Hanar Shaat, a 21-year-old student from Khan Younis, describes the needs and aspirations of young Gazans.
Peace in Gaza is the dream that we've dreamed for the last 60 years; a new, free Gaza - free souls, free minds - is what we really need.
We have tried everything. We have tried the struggle, we have tried negotiations, we even tried to stay silent until the whole world found us a solution, but unfortunately all these attempts were useless.
I've been thinking about Gaza today: the wounded hearts, the rage inside everyone – especially young people, the rage over what we had, and what we now have, the siege of Gaza, the poverty our people are suffering – and it’s getting worse and worse.
I think we need to get rid of all the past, the hatred which is planted inside us – toward each other, toward the Israeli government, even toward to whole world. We need to start again in Gaza, rebuild our characters, our community, our culture, and I think only young people are able to make this change right now. Young people in Gaza are the people who have the energy, the capacity, the real determination; they are armed with their parents’ experience and best of all: HOPE.
Gaza is not only a terrorist territory; we have thinking minds, young people who want a safe future with real peace.
Gazan youth are working hard for a new future, trying their best to do something different from what they have lived through so far. But unfortunately they don't have the chance to change anything under the siege.
Some are looking for opportunities to study at university; some are looking for jobs. Most young people in Gaza work in NGOs to pay their study expenses but even if they're working hard and for long hours, they are hardly paid anything.
Being under pressure that way, and with nothing to motivate them, all the negative energy in their souls makes them hate every single reason that has led them to this situation.
We need to offer young people help and hope. We need to offer them a new future and a new life.
We need better facilities for our universities. We don’t have professional computer or science labs, which we badly need in our study. We need scholarships and we need a deeper academic experience - not just a book and a teacher! We believe that it's all because of the siege imposed over Gaza – we don't care whether it’s a siege that Hamas or Israel caused, we just want to live a normal university life.
Our problem is not with Israel; our problem is with the war and with bombing innocent people on both sides. We need a normal, peaceful life!
And we need FUN! We don't have places to offer fun in Gaza; we have only the sea, and it's surrounded with people everywhere since it's the only place to have fun in!
Meeting the Elders today, I felt a revival of hope inside me as Gazan woman. It's great to find people who really care about what the youth community needs, who think about what would solve the problem without negotiations and who are prepared to listen to those endless stories we got sick of listening to.
I felt good about expressing the youth community’s thoughts and needs to the Elders, even though our time with them was short. It was great that they gave young people their time; this planted hope inside us, and I wish for it to be fruitful for the Palestinian community.
I would like to thank The Elders for this step, and for caring about Gaza and especially about young people in Gaza.
Our meeting today with the Elders created one thought that keeps repeating itself inside my mind: WE CAN MAKE A CHANGE.
Hanar Shaat is 21 years old and was born in Khan Younis, Gaza. She studies English at Al-Aqsa University and has worked as an English teacher and freelance translator. Hanar is passionate about learning English as a way of connecting with other people around the world, and she is also interested in photography, literature and journalism.