Instagram Provides a View of GazaIn June 2007, Israel began a strict land, sea and air blockade of Gaza. Nearly two million people live locked inside, the borders rigorously controlled. The movement of goods and humans are harshly restricted, and for as much as 72 percent of the population, food supplies are uncertain. 41 percent are unemployed. Hospitals must rely on generators to maintain life-saving equipment, and their stock of medicine dwindles dangerously. Drinking water is in danger of running out if the highly-taxed desalinization plants break down.

Through the camera lenses of two Palestinian women, Instagram provides a view of Gaza that few outsiders are allowed to see. Though forbidden to leave Gaza, Kholoud Nassar and Fatma Mosabah are Instagram celebrities by showing the world there is more to Gaza than the war. Each woman has over 100,000 Instagram followers. Through images captured by Nassar and Mosabah on their cell phones, Instagram provides a view of Gaza to those who live outside its restrictive borders. The people of Gaza, locked inside a land mass the approximate size of Philadelphia, recognize Nassar and Mosabah several times a day,

Israel guards Gaza’s borders to the east and north by Israel, Egypt to the south and the Mediterranean Sea to the west. Gazans must obtain permission to leave the area. Neither Nassar nor Mosabah has left Gaza in over 10 years. Also, Israel denies tourists permission to visit Gaza. The rest of the world can only imagine what life is like inside the heavily guarded strip. Since 2008, three wars have played out between Hamas and Israel. For most, the mention of Gaza conjures visions of devastation, poverty and suffering.

Although Gazans receive just a short period of electricity each day, social media sites are remarkably popular. Palestinian Social Media Club president Ali Bkheet calculates that approximately 50 percent of Gazans have Facebook accounts. The number utilizing Twitter and Instagram are significantly smaller.

According to Bkheet, the decade-long Israeli blockade makes Gazans particularly enthusiastic to use social media to express themselves and narrate the story of Gaza.

Rather than using text to educate outsiders about life in Gaza, Kholoud Nassar and Fatma Mosabah depict the people and the beauty of their homeland through pictures. Instagram’s focus on photos over text and political debates enables the two women to show a different side of Gaza that exists behind the Israeli-built steel mesh fence.

Heather Hopkins

Photo: Google