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Diary from Gaza -- Youth Brace for a Tenuous Truce

New America Media, News Feature, various authors Posted: Jan 22, 2009

Editor's Note: In the days after a four-day-old truce between Israel and Hamas, thousands of Gazans returned to their homes, or what was left of the buildings, after three weeks of bombing and shelling by Israeli forces. According to news reports, at least 1,300 Palestinians were killed, including more than 200 children. Thirteen Israelis were killed.

As humanitarian groups mobilize aid efforts to deliver food, water, medicine and urgently needed supplies, the situation on the ground is dire. More than 4,000 buildings in Gaza were reduced to rubble, with tens of thousands more badly damaged. Currently, 50,000 Gazans are homeless, while 400,000 lack running water.

In the days after the ceasefire, several young people in Gaza shared stories of fear, optimism, anger and trauma. These youth voices, conveyed mostly via SMS, emails and telephone interviews, come from participants in Mercy Corps' Global Youth Connectivity Initiative , a program that links students from the Middle East with their peers in the United States.


Fairouz is a 19-year-old student attending Islamic College. She lives with her brother, sister and parents in Gaza City.

Jan. 21 -- "Life is back to normal. People go out, shops are open. People are somewhat optimistic. I went out yesterday and today.

"Psychologically, I am affected by what happened. We lost people, many houses were destroyed. No one knows how the school year will continue, let alone the fear of another war. We are also left without water or electricity, so we have to adjust to a new lifestyle with many things missing."

Jan. 18 -- "The situation is much better. We are still staying with another family. We are worried about our home though. My parents went to our home today and found out that there is some minor damage. The telephone lines and cellular network are not working properly, so I could not reach my friends. Yesterday, I knew that a girl from my university died along with her mother and three sisters and the father was injured. It's so sad.

"After the ceasefire, I am optimistic. We hope this war ends really soon."


Haitham, age and residence unknown.

Jan. 21 -- "Life is getting back to normal, but institutes and banks are still closed. People are worried about their houses and are fixing the damages. It's miserable.

"I would wait and see what they will have to say first. We are stuck between the Israelis and Hamas. We are the victims. We are suffering. So let them see what happened in Gaza and learn about what is happening in order to have peace and security in the region. I don't believe the war is over. Palestinians must unite before discussing any agreement with the Israelis.

"I will be back to work. I don't know how things will look like though, but the coming months will be difficult because it will take 10 years until we rebuild Gaza."

Jan. 19 -- "We came back home yesterday. There are bullets in the walls, the glass is broken along with other things, so we are trying to repair the damage in order for my parents to come back. There are so many changes. People are going back to their homes. They are out in the streets, but people are miserable and depressed. The landscape in Gaza has changed. The roads are not as they used to be.

"From the point of view of a civilian, I feel like the cease fire is not real. We were really scared yesterday when we were on our way to home. The Israelis started the war and they ended it, so it is up to them. We just hope things get better."


Ziad, 21, lives in Gaza City with his mother and sister.

Jan. 21 -- "Despite the ceasefire, we still hear planes. People are repairing their homes. We keep hearing bad news about people killed and injured.

"By the end of this week we'll see. There may be a longer ceasefire or another war, but for sure life will be difficult. We are dealing with so many things at the same time. We lost a lot of people and there is a massive destruction in Gaza. After all this loss, the tragedy just started."

Jan. 18 -- "It is quieter in the area where I have been staying for the past two days, yet we can feel that people are worried and anxious. I am very sad because Sheikh Radwan graveyard was bombarded and that is where my father is buried. I don't understand why they bombed the graveyard? What did the dead do?

"I support a ceasefire. People are tired and the past few weeks were really tough, so it is the right decision.

"People who know me say that I am an optimistic person, but now it's not that I am not optimistic, it's just that I am not comfortable at all. We will have to wait and see how things go. After 23 days of war, I cannot foresee how things will be in the future, how our life will continue and such. I have many questions and I guess that in a few days these questions will be answered."


Derar, age and residence unknown.

Jan. 20 -- "We are back to our house. We are repairing the damage. Tal El Hawa is destroyed, but things will get back to normal in two or three days.

"I took a deep breath. I felt somewhat relieved. We were so stressed out when the ceasefire was unilateral, but now that both sides agreed to a ceasefire, we feel much better.

"Until now the war is not over. I still hear some shooting. The war was a turning point in my life. I realized a lot of things. I did not expect all this to happen, and I believe that there were many ways to avoid the war, and avoiding the war would have been better because the destruction is massive. I still don't know what will happen with my university, but my worry is to let the world know about what happened in Gaza."


Hothayfa, 21, lives with his parents, five sisters and two brothers in Gaza.

Jan. 20 -- "The situation is better. People go out and life is getting back to normal. People are repairing their homes, and those whose homes were totally damaged are staying with friends or family or staying in tents. I went out with my friends to see the destruction. Some people cannot even figure where their house was because all the buildings are damaged. Even the American school was bombarded.

"After the ceasefire we went to our home to see what happened and what needs to be fixed. The windows and doors are broken; the third and fourth floor are partially damaged. Therefore we decided to move to the first floor, and yesterday we moved back to home. I also met my friends.

"It seems like the war is over, the discourse is different. There is support for a ceasefire and the main concern is rehabilitation. Many things are going to change now. The university and the institutions I used to go to are bombarded so my daily routine will definitely change. Moreover, my ideas and thoughts have changed. Before the war, I only wanted to live a normal life and I did not pay attention to politics. Now we want our rights and we have to demand them, because we - the civilians - suffered."


Reem is a 21-year-old student living with her family in Gaza City.

Jan. 20 -- "People are in the streets as if there's a feast. Tal El Hawa is attracting people from all over Gaza Strip to come and see the damage. People are repairing the damage and trying to find a shelter.

"The first thing was to go back home. Our building was not damaged but other towers close to ours were damaged and a few people from our area died. I also went to Mercy Corps' office.

"I don't think the war is over. I miss everything, even things that I thought I will never think of. People are trying to find a way to leave Gaza.

"I am getting sick, both psychologically and physically. We've lost a lot of people and we've lost many things at once."

Jan. 19 -- "People are a bit more relaxed after the ceasefire although the situation is not so stable. Some people received messages on their cellular phones saying 'Don't be so happy, even if you are back to your homes you may have to evacuate again.'

"The ceasefire should have started a long time ago. We can go back to our homes and we feel safe, but we still feel that this quietness is temporary because the real problem is not solved. There is no agreement or anything of this sort. The Palestinian authorities think that what happened is a victory; but in reality the civilians are the ones who lost.


Naser, 21, is a business major in a Gaza City university. He lives with his parents and four siblings.

Jan. 20 -- "My parents are back home. The house is clean. We replaced the broken windows with plastic sheets. Parts of the house are burnt so we will have to fix this somehow. We still sleep in two safe rooms just in case something happens, but we can go out and work.

"I saw the Gaza Strip being destroyed, and when I worked with the company that makes documentaries I felt I had a huge responsibility. I was not doing a mere job. My responsibility was to show the world what happened. I realized that life does not stop; people do not die. Life is not about a house that was damaged. It is beyond all these materialistic things. The war showed the hatred and the spite that both sides feel. The chances for peace are fewer."
he hatred and the spite that both sides feel. The chances for peace are fewer."

Related Articles:

Israels Attacks Unite Hamas Enemies in Common Front

Gaza - 14 Days of Horror

In Gaza, Shortage of Basic Necessities Worse Than Threat of Death

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