From ‘tent life’ to soccer matches, creators in Gaza share glimpses of daily life during war

Medo Halimy posts videos that are akin to other eye-catching day-in-the-life content on TikTok. But instead of recording from a college dorm or a summer vacation like other 19-year-olds, Halimy is documenting his “tent life” in Gaza to 100,000 followers.

Halimy and a handful of other Gazan youths are using social media to share the moments of respite they experience despite deadly conditions and limited internet access. From organizing soccer matches to recording cooking tutorials, creators in Gaza have used daily vlogs to share a different perspective on what living in a war zone is like.

Creators like Halimy and Mohamed Al Khalidil and the duo Omar Shareed and Mohammed Herzallah have garnered substantial followings with their vlogs on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. They show how they work, do chores, secure food and manage boredom while having access to limited resources. 

Medo Halimy.@medohalimy via TikTok

Their vlogs give an alternative view of survival in Gaza that is personal and more algorithm-friendly compared to more graphic content that social media users have been more accustomed to seeing. 

“I’m showing that us Palestinians are very resilient,” Halimy said in a WhatsApp voice message. “We’re going to survive and live no matter what happens, in whatever circumstances. We can’t be defeated. We’re very strong people, and we’re going to live no matter what.”

Over the past eight months, social media users have seen numerous posts of destroyed buildings, injured civilians in hospitals and dead bodies following airstrikes. Local journalists and content creators in Gaza have become go-to sources via their Instagram pages for on-the-ground updates. But such photos and videos are often flagged as graphic or sensitive, which can often result in the content’s being limited or removed on Instagram and TikTok. Some have said in their videos that they’ve created backup accounts in case their pages get removed. 

Halimy said that he has noticed other people in Gaza have started vlogs “to show the world what our life really looks like.” 

“I don’t believe media shows all the parts of our life,” he said. 

Halimy said that he has always loved making content but that he didn’t imagine he’d be doing so under these circumstances.

“It’s actually really difficult to do the thing I’m doing, to film,” he said. “It’s very difficult to find Wi-Fi, enough to upload videos. Every day I upload videos I literally stay up until 4 a.m. in the morning so that I get my video uploaded, and I pay a lot of money. Every time I post a video, I pay about $3, which is a lot here.”

The cost of necessities such as food and vessels for water has skyrocketed as the war has continued. NBC News has reported that a kilo of green peppers could cost up to $90. Vloggers Shareed and Herzallah also said in a recent video that the price of flour was “going insane.”

Brooke Erin Duffy, a social media researcher and associate professor of communication at Cornell University, said in an email that creators may “gravitate toward less polarizing content” because of “the punitive nature of platforms’ algorithms.”

Duffy said vlogs give a “more complex view of daily experiences” compared to still images. 

“The rise of short-form video platforms has brought more relatable and nuanced depictions of everyday life,” she said. 

Shareed and Herzallah have posted Instagram Reels of themselves organizing soccer matches, connecting others to the internet via eSIMs, picking up flour to make bread and venturing out to find hot chocolate at the market. Those small moments of normalcy — depicted in daily video diaries set against the backdrop of destruction — have captivated their 1.5 million followers. The duo didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Phil Ranta, chief operating officer of the digital media content house and talent management firm Fixated, said people can become desensitized to various statistics about the death, injury and destruction in Gaza. 

News reports can feel “distanced and impersonal,” Ranta said. In contrast, vlogs from Gaza creators are effective on social media because they are familiar to Western audiences.

“People that are watching this go, ‘Oh, this is you and me. This is my friend. This is my friends’ kid. This is like the vloggers that I know and watch on a regular basis, except it’s against this horrific backdrop of people struggling in their day-to-day,’” Ranta said.

Vlogs feel like a “one-on-one conversation” between creators and audiences, he said, because they can “give voice to a lot of the voiceless.” As vlogging has become more popular in the past decade, marginalized communities have used the video format to express and discuss shared issues. 

“These are still humans trying to have a life,” Ranta said. “Their life doesn’t stop when they are in a war zone. They still want to have fun. They still want to eat food. They still want to take care of people. So being able to just see that perspective, I feel like it’s just a more resonant way to experience a war.”

For many viewers, vlogs from Gazan creators represent resilience and hope despite the ongoing war. Al Khalidi wrote in the bio of his Instagram account, which has 1 million followers, that he is trying to “smile despite the suffering.” He has posted videos cooking, filling up water jugs and spending time with his family. He didn’t respond to a request for comment.

These are still humans trying to have a life. Their life doesn’t stop when they are in a war zone. They still want to have fun. They still want to eat food. They still want to take care of people.

-Phil Ranta, chief operating officer of the digital media content house and talent management firm Fixated

But these vloggers aren’t immune to the realities of living in a war zone. Al Khalidi recently posted a Reel saying his brother had been shot and killed by Israeli forces, which was flagged for graphic and sensitive content. Meanwhile, Shareed and Herzallah have posted about narrowly missing a bombing — though NBC News was unable to independently confirm that. They also refrained from posting a vlog this month after the deadly airstrike on the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza and instead posted a video to draw attention to it.  

Because of their lighthearted content, Halimy and Shareed and Herzallah have received and addressed comments questioning whether they’re actually experiencing hardships during war. Halimy said people assume he has a “good life” because of his positive attitude, but he said that’s not the case. Meanwhile, Shareed and Herzallah responded to such questions in a recent video, saying, “The genocide is real, and the pain is real.” 

Social media has become a tool to help people in Gaza raise awareness about what they are experiencing and to escape the war zone. Influencers and content creators have been integral in helping families in Gaza raise money to evacuate. Through their own pages, Gazan creators have been able to direct more attention to their own evacuation fundraisers. Halimy, Al Khalidil, and Shareed and Herzallah all have GoFundMe campaigns linked to their pages.

Ranta said the creators’ decisions to make content with Western-style video editing and using English can help in appealing for “international relief.”

Some viewers have criticized the vloggers, pointing to their content as evidence that life in Gaza is fine. The creators have responded to such comments by explaining that their videos show only small parts of their days.

“I think people misunderstand the fact that we’re actually struggling,” Halimy said when he was asked about some of the comments under his vlogs. “They see me having fun in a 50-second video, a minute-long video, and they forget the whole day of struggles that I don’t show to them.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.