Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Is suicide a way out?

Raed Shakshak | 06-07-2020

Who hasn’t wanted to commit suicide in Gaza in recent years? Or at least, who hasn’t thought about it? Suicide is the talk of the hour here in Gaza after multiple attempts erupted into the news in the past two days. Some succeeded, some did not. Ever since, I’ve been thinking about my own dark thoughts, particularly in 2017, when I thought I had found a way out.

I had just returned to Gaza from a study-abroad program in the United States. It is no secret that life in Gaza is harsh. We Palestinians struggle on a daily basis, and I personally think the world has become tired of our moaning, so we must suffer in silence. The shock of returning from the abundance of the U.S. to Gaza plunged me into severe depression for two years. It literally felt like I had descended into hell after living in heaven. 

Me in the United States

In the U.S., I felt alive, like a human being with human rights for the first time in my life. I was productive and had so much going on in my life. I found myself wondering how and why I had wasted so much time in Gaza, staying home and doing nothing at all. I figured that when I returned home, it would be different than before. This time, I’d keep very busy. There’s so much to learn and experiences to have, I thought. After alI, I had changed so much as a person during the few months I lived in the U.S. I was more mature and saw the world differently. I was passionate about my future. 

But when I actually returned to Gaza, I was in shock. It had not changed. Everything was exactly the same. And it pulled me down. I quickly became caught as if in the same old quicksand. Soon, it felt as if all the progress I had made abroad had disintegrated. Once again, I wanted to escape my miserable life in this miserable prison called Ghazzeh, but I felt mired in place.

My thoughts grew darker throughout 2017 as depression took over. Meanwhile, I saw the friends I met in the U.S. continue to live comparatively amazing lives. In 2016, we had lived on the same campus. We literally shared everything: gym, classes, parties, events, etc. Why can’t I live like them? Why do they deserve such privileges, while I (and so many others) am treated like I’m not even human? I use my phone in darkness because of the constant power cuts, while reading their posts on social media, living the life I used to live.

In Gaza, most of us just want to GO (out of Gaza)

To me, it seemed (and seems) a terrible injustice. Suicide sometimes invaded my brain as a way out. Tears would seep down my cheeks as I laid in bed, thinking about what would happen next after I killed myself. Who would care? How long would it take my international friends to even realize I was gone? Would anyone on the “outside” mourn for a long time after I was gone? My parents, I knew, would be devastated. They’d be the people I’d hurt the most. Then would come my siblings. I realized I couldn't do that to my parents. The thought of their tears as they sorted through my stuff was the reason I didn’t commit suicide.

I need change just like all Palestinians in Gaza do. Our lives don’t seem to matter; desperate action (like hurling yourself at the Israeli fence during the Great Return March, which was a type of suicide) is all that gets attention. I wonder if a large number of Palestinians committed suicide together, we’d finally force the world to force the Israelis to end our oppression. We’re not truly alive now anyway. But then I remember that despite an avalanche of publicity, all the deaths and maimings that resulted from the Great Return March didn’t result in any change.

Depression has invaded my brain again recently, and I’m still fighting it as I write this essay. I’m mad at everyone and everything. Suicide again seems like an ok option (and no, it doesn’t matter that my religion prohibits it). Gaza is a hopeless, unlivable place in which no one deserves to live. I wouldn’t wish imprisonment here on my worst enemies because that would be inhumane. I realize how my life time is literally going to waste, and I’m not achieving anything. Contributing to We Are Not Numbers is what keeps me going, but even then, it sometimes seems we are shouting into a void. I don’t want to be like the previous generation of Gazans, who are in their 30s now and seeing their chances for careers and otherwise productive lives fade away. Committing suicide is not that significant when your life has already been stolen.

Exhaustion has worn our hopes and dreams. Negativity is eating away at our positivity. Hatred is replacing love. Gray has bled into all colors, including my black hair. Pain is consuming health--all types of health: both the brain and the heart. 

What will Israeli annexation do to Palestine? I am Palestine. What do you think?


Posted: July 6, 2020

Mentor: Pam Bailey

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