“Congratulations, you have received a scholarship to study physical therapy in Turkey.”
Yes! I was over the moon. I could leave this life in a war zone. I would sleep in bright moonlight instead of the light of the missiles that shattered the lives of many people. I would wake up to the sound of birds instead of mothers weeping and wailing over the bloodied bodies of their children.
My tears that day were from the intensity of my joy, like rain that irrigates the earth after drought. I remember that night as one of the most beautiful nights ever. I imagined the reality that I was trying to achieve. Me, eventually becoming a doctor.
But the next morning I woke up with the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation uppermost in my mind, like a huge, crushing stone on my chest. I had fallen asleep in a happy, euphoric state of mind. Why was I now, in a state of fear, anxiety and the grief of loss? I forced myself to have my breakfast as normal, then I opened my phone to check the latest news. I found that all means of crossing into and out of Gaza had been closed overnight.
The difficulties of getting in and out of Gaza
I knew that I would be unable to follow through with this scholarship. The Turkish officials were prevented from entering Gaza to meet students who had provisional offers of scholarship. This meant the process for finalizing the offer and acceptance had become too complex.
This is the state of political instability that we live in. Of course, there was no information about when travel into or out of Gaza would be allowed to resume.
The first thing that came to my mind on hearing my scholarship news had been that during the five years of studying abroad I would definitely be returning to visit family and friends. But now I wondered what would happen if I started the program. How many years of my life might be spent in vain! Visiting my family would involve big risks each time I traveled between Turkey and Palestine. What if I came home to visit, and then was detained or something else happened that prevented me from leaving Gaza and resuming my studies abroad? On what if I was prevented from returning home because of the ongoing occupation of Gaza, the political instability, the sudden bombings and the closure of crossings?
Considering all these factors, and after a lot of deep thought, I realized I could not pursue my dream of traveling and studying abroad. It was inevitable for me to face the reality of being Palestinian. Things could not be as simple and easy as for a Jordanian student who received the scholarship, for example.
Questioning my motive to go abroad
Another question that came to my mind was, “do I want to study physical therapy because this is my dream, or do I want to live in peace away from all problems in Gaza?” During this time of self-questioning, my father advised me. “You must follow your dream and passion whether in Gaza or abroad,” he said. “You know what you want, and I will support you whatever you decide.”
Making the decision was more difficult than l had expected.
Both choices involved risk and loss. Finally, I decided to give up on my dream career, rather than face the tension and insecurity of separation from my homeland and all that Palestine represents: my childhood, my memories, my family and my friends.
I made the right choice for me
The most recent aggression on Gaza, in May 2021, proved that my choice was the best and most appropriate for me. l saw my friend who accepted her scholarship living through everything I had feared. On some occasions my friend could not leave her family in the light of indiscriminate bombing. Other times during her studies, she could not return and was stuck in Turkey, worrying about her loved ones. That was the kind of dilemma l was very worried would happen to me from the first day l got the scholarship.
Three years on, I am studying the English language and teaching methods in Gaza. I’m in the third year and doing well. I am lucky my family supports me. And l have done my best not to allow the latest issues in Palestine, whether political or economic, affect my studies. l haven’t made despair an excuse for failure and inaction. l will resist my victimization and the force of the oppressors who want us to give up on our dreams due to the circumstances created by their weaponized destruction.
I choose the path of resistance
I could give in to apathy, weakness and depression and accept defeat, or I can choose the path of resistance, meeting all challenges with strength, patience, challenge, hope and optimism. Of course, l choose to resist to honor all the efforts of previous generations whose struggle created the legacy for my survival. And l will transfer this strength and determination to my students and encourage them to stick to their dreams despite the oppression we face as a people.
I still have hope to travel abroad to complete a master’s degree. Certainly, I would return to Gaza to benefit my colleagues and share the fruits of my labor. I am lucky to be part of a community where I’m inspired to move forward with hope, passion, optimism and patience; these are the most important qualities that give us strength to continue.