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August 26, 2014

Viewpoint from Gaza: ‘There is no safe place’

Hana, a 12-year-old Palestinian student who sent us her story.

Ahmad and Hana live in Gaza, a small strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea. Roughly the same size as Detroit, Gaza holds more than 1.8 million people, one of the densest populations on earth. The United Nations considers Gaza to be part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with its borders and much of its supplies under Israeli control. Violence broke out in Gaza in 2008 shortly after Hamas, a Palestinian group that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, fired rockets into Israel, and again in 2012. Fighting began in Gaza between Israel and Hamas after three Israeli teenagers were found dead in the West Bank on June 30.

Ahmad and Hana, two children living in Gaza with their families, sent us their stories by email.

My name is Hana. I’m a 12-year-old Palestinian in the 7th grade. I enjoy reading, writing stories, photography, and learning new languages. My favorite sports are soccer and volleyball. I want to be a translator when I grow up.

In my spare time I play board games with my sister. Sometimes we do crafts together to decorate our rooms, we learn Italian language through the Internet, and we enjoy visiting our grandmother who lives next door.

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.

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 beloved 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.

I am a 14-year-old kid living in Gaza (grade 9 student), and the thing I like in school is science. I was planning to study chemistry, because I like to study the periodic table and the elements.

I mostly have fun when I play video games with my friends. Also, playing soccer is another way to have fun.

On the first night I felt sad, mad, and unhappy, because my plans for vacation didn’t work as I wanted. My parents explained to me, “It’s dangerous to go out with your friends and it’s a start of a war.” They convinced me to stay home to be safe, but I didn’t like to stay home. I was planning for many things!

I want every kid my age know that many kids here in Gaza died in war. Believe me, living in Gaza isn’t easy for a kid my age.

I want everyone in the world to know that we are not terrorists. We defend our country. We, here in Gaza, we are humans, we live, we learn, we teach, we play, and we have fun. We have the right to live.

Interview by Corinne Segal. Names have been changed. Some sentences have been edited for clarity. 

For more voices from Israel and Palestine, read our interviews with other students in Israel and the West Bank.

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