The Gaza conflict changed the lives of Palestinians, especially teenagers.
The school year, which was delayed due to the damage of over 250 schools, started on September 14. At that time, 64,000 refugees still sought shelter in 20 schools. I went to my high school before term started, but when I entered I saw a completely different place — nothing like I remembered. It was full of refugees and homeless children. As so many schools were damaged, along with many families who lost their homes during the war, there are thousands of children and teenagers who cannot go to school.
I went to my old classroom to see the desk I used to sit at. The moments I shared there with friends are now distant memories. I held my head down, disappointed and full of bitterness, and felt my soul dying inside of me. I couldn’t bear to see those poor people who have to live in my school because they can’t return to their homes. What difference is there between me and them? Why are they not allowed to live a normal life?
I called my friends to catch up. But when I met them, they just seemed different — like something had changed in them.
All of us feel there is no time to play or hang out. We don’t feel the same enthusiasm as before the war. Knowing that a lot of children are homeless in Gaza, we feel like we shouldn’t be having fun. Whenever we laugh, we remember the tough times we lived through during the conflict and it just kills our smiles. The war changed us and made us feel like old people instead of ambitious teenagers full of life. That’s what I am afraid of — that the war will always haunt us like a dark past.
My Birthday Wish
I wrote this article on my 17th birthday. Just like before all birthdays, I couldn’t sleep the night before. Normally, I feel so excited. But this time was different. This time I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t want it to come. I didn’t want a birthday. How could I celebrate when my soul was wounded? How could I sing while others cried?
I will always remember that small boy I saw in my school, crying and wiping his tears with a look of desperation. Sometimes I stare into the distance and see myself in him. I feel like that boy is haunting my happiness.
I couldn’t forgive myself for celebrating while that poor, innocent child cries, just wanting to go home. I always think about the happiest moments during a birthday, like when you blow out the candles and make a wish. But now I can’t. There is no electricity and blowing out candles will result in darkness. The light of candles gives me hope these days, so I can’t blow them out anymore. I can never make a wish for myself while thousands of others need it more. How can I be selfish and wish something for myself?
I always thought that when the war was over, me and my friends and Palestinians in general would have a lot of fun. But now it seems that what comes after war is ever more unbearable than the war itself.
I wasn’t killed or injured, but my soul is hurt. Something inside of me will haunt me forever — I just know it. I am a pragmatic thinker, but when I first saw the level of destruction that impacted Gaza, my capacity for forgiveness shrunk.
However, a great and honest man once told me that I should always have an inner moral compass that leads me to what’s truly right. He taught me that fear is a choice and a reaction, thus I should always be strong and draw on lessons I have learned in life.
The worst part is that it’s not only me who feels hurt, but many teenagers in Gaza. For now, I choose to make a wish for the sake of my parents, friends, people and country: “Oh God, let there be peace inside every human being. Free Palestine.”
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.