HER STORY #47 - hind
I am 21 years old, and in my last year of studying Business Administration.
I have been a community service activist since my first year of university – two years ago. I’ve been very active within that field, and I do a lot of volunteer work within my community with a couple of my friends. We make up a team and we volunteer together. That’s part of my personality.
It started with a couple of friends. They are older than me, and because certain situations occurred certain things happened, and because some of them are engineers and doctors, they decided to rebuild a bombed school and turn it into a school for disabled people. We made a campaign on Indiegogo, and we began the rebuilding process.
And then we started distributing jackets for people in the schools, and clothes, food and other simple items. That’s how we began.
A very high percentage of our work was with disabled people. We distributed wheelchairs and other things [for disabled people]. We have donors, and they are able to donate because we have a page on Twitter that shows all of our work and that we are neither supporters of Fatah nor Hamas. It shows that we are just Palestinian teenagers who do volunteer work.
I would like to continue, because I really love helping, especially people living on the borders or in the middle of cities—the people who live in the North or South face a lot of difficult times, especially those sharing the borders. They are the people who suffer the most [in Gaza], and that’s why we focus on those people.
Gaza is surrounded by borders, and the border areas face many daily attacks, but also by people who walk along the fence. Even the fishermen face daily attacks on their fishing boats from Israeli war ships. We are attacked. We don’t have to be in a war to be attacked. We are always attacked, but the news doesn’t really concentrate on that right now.
I don’t feel okay about that because a lot of things happen and no one knows. Do you know that we only have three hours of electricity? Only three hours per day. We have 21 hours of electricity cuts daily.
We were used to eight hours [of electricity] per day, but then it was decreased to six hours, and now we only have 3-4 hours.
We don’t really know how to manage our lives, in terms of our appliances: refrigerators, washing machines, and when it’s very cold, we can’t use heaters or anything. I live in a very good place, but I can’t forget the people who live in caravans or who lost their homes in the war and don’t have anything to keep them warm.
We don’t have a generator, but we have a USB, an inverter that charges and transfers electricity when the electricity is off, but it’s very expensive. It was very difficult to afford it, but it’s better than buying gasoline or getting a generator. I’m not sure a lot of people in Gaza can afford that, so we are lucky that we can.
It’s very awful, because my brothers have exams now, and they can’t study because there is no light. Also, you’re not connected to the rest of the world, because you don’t have internet. You can’t charge your phone. You can’t have hot water to take a bath, and you can’t boil your water.
I know it’s very simple when we think of it. Electricity is the number one thing that keeps us alive, but when you think of not having it, not being able to connect to the internet, not being able to charge your laptop, or not being able to take a shower because you don’t have hot water, it’s very hard. You can’t turn on the heater, when you’re cold. There are a lot of things you use electricity for, and what makes me very annoyed is that at night, Gaza is dark, totally dark. You don’t see lights, and this is very annoying to walk in a dark city.
I am 21 years old today, and I remember the last time I lived with full electricity. That was when I was 12 years old, meaning 11 years ago. That was the last time I had electricity [constantly].
In 2007 Hamas and Fatah were fighting in the Gaza Strip. My father was a very good and well-known engineer - one of the biggest in Gaza. He had taken on a project, the building of a hospital, but when Hamas took over the country, and the siege started, none of the construction materials came in, so my father began closing the project.
It was a very bad situation for my dad, who started to lose his money, and he started losing everything actually, so he decided to leave Gaza and go to the UAE. He went there for five years, and then we came.
He had a heart attack there. He wasn’t sick. I don’t know what happened. It was just a normal heart attack. When he passed away, we came back to Gaza.
I was in high school [in UAE], and I had just finished my first term. I lost my father between the two terms, so I had to go back to Gaza, and I was totally messed up. I didn’t know if I could complete my senior year in a Gazan school, or if I should postpone my senior year to the following year.
