A Fish Out of Water: Gaza’s First Fisherwoman | Gaza

Filmmaker: Mohamed Harb 

Madeleine Kolab always had a strong relationship with the sea. She grew up swimming and helping her father in the family’s fishing business, while dreaming of a career as fashion designer. But the life of the Gazan teenager changed dramatically when her father was attacked by an Israeli patrol boat in 2009.

“I would always go to the sea with my father to play and swim. As I grew older, my relationship with the sea turned from being a game to a part of my life. My dreams were swept away by the waves and became broken ones,” she says.

Due to Israel’s ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, fishermen are struggling to make ends meet. Under the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Gaza offshore fishing limit was set at 37 kilometres. But over the following 23 years, Israel gradually reduced this to as little as five kilometres at one point. The fishing limit is enforced by Israeli gunboats, so fishing in Gaza has become a risky business.

As the eldest of three children and with no other source of income, Madeleine felt obliged to become the sole family breadwinner after her father was badly injured in the gunboat attack – a challenge she now takes great pride in.

I am very happy with my work and feel relaxed when I am on the sea. The days I go to sea, I feel safe, although it’s a tiring job and a big responsibility.

Madeleine Kolab, Gaza’s first fisherwoman

“When my father fell ill, the doctors said he couldn’t be exposed to seawater, the cold or the wind anymore,” says Madeleine.

“There was no other choice for me but to take his place. I manage the money and go sea fishing. That was difficult for both of us. I didn’t know what to expect but I had to rely on myself. I didn’t want him to feel he had to go to sea or start begging. I wanted him to feel he could depend on someone. I pushed myself and overcame my fear. My challenge was to make my father proud of me.”

Madeleine is 22 now but she took over the family fishing business at the age of…

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