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

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

Palestine in colors

Mohamed Shurrab | 10-12-2020

My country’s flag tells our story in colors. Green, black, red and white—each reflects myriad Palestinian stories, experiences that have made us who we are and who we can become.


Green used to be the dominant color everywhere in my beloved country. It is the favorite color of farmers, the color of harvest. It signifies hard work but also bounty and rest. Sadly, the green was stolen from our land. The Israeli occupation uprooted the swaths of olive trees, replacing them with settlements—our beautiful green memories turned to gray concrete. 

I was only 5 years old when Israel launched the first of its three major wars on Gaza in 2008, now commonly called the Gaza Massacre (and Operation “Protective” Edge by the Israelis). It lasted for three weeks and resulted in the deaths of 1,417 Palestinians.

On the third day, I was engrossed in play with my superhero figures when a silence seemed to envelope the entire neighborhood. It was the calm before the storm. A sharp sound suddenly rent the air, shaking our home like a jellyfish. My green, muscular Hulk toy hit the ground. It was an Israeli airstrike. My sisters rushed to the balcony to see where the rocket had landed this time. It wasn’t the first, but it was the closest. I jumped on my mother's lap, asking her what happened, though I realize now that nothing could truly explain our lives. Tears streamed down her face like a river and fear was in her eyes. 

"Bad people bombed our neighbors’ home," she wailed. "What kind of people would kill and bomb?” 

I thought to myself, “If The Hulk was real, he would never allow that."

The smoke rose outside our window, tracing a trail from the rubble that produced it. I hate the rubble for burying our childhood. Our daily conversations are about war, the blockade and sanctions. We’ve seen our friends killed, taken before their time.

In the 2008 war, the occupation forces killed 400 kids in less than a month. I grieve for every single life that was taken. But I believe those of us who are still alive have something to fight for: our future. 


Black symbolizes elegance--and also oppression, destruction and ashes. Israeli forces hit us again in 2012, the shortest of the wars, but no less destructive in its own way

I was 10. I’d gone to buy bread for lunch and was on my way home. There had been rumors a new war was about to start, so I tried to walk quickly. Suddenly, a warplane dropped a warning rocket—hitting 5 to 10 minutes before the “serious” strike, supposedly serving as a merciful notice to leave your home. The plane was blurry to my sight, but the rocket was clear enough to see. My face went pale and my eyes wide. The adrenalin in my body overcame my shock, allowing me to run home fast, the way The Flash does. I opened the door to see my family waiting for me, praying that the peace of God was upon me. They hugged me tightly.

I stayed home for the duration of the war, but I was traumatized nonetheless. For two weeks, I lost passion for everything, even drawing, my favorite hobby. I felt gloomy, depressed and lifeless. The war lasted for one week, but its pain lasted so much longer. Still, we had something to fight for: our future.   


Red is the color of blood, also known as the shaheeds’ (martyrs') blood. Our history is drenched with it. But if we must die for others to live, let our death be an act of worship. You can guess what happened next, can’t you? 2014 and another new war, more epic and devastating than those that came before. 

My city lost all of its color, except for red. Buildings were destroyed, trees were pulled down. Everything was black and gray ash, except for the red blood of more than 2,700 Gazans killed. Another 100,000 had no shelter to live in during that war. 

Fifty-one days passed in which we saw mothers crying for their lost children, buildings dropping as casually as droplets of water, people living in the street and eating garbage, kids losing their arms and legs.

To this day, the image of Israeli tanks and warplanes invading my city permeates my mind, popping up in nightmares. At times, the question "why us?" crosses my mind. While most kids around the world are playing football and dreaming of becoming a fireman, kids in Gaza are being killed, many living on the streets.

It depresses me to see young kids experienced in war and politics. 


White represents the sacredness of our holy sites. But Israel’s recurring sacrilege profaned what white remained in our country. Israelis build settlements near our holy places and prevent us from worshiping there. 

Despite this, I want to spread hope. So, I docs on the fact that white is also the color of optimism:   

White is my dream that one day we will be liberated.

White is my dream that one day my city will flourish like Singapore. 

White is my dream that one day we will live peacefully.

White is my dream that those who are still alive will achieve the future they deserve.



Posted: December 10, 2020

Mentor: Ben Gass

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