hope.
It was during this process that Khalid and I met the four children featured in our documentary. During my time in Gaza all the families opened their homes to us affording me a special insight into life in the Gaza strip. I was invited to eat with the families and spend time with them on Fridays creating a bond between them and us. I also went to the Mosque with Mahmoud and spent time at all the children's schools.
I was there to witness the sadness in their lives – Omsyatte's first trip to her brother's grave, Amal and Mahmoud wandering around their destroyed home looking for scraps of happy memories, and Ibraheem's agony as his father's boat was destroyed. But I was also there to witness a few moments of happiness – Omsyatte taking part in a kite flying world record attempt, Ibraheem the day his boat sailed again, and Amal and Mahmoud when they went to a UN summer camp.
The children have began to move on as best they can and try to put the memories of the war behind them but their daily life is filled with constant reminders. Much of Gaza still lies in a pile of sand and rubble. The winter rains have meant leaks and floods for Omsyatte and Amal's families and the blockade means that many goods are hard to come by. Currently in Gaza there is a shortage of cooking gas. Power cuts are also commonplace making it very difficult to study at night.
For Ibraheem and his family the navy remains a constant threat. On one occasion, while we were filming in a small boat, the navy came close and the fear across our boatman's face was clear to see as we headed as fast as he could back to the beach.
Before I left Gaza I organised a BBQ at Omsyatte's tent for all the children. We drove all the families there and a great day was had playing football and eating shwarma. It was the first time I've ever had all the contributors in a film together at one time and it was a wonderful experience, one I will always treasure.
Back at Erez, within 15 minutes I was granted my clearance and I left. I'm lucky, I pretty much went when I liked where I liked. Khalid and the children however are stuck in Gaza with little hope of experiencing a freedom in life I so often take for granted.
How You Can Help
To donate to the children in this film, and for information on how to help them and others, please visit this website http://childrenofgazafund.org/