It was a very hard decision, and all the schools rejected me. It was only the school that I had been to since my childhood that accepted me and accepted to transfer my report card from the school in the UAE. It was a very hard turning point in my life, because suddenly I left a whole country, and my friends, and school, and I returned to Gaza. It was very hard to go back to Gaza after having lived a whole year in the UAE, and plus living without my father.
I was the only one living a turning point, because I was in my senior year. They [brothers and mother] were all worried about me. They were worried that I wouldn’t continue school, while all of them [brothers] had already gone through school and everything was okay with them.
Not Knowing The Future
Now I’m in my senior year, and it’s actually very depressing, because everyone my age is very depressed. A lot of friends who are graduating can’t find any jobs.
We’re all totally depressed, because it’s not only about the electricity and the water and being unemployed. It’s also about the fact that we don’t really know what the future is hiding from us. We’re just living day by day, not knowing about the future. We are so shy to make goals for ourselves, because we’re all very pessimistic, rather than being optimistic. We have no idea what is waiting for us, and plus a lot of our friends have already left the Gaza Strip. Where the heck are all these people? They are just vanishing from this place.
Who’s Going To Change This Place? / I Really Love Gaza
I’m in a family consisting of eight boys, and I’m the only girl. I lost my father in 2012, and now I only have my brothers and my mother. I have four brothers outside of Gaza. Three of them are in Germany starting school there, and one of them is working in the U.S.
My oldest brother left Gaza three years ago, and he didn’t want to come back. And the second one left Gaza a month ago. So now we are four [left behind] out of nine.
When it comes to me, I really love Gaza, and I had the opportunity to leave in the summer . I went to D.C. [Washington D.C.] for a Leadership course organized by the American Consulate [in Jerusalem]. They asked for applications and I gave it a try. It was for activists around the Middle East, not only Gaza, so everyone who was with me was an activist. Three other friends from Gaza came with me. We were actually six who had applied and were supposed to go, but two of them had their permits rejected, so they couldn’t go.
I spent a month and a half there, and it was a great experience, but I found out that I missed Gaza within the first week. I missed my family and every single thing about Gaza, and I know that it would be very hard for me to leave it [Gaza].
I really think that I’m going to spend a good while here, because I believe my future is here. I really dream of working in an NGO here, because I have a passion for helping people here, and I really love to work in this field.
We have very creative people here in Gaza, and they really need to develop their skills, so I’d really like to work on this. In the future, I would like to do grant writing so that anyone who has a project that he/she needs funding for or donors, can send a proposal, and through my help he can get donations and implement his project. I’m thinking about it, but I want it to be something creative and special, so that’s why I’m taking it slow while working on it.
I believe that we need to give it a chance. If we all gave up and left Gaza, who is going to work for this, and who’s going to change this place? And I always really try to spread the idea that we have to be more optimistic. “You guys have to have some hope. You guys have to believe in yourselves and your friends, because if you choose to leave this place and to give up on everything, you will just lose your country again and again.” So this is my point, and this is what I try to tell everyone.
I don’t think that I would ever leave Gaza or go too far away. I think I will study something else and then come back. I really can’t imagine myself not being here. In spite of everything, really, in spite of every shitty thing in this place, I really love this place.
I know it’s very difficult here, but here you have your friends and your family. You have the spirit of love, and there is something special about this place – maybe the food! Maybe it’s the fact that we’re living in a very, very bad situation, and there are so many kind and very smart people trying to make the best of their lives and to work on themselves.
I believe that everything surrounding the way we live now is caused by three entities, Israel, Hamas and Fatah, all of whom are responsible for every single shitty thing we are living here. I believe that the three of them don’t even care because they are living happy lives.
I live with a lot of people who don’t like the fact that I don’t wear a hijab. There are a lot of things that I face in this country.
I believe that a lot of people in Gaza are blind because they don’t see the world outside. Since they’ve never left this place, they believe that there’s only Gaza in this world. They’re totally close-minded.
