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In Palestine, a Young Man’s Education and Life Are Cut Short by Israeli Bullets

/ 21 Sep 2021

In Palestine, a Young Man’s Education and Life Are Cut Short by Israeli Bullets

(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Al-Fanar Media).

I hate Palestine as much as I love it. I want to leave this place, but I want to stay here forever, too. This contradiction in my mind has become my daily nightmare. I cannot live away from my homeland. Still, I want to leave. I want freedom and safety. I want to shut out my fears about my 10-month-old daughter’s future. You are supposed to feel safe and stable in your home.  For Palestinians, this dream is unrealized.

The smell of blood, death and tear gas is the only thing that I have experienced since I was a kid. Screams and the weeping of mourners are sounds I hear daily. On May 17, I was trying to enjoy coffee with my friends. The smell of tear gas ruined our relaxing time. Then we heard three loud gunshots. We heard them clearly. We closed the window, attempting to detach ourselves from the reality outside.

I heard the notification ping of my phone. All the messages were about a martyr. Then I received a message that the martyr was my cousin, Obaida. The denial started. What? How? And Why? I called my father. He told me yes, Israeli soldiers killed Obaida. Three bullets were in his chest.

Obaida, 17 years old, was arrested three times in his life on allegations of stone-throwing, a common charge against Palestinian children arrested by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

Obaida, 17 years old, was arrested three times in his life on allegations of stone-throwing, a common charge against Palestinian children arrested by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank.

He never took to traditional teaching styles in Palestinian schools. He was always looking to develop his practical skills. In 2016, the Ministry of Education in Palestine decided to create vocational and technical education in Palestinian schools to help students discover their skills and career orientations. Obaida was one of those students who enrolled in the new program, focusing on cooking.

A talented chef, Obaida joined the vocational cooking department at Talitha Kumi Community College in Bethlehem and was supposed to graduate within months. But the three bullets ended his life.

Obaida shared his experience as a child in a short film produced by Defence for Children Palestine and directed by Matthew Cassel. The Guardian and other news organizations wrote about the film and the young man’s experience.

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For how long must I live in fear that my daughter or any member of my family can leave the house and never come back? For how long have I to see my uncle and his wife die every day, mourning the death of an extraordinary young man?

During the 11th day of assaults in Gaza, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, 63 children were killed out of 219 people. Of the 10 people killed in Israel, two children are among the dead.

From the first day of the assaults in Gaza, life stopped. No schools. No universities. No life. We were holding our phones all day long following up the news—the evacuation of Sheikh Jarrah, the clashes in the West Bank and the huge bombing in Gaza. (See a related article, “Palestine’s Education Institutions Are Victims of Conflict Again.”)

I do not want my daughter to feel afraid of going to her school, imagining that she will smell tear gas or she will see Israeli soldiers invading her school as I saw when I was at school.

The assault in Gaza brings back my childhood memories.  I remember when I was 10 years old, how scared the noise of airplanes made me. I knew they were bringing death. Nowadays, I still see airplanes flying above my house while holding my daughter in my arms. The sound amazed her. She looked at the sky while pointing at the airplane, smiling. I could not tell her that it could kill us at any time.

Will this mess only end in our deaths, as it did for Obaida?

The frequent disruption, the freezing, of our lives is exasperating. Everything becomes suddenly stuck. We cannot move, study, work or do anything. We just have to watch killing and widespread destruction in Palestine.

I do not want my daughter to feel afraid of going to her school, imagining that she will smell tear gas or she will see Israeli soldiers invading her school as I saw when I was at school.

I do not want her education to be disrupted by assaults, mourning or clashes. Palestinian youth experience violence every day. The violence affects them psychologically. Some of my friends missed their final exam deadlines. Studying and concentrating was out of the question.

Whether or not they graduate, many young Palestinians face a future without jobs or a stable environment. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, unemployment for 18 to 28-year-olds was almost 40 percent last year.

The future in Palestine is blurred. It is getting more blurred.

I just hope my daughter’s life will be extremely different from mine. I want her to have the right of freedom, movement and education without the smell of tear and the sounds of mourning.




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