RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Using two fans he picked up from a scrap market and rigged to some wires, teenager Hussam Al-Attar has created his own source of electricity to light up the tent where he and his family are living after being displaced by Israel’s assault on Gaza.
In recognition of his ingenuity, people in the surrounding tent camp have given him a nickname: Gaza’s Newton.
“They started calling me Gaza’s Newton due to the similarity between me and Newton,” said Al-Attar, who looks and sounds young for his 15 years.
“Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head and he discovered gravity. And we here are living in darkness and tragedy, and rockets are falling on us, therefore I thought of creating light, and did so.”
English scientist Isaac Newton, who made immense advances in physics, mathematics and astronomy in the late 17th and early 18th century, stands out in the popular imagination due to the story of the apple.
More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are now crammed into Rafah, on the southern edge of the strip by the fence separating it from Egypt.
The Al-Attar family have attached their tent to the flank of a one-story house, allowing Hussam to climb onto the roof and set up his two fans, one above the other, to act as tiny wind turbines capable of charging batteries.
He then connected the fans to wires traveling down through the house, and used switches, lightbulbs and a thin piece of plywood extending out into the tent to create a bespoke lighting system for his family.
He said his first two attempts failed and it took him a while to develop the system until he got it to work on the third try.
“I started developing it further, bit by bit, until I was able to extend the wires through the room to the tent that we are living in, so that the tent will have light,” he said.
“I was very happy that I was able to make this, because I eased the suffering of my family, my mother, my sick father, and my brother’s young children, and everyone here who is suffering from the conditions that we live in during this war.”
The war was triggered by militants from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas who invaded southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253, according to Israel.
Vowing to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, Israel has responded with an all-out military assault on Gaza that has killed more than 27,000 people, according to local health officials, and caused mass displacement and hunger.
Amid the despair, Al-Attar was still holding on to his dreams and ambitions.
“I am very happy that people in this camp call me Gaza’s Newton, because I hope to achieve my dream of becoming a scientist like Newton and creating an invention that will benefit not only the people of the Gaza Strip but the whole world.”