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

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

We are youth under occupation

Abdalrahim Alfarra | 19-04-2018

I was born in the Gaza Strip in 1993. That same year, my family moved to the United Arab Emirates, where I completed secondary school. But university was too expensive there and, in 2011, we returned to Gaza. Thus began a new chapter of my life.       

The constant electricity cuts were the first shock. I had to totally change my lifestyle, training myself to do my homework with just candlelight. My family is considered fortunate by my neighbors because we had a backup generator; but it is useless when fuel to run it is simply unavailable and the backup batteries are drained. Darkness is like a dictator dominating our life.

My mother deprives herself of sleep, always racing against time to exploit the few hours of electricity we have so she can complete as many household chores as possible. She sometimes gets up at dawn to wash clothes and do all of the other tasks that require a source of power. A refrigerator that actually keeps food cold is a luxury of our past. We now are forced to buy our food on the spot and either eat it all or let it go to waste.

The electricity crisis has other negative effects on youths. It also isolates us from the outside world, leaving us with a numbing boredom. But the worst, of course, is wen Israel attacks. Then, we sometimes have to survive without electricity for more than a week!

Another reality I was forced to confront after moving to Gaza is the difficulty leaving once you’re there. The opportunity to pursue study abroad is possible only for a select few. A friend who won a scholarship from a German university was unable to get the permit that she needed to travel through Israel and the crossing into Egypt was closed. She lost her dream opportunity! She is not alone. 

My friend Jamal Jabir wishes to travel outside of Gaza just for simple, basic reasons that would be allowed anyplace else. "I really want to travel; Gaza is home, but I have exhausted the beauty here. I have never seen a lake or a river in my entire life. I have never seen a Bughatti, Lamborghini or Ferrari car, and I have never been on a train. I have only see them in pictures on the internet. I really want to see what they look like in the real life." Please keep in mind: The ultimate dream of this teenager is not to own a Ferrari, but just to see one!

I have heard a lot about Europeans being able to move from one country to another; that is beyond our wildest imagination. One of my friends has relatives in the West Bank, which is Palestinian land, not another country. Yet he has never met them. Like all Palestinians with families in other parts of the occupied territories, they are forbidden by Israeli occupation authorities to meet their own relatives.

Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth: 2 million people crowded into just 17 square miles. That’s 42,600 people every square mile! We’re just stuck there, and among youths, unemployment is now at 60 percent. We cannot plan for our lives. We live a day at a time, with no plan for the future. The boredom is soul-sucking.

Nevertheless, as one friend reminds me, "Gaza is not just misery and suffering. It is also creativity and talent." This is true. Despite all the suffering and pain, hardships and troubles, obstacles and disappointments, we have never surrendered. If we do, it’s because Israel takes our lives too.

Youssef al-Krunz was a superb footballer. Then he participated in the peaceful protest called the Great Return March along the border of Gaza and his dream and possible career vanished in an instant. An Israeli sniper shot him in his foot, which later had to be amputated. Despite this, he shocked me by saying, "I will never lose hope. Maybe I can learn to play a sport with an artificial leg!" 

“Gaza” and “hope” are two words that don’t seem to go together. However, the young people here are trying to do what’s possible to make them go hand-in-hand. We, the youth of Gaza, are like all other people of the world. We have dreams and talents. We have the necessary skills to contribute to our community and to the whole world.

I, myself, established a youth club in June 2016. It works to help the young people of Gaza practice English so they can speak out and tell the world about our struggle and aspirations. Mahmoud Ghanem, a friend and a coworker in the club, is a fitness and parkour trainer. He has been playing parkour since 2007, even though there aren’t any proper facilities for learning and training. For practice, he usually goes to cemeteries or destroyed houses.

"I have always had a dream of learning and performing parkour in a safe, equipped room like the ones I see on YouTube videos," he says. "And I dream of being able to compete with some well-known parkour players of the world."

We, the young people of Gaza, have suffered since the beginning of our lives under this occupation. We have never tasted freedom. However, because we love to live, we will never give up. We will do whatever is possible to expose Israeli apartheid, war crimes and propaganda against us. We shall become Youth with Absolute Freedom — not just Youth Under Occupation.

Posted: April 18, 2018

Mentor: Pam Bailey

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