The final year of secondary education, Tawjihi, is a landmark for Palestinians. Getting a high score is the only way to study medicine. That is exactly what I was thinking, right before not achieving the acceptance score required to apply for medical school.
Here is what happened to me. On July 18, 2019, at 4 a.m., I was waiting for my fateful Tawjihi exam result. The announcement of the results would be at 10 a.m. There were just six hours to the milestone results for Palestinian students, including me, to be declared!
My parents, my sisters and even my six-year brothers were waiting for the results with enthusiasm. My mom and dad looked at me tenderly after seeing my red face. At dawn they prayed for their beloved first son in a very loving voice. “O God almighty, grant our son his much-needed goal and happiness on this day.”
The time was 6 a.m.; I wanted to turn the time into 10 a.m, but it was impossible!
I tried to sleep, yet my brain was obstreperous. The time crawled by until it was 8 a.m. and just two hours left to wait.
“Please run faster!” I begged the time. My mom intervened. “Honey, everything will be okay, just calm down. I will bring you some water.”
“It’s 9 o’clock!” I said with a loud, shaky voice. I decided to get out of my house to relieve my stress and tension. As William James says, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” I went to a pet shop near our neighborhood, where the cute pets made me feel more serene. I gazed at the beauty of a kitten with downy white hair and wide blue eyes like pearls.
“Oh my God! It’s 9:45 a.m.!” Running quickly, I reached the steps of my home as in my mind I saw an image of a fantastic young man about to go on duty, wearing the white scrubs of a doctor. After heaving a deep sigh of happiness, I went in finding my whole family with their eyes fixed on my mobile, waiting excitedly for my result.
"Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one… 80% GPA!!" they shouted with one booming voice as they read the result.
This moment was a shock for me and everyone in my family, because I had scored 98% every previous year.
“There is something wrong!” I wept loudly. My dad, mom and relatives brought out the Halawan, the kind of sweets that. in Arab culture, you offer to family and friends when you achieve a long-awaited goal. They congratulated me and said, “We are very proud of you. You worked very hard. Congratulations!” They started singing and turned on the loudspeakers with the success songs to express their happy feeling.
In the six days after getting my GPA results, I barely slept, keeping my sadness inside my chest. My score was not high enough for me to attend a medical school in Gaza. So what major should I pick instead to study here? Or should I travel abroad to an overseas university so I could fulfill my dream to study medicine?
But, for Palestinians living in Gaza, the open-air prison, travelling is a dream. But we are deprived of this right because we live under the continuing Israeli blockade. Even for the few Palestinians who manage to travel for education or even medical treatment, there are always questions: Will the process go smoothly? Without difficulty or humiliation?
Of course, not! Travelers meet harsh restrictions and humiliation.
Even worse, travelers can get stuck outside so that they can’t come back to see their families.
Our status in Gaza prevents many other students like me from studying abroad. When I asked my parents what they thought about me traveling abroad, my mother answered with her tears. “You know how it goes when you travel. We would hate to see our son humiliated.”
I thought about what she said. Then I answered her. “I will stay with you and prepare your breakfast before you go to your work.” It was my way of telling her that I had decided to stay and study English translation and literature in Gaza. My parents were happy and surprised. With a massive and warm hug, they said, “God bless you and grant you success.”
I realized that living in Gaza means you often have to sacrifice a dream you had wanted to fulfill. However, deciding whether to let reality control your life or to pick yourself up and get back into the saddle again is up to you. Which is your choice?