That’s what I really hate about the people here. They don’t think in two ways or three ways. They only have one way of thinking. They never try to think about something special or something untraditional, and they have this culture and tradition that they are blindly following. That’s what really annoys me.
My mom wears a hijab, and everyone started telling me, “Hind, you have to wear a hijab. Hind, you have to wear a hijab.” And I was responded saying, “No, I don’t want to wear a hijab. I don’t like hijabs.” I don’t feel comfortable when I wear it. I feel totally, totally, totally like something is choking me. I believe that you have to want to wear it, but I don’t want to wear it, because I don’t like it.
I don’t feel free when I wear it, and I don’t like someone controlling what I should wear. If it’s not from the inside, I won’t ever be faithful to this decision.
When I walk in the streets I hear a lot of words, and I hear a lot of people trying to tell me things, but I don’t really care. I just walk and I raise my head high, and I walk as if nobody is talking or saying anything.
When a girl walks without a hijab in Gaza, it’s very weird. People will say, “Look, look, she’s walking without a hijab. She’s not wearing anything.” I kind of wasn’t used to that in the beginning, but now I’m very used to it, and I don’t really care what they say.
I Never Showed That I’m Scared
I’m going to be very clear: at the beginning, when I first began going out without a hijab, I was very scared when I walked in the streets alone or when I took a taxi alone. It was very scary at first, but when I started becoming more involved in the community, everyone knew me when I walked in the street— when I would walk in the street and say hi to 15-20 people, I became known, so I didn’t really care anymore.
I walk in a very strong way. My facial expression shows that I’m very strong. Even if I’m very weak on the inside, even if I’m scared, I never show that I’m scared. I always give a facial expression that emits that I’m very strong, and you won’t be able to touch me or tell me anything. I think it depends on the girl, her facial expressions, and the way she walks.
I believe that my personality plays a very big role. You can force people to respect you, and you can force people to treat you the way you want them to treat you. If you don’t do that, you don’t have a strong personality –you can’t let anyone force anything on you.
It [war in Gaza in the summer of 2014] was the worst period of my life, because I lived in a place that was bombed daily by the Israelis: in the morning, the evening, at night, in the middle of the night, at dawn. We faced bombs daily, and it was very close to my house—sometimes one street away, in front of my house, or behind my house, and it was very hard for me and for my family to persist.
We were very scared, and we didn’t want to leave our house because we were scared that someone would come and take over the house or even bomb it. I will never ever forget those days.
We were celebrating Eid, and on that night, the sky was completely lit from all the bombing, flames and light burning all over the sky, and on that day, two of those light-bombs exploded in our garden. They didn’t fall on the house, thank God, but we lost all of our windows in the war. The war caused us a lot of loss.
But the thing that really scared me was my two youngest brothers. They were always scared and always covering their ears, so as not to hear. And it doesn’t matter if you are 20, 50, or just 10 years old, the sound of the bombs freak you out. You’re totally freaked out by the noise, and we all just wanted to hug each other, because we only have each other. We thought we would die at any minute.
Nobody walked out of the house. I didn’t go to school during that time. I remember everything.
I used to be scared of going to the bathroom, in case they would bomb while I was in there. I was always scared of leaving the living room and going to the kitchen alone. I always wished that each day would finish.
Every day we would just listen to the news, and hear about curfews or anything else. I always tried to show that I was very strong. I was supporting the resistance at that time. They were bombing us, and we were bombing them.
These were very challenging days, and a lot of people we know lost their families, lost their houses, lost everything, and I’m very thankful to God that we didn’t lose anyone, or my house.
At that time, in 2014, you didn’t know if you would stay alive or if you would be bombed – what would come next and who would be next. Now it’s kind of safe. There is an agreement not to bomb us and we won’t bomb them, so now it’s safe, but we’re still living with a lot of restrictions. We don’t have electricity. We can’t travel. We can’t leave. We can’t do anything. So the difference between now and 2014 is living under siege and living under siege during a war.
