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‘We are all humans’ — young Israelis and Palestinians speak out

BY Corinne Segal  August 29, 2014 at 1:31 PM EDT

Israel and Hamas announced an open-ended cease-fire this week, bringing a halt to the conflict in Gaza that has rocked the area and killed more than 2,000 people since the end of June. We spoke with Israeli and Palestinian students about the conflict’s effect on their daily lives and the common bonds between people across all borders.

A photo of Hana, provided by her mother

Hana
Hana, 12, lives in Gaza and sent us her story by email.

My life was normal before the war started. My mother and I planned to do many things this summer. We planned to travel to see our family, to swim in our pool. We simply wanted to enjoy the summer, not to live in fear.

My family did not have to explain anything to me, because this was my third experience of war.
I can’t remember the first night very well, but the bombings were lighter than that the second and third night of war. I knew that Israel was bombing Gaza and the situation might get worse soon. My family did not have to explain anything to me, because this was my third experience of war. I remember the first war when I was in 1st grade and the second war when I was in the 4th grade.

When we hear the bombings, we feel very scared for our family and loved ones, that anyone could die any moment! My sister and I see the TV images of injured and dead children and we get very scared. We try to keep busy by playing or reading all the time. This makes us feel that the time passes quickly and we forget a little bit about the war. In Gaza there is no safe place. Even in your own bedroom you do not feel safe. I stay with my sister all the time even at bed time and when we are scared we hug each other.

I want other kids to appreciate their lives because life in Gaza is very hard. We can’t watch our favorite TV show because the electricity cuts off over 15 hours a day. We can’t travel out for vacations or even to see our family abroad because Gaza borders are always closed. There is a complete blockade.

Gaza has been under Israeli blockade for many years now, there is a shortage of drinking water and no freedom of movement. It is very hard to live a normal life like other children in the world.

Illustrations by Ruth Tam

A beach near Adi and Einat’s home, provided by their mother

Einat and Adi
Rockets have landed in the Tel Aviv area where Israeli sisters Einat, 15, and Adi, 13, live. Before the first attack on Tel Aviv, Adi had never heard a warning siren before.

Adi
I was really, really, really scared. I was at home. I didn’t know exactly what was happening, I was just really scared.

Einat

Adi was nervous that first day. There was a siren. I let her sleep in my room because she was really nervous and I explained to her that everything was going to be okay and that the army protects us.
I was at my boyfriend’s house and we had just finished a movie. It was a really sad movie, so I was crying, and then there was a siren, and we all went down to the shelter. After 10 minutes, we all got out and I went home fast. At school they tell us to get in the shelter. My mom told me that I have to go near a wall and lie on my side and cover my head.

Adi
I like to watch the news. When it started, I watched the news a lot. Before that, I did not watch the news.

Einat
It hasn’t really affected my daily life, but it’s on my mind. I’m not really scared because we have Iron Dome. There’s an Iron Dome really near our house, pretty close, so we hear the rocket, and we hear the boom. We know what’s going on.

Adi
I actually didn’t learn about Hamas until two or three years ago. I didn’t really know how to react. What are you supposed to say about that?

Einat
The world sees Hamas as good people. I don’t really know what’s going on in the world, but when you see it on Facebook, Hamas is trying to show that they are the good people and we are the bad people.

Einat
The world doesn’t know that Israel wants peace, and that we don’t want to kill people in Gaza. The Israelis are basically seeking peace and always have been, and prosperity, and the problem is the way we see it, Hamas is not interested in having a relationship with us. They want the land and they want the people here dead.

Adi was nervous that first day. There was a siren. I let her sleep in my room because she was really nervous and I explained to her that everything was going to be okay and that the army protects us.

Adi
I slept in her room and it made me calm a little bit, for a couple of days.

Photo of Alma, a Palestinian student, provided by herself

Alma
Alma is a 19-year-old Palestinian living in the West Bank. Alma attended the Seeds of Peace summer camp, where both Israelis and Palestinians gather to find a common bond.

I’m kind of a peace activist. I’m not pro-any violence. I see what is happening here, and I see many people suffering, including myself. I have suffered from the occupation since I first opened my eyes to this world.

We used to have clashes behind my house when I was young. We lived near a settlement and there was a small mountain behind us where some teenagers clashed with settlers.

I believe that at the end of the day we are all humans. We deserve dignity, rights and equal lives, so I don’t care if you’re Israeli or Jewish. I care about what you think, and I care about your humanity.
When the Israeli occupation or Israeli soldiers came to break up the fights, we used to hide in another apartment downstairs. We had two apartments, one for our ordinary life and another for when the occupation gets in the city. We used to move a lot from one apartment to another because of the clashes that happened in the area.

My parents just worried about our safety. They didn’t care about my political awareness, they just cared for my safety and they tried their best to cover us during the hard times.

I want people to know that violence won’t solve anything because we’re not equal sides. The Israelis and the Palestinians are never equal sides. They have power. They have support from all over the world. We don’t have power, we don’t have anything. All these resistance movements, what they do, I think is a waste of other victims’ lives. Most of the people who died are civilians; they had nothing to do with the conflict. Ordinary people are the ones who are paying the price.

When I first arrived at camp I was such a closed-minded person. I used to that think violence was the only way to get back our rights. I used to just ignore what the other side said. I didn’t hear anything. I had beliefs that were in my mind since I was young and I couldn’t accept the other side.

But then I realized that they have peaceful people just like us. They were born there. They didn’t choose to be Israelis. And we also were born here, and we didn’t choose to be Palestinians. I believe that at the end of the day we are all humans. We deserve dignity, rights and equal lives, so I don’t care if you’re Israeli or Jewish. I care about what you think, and I care about your humanity.

Names have been changed. Emails and transcripts have been edited for clarity, and several statements were provided via translator.