Mohamed “Moe” Hegazy has barely slept for the past month and a half. He has waited 44 days for his family to return from vacation in the Gaza Strip, but they cannot come back to the United States because Hamas, a radical Palestinian faction, seized the region in June.
Hegazy has no timetable for his family’s return – no countdown to a reunion.
“‘Wait, wait, wait,’ that is all they tell me,” said Hegazy, a former engineer who now works as a Realtor. “This is the worst period of my life, and it’s terrible in this big house,” Hegazy said. He seldom leaves his six-bedroom home in Chandler. After avoiding a dangerous trip to the Middle East for 15 years and mourning the deaths of faraway family in Gaza, this summer the Hegazys decided to visit their remaining relatives.
“It couldn’t have been a worse time to go,” Hegazy said.
Hamas violently seized the Gaza Strip, ousting the more-moderate Fatah party, only weeks after the Hegazys arrived June 1. When family members realized they were in danger, Hegazy signed them up for evacuation through the Israeli consulate.
When it came time to evacuate, authorities said that only Hegazy could leave. Hegazy said he chose to leave behind his family because he needed to keep them financially stable.
The consulate evacuated Hegazy on June 25 and told him that his family would soon follow.
“I really sometimes wish that I hadn’t been evacuated,” Hegazy said regretfully. “I think about them one thousand times a day.”
His wife, Sohair, his daughters Somaya, 19, Asma, 18, Israa, 16, and his sons Sohaib, 14, and Mosab, 11, still cannot leave Gaza because the United States government banned contact with Hamas. Hamas is seen as a radical Palestinian faction that refuses acknowledgment of Israel’s legitimacy. Egypt and Israel control Gaza’s borders, rendering the territory isolated.