It hurts me, because it’s not just about them killing or bombing us. It’s also about them separating us. They’re separating families and friends, and that’s very, very bad.
In the summer  I got to meet two people from Bethlehem, who now are my best friends. If I want to see them, I have to see them in another country, not in Palestine.
The last minute that I got to tell them goodbye on the border between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, it was one of the worst minutes of my life. It was our last hug, on the border, and I can’t see them anymore.
I’ve seen Israelis three times in my life.
Once I went to get my visa at the American Consulate in Jerusalem, and I went to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and it was very scary to see Israeli soldiers there. I was very scared of them, knowing that I’m from Gaza, thinking that perhaps they would kick me or do something to me. But the driver who had driven us the entire way was with us and he was protecting us, and he was the one talking to them.
I was annoyed that I couldn’t be in this place [Dome of the Rock] whenever I want, and I can’t visit this place and see this place. It only happened once, and it was my luck, because I went to the visa interview, and I didn’t really have much time. My permit only covered 14 hours for entering Jerusalem or Israel. It was very hard.
I admit that I get so scared by them [Israelis] because I believe that they’re killing children and killing all these people, and I think they can kill me at any point.
I really thought that they would do something, but they didn’t say anything at that time because the driver was with us, and he showed them our permits, and even when we walked in the Old City of Jerusalem, there were soldiers everywhere, and they are really scary.
That’s the only thing I can say, but at the same time I believe that if any of them would talk to me or do anything, I believe I would be very strong.
This is only about the soldiers. It’s not about the other Jews or other Israelis. This is how I felt about the ones who had weapons – those people are totally scary.
There were a lot of people from Arab countries [at the Leadership Camp in Washington D.C. in 2016], but us Palestinians, were always together, always united, and we always told everyone about our stories.
It doesn’t matter if you live in Gaza or in the West Bank. You live the same shit.
It was very beautiful to feel the Palestinian spirit everywhere, and we used to tell everyone that we were Palestinians.
We [Palestinians] were only used to hearing about each other from the news, and although we face different things, we are both suffering.
I also met a [Palestinian] guy who lives within the 1948 lines, and he is now my friend too. I actually talked to him today. He has an Israeli passport, and [at the Leadership Course in Washington D.C.] he was signed up as Israeli, but when he had to talk he would always say that he was a Palestinian. He wouldn’t say that he was Israeli.
I believe that the ’48 people are the symbol of Palestine. They symbolize the strength and the passion for Palestine, and I really appreciate and respect them, but a lot of people don’t, because they say, “Now they are Israelis.” But they [’48 people] didn’t give up on their land. They chose to stay on their land in spite of everything.
My strength is a result of the summary of all the hard times I have faced and of all the times I felt scared, broken, afraid, and worried. The loss of my father, the challenges that I faced in my education, and the challenges that I face daily in this city. It made me a very strong person.
I was a pampered and spoiled girl before I lost my father. Yes, I had a lot of responsibilities but I was totally spoiled. I didn’t have the strength or the self-confidence that I have now. I got everything that I wanted. I didn’t work hard. I received things without making any effort.
The turning point in my life was the moment that I lost my father. My personality totally changed. I had different interests. I started to be a strong person.
I am afraid of losing another person I love—one of my family members or one of my friends, because I have a lot of friends and I love my family, so my biggest fear is losing one of these people that I love. I believe that as long as you have those loving people around you, you don’t have anything to be sad about.
Challenges come and go, money comes and goes but people that leave don’t come back.
This fear started in 2008, when I lost my cousin. She was bombed in her house. I started crying the moment I found out about this.
This was my first shock, and then I lost my grandfather, and then my father. Every time I lose someone it hurts me very badly. I really hate the fact that people die.
This is one of the many reasons I won’t leave Gaza.