Palestinians in Gaza turn to sports as coping mechanism amid Israeli onslaught

Palestinians in Gaza turn to sports as coping mechanism amid Israeli onslaught
Palestinians in Gaza are turning to sports as a means to cope with the psychological challenges posed by the ongoing Israeli aggression on the enclave.
3 min read
02 January, 2024
Weeks after the start of Israel's war on Gaza, many young Palestinians try to find some sense of normality through sports [GETTY]

Despite the ongoing Israeli aggression on Gaza, some Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have found their way into sports as a coping mechanism to release stress resulting from the unprecedented dire situation that they have been suffering for more than three months.

Football, running, riding bicycles, and swimming are among the sports that have seen a significant turnout from Palestinians, mainly those who were displaced from their houses because of the ongoing Israeli air strikes. 

"Because of the war, we have suffered from psychological problems, which increase the quarrels between people," Mohammed Shamali, a Gaza-based displaced young man told The New Arab

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At least four displaced families gather and live in a small space, such as a classroom in a school, a temporary tent, or even a house, after escaping Israeli attacks in their neighbourhoods.

Meanwhile, the locals can hardly cope with their dire situation amid a high demand and very low supply of food, water, medicine, electricity, and all their necessities.

"As a result, the people are getting into fights over goods," Shamali said, "So I decided to get rid of negative power through jogging every day in the streets of Rafah city in the south of Gaza." 

Running for 45 minutes is enough to make Shamali calmer and more in control of his emotions, he said, adding: "None of us can change the current situation. We are forced to deal with it so I am doing my best to keep myself far away from the pressures to resume as much of normality in my life as I can."

Ismail Abu Nada, a Rafah-based displaced man, also told TNA he was adopting the same approach by practising football with his cousins and brothers twice a week to have some fun amid the conflict between Hamas and Israel. 

"Playing football makes me forget the war for some time [...] This lets me cling to life more and I hope that the war will end soon so that we can regain our normal lives," Abu Nada, who is in his 40s, tells The New Arab. 

"Not only the children negatively affected by the war, but also the young people suffer from the psychological pressure. So, we need to practice sports to get rid of our negative energy," Abu Nada said.

Palestinians in the war-torn-impoverished Gaza Strip have been living under Israeli aggression for more than 86 days in a row, after Hamas carried out a military operation at the Israeli towns adjacent to Gaza on October 7.

Since then, Israel launched its large-scale bloody war, killing at least 22,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and wounding more than 60,000 others, according to the Gaza-based Palestinian health ministry.

Those who survived the brutal onslaught are left with psychological scars and mental health repercussions, particularly children - many of whom had lost members of their families.

Psychologist Fadel Abu Hain tells TNA that many will have even more severe shocks and will require treatment.

"Practicing sports can relieve some psychological pressures, but the local population needs psychological treatment after the war to overcome its negative psychological effects that will accompany them for a long time," he said.