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

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

Profile in resilience

Yasmin Hillis | 08-03-2017


Sometimes life in Gaza is barely bearable for those who live here—feeling harsh and cruel. However, many Gazan women have persevered and established their own definition of success. One of them is Jameela Al-Habbash, 23.

Jameela is a senior studying journalism at Al-Aqsa University in Gaza. Since childhood, Jameela dreamt of being a journalist.

“It was my dream to study journalism, because I believe that it is a type of resistance and I wanted to send my people’s message to the world,” explains Jameela.

But her dreams seemed to go up in smoke on the 4th of January, 2009, during the first Israeli war on Gaza. Jameela, then 14, lived on the third floor of the big Al-Habbash family house in Gaza City with her father, mother and eight siblings, including her 10-year-old sister Shatha. As is often the case in Gaza, many relatives shared the house with them. On the same floor were her uncle, aunt and their six children, including her 12-year-old cousin Isra'. On the fourth floor lived another uncle, his wife and five children (among them, 16-year-old Mohammad).

On 4 January, 2009, the family woke up to the news that a nearby area had been invaded by the Israeli army—signaling the start of the ground offensive. As was their habit, the children ran up to the roof to watch the “fireworks.” Isra’, Shatha, Mohammad and Jameela were all there at around 3:15 p.m. when a missile hit. The children were rushed to the hospital, but it was too late for Isra’ and Shatha. Jameela lost both of her legs and Mohammad lost one.

“After the explosion, I woke up in the hospital to be told that both my legs had been amputated,” recalls Jameela. “I started crying and my aunt cried with me. I moved my body to feel where my legs had been, but found emptiness. I was tall in the past… Whenever I felt it, I would cry.”

A week later, the cousins were flown to Saudi Arabia to undergo plastic surgery, and to France to be fitted with prosthetic legs. She underwent therapy for six months. When she returned to Gaza, her family insisted she continue her life the same as any other girl.

“My family helped a lot. They surrounded me with all the love and support I needed to continue my life after the injury,” she explains.

The biggest difficulty Jameela faced after her injury was stairs. “My house is on the third floor, and I have to go up the stairs every day,” she explains. She manages with a wheelchair and the strong arms of her brother.

Now in university, she calls it “a new phase in my life. I’ve chosen to study journalism anyway because it is my lifelong dream.”

Thus, Jameela has become a symbol of persistence and courage.

“My message to the women of the world is that whatever is your dream, you have to make it happen. Don’t wait for anyone to make it a reality for you. It’s your life and you have to do it yourself,” says Jameela.

Posted: March 7, 2017

Mentor: Pam Bailey

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