*painting by a local Palestinian artist
I sat today discussing with friends the difficulties and joys of learning languages. In Gaza, a surprising number of Palestinians have basic English skills (surprising simply because Arabic is the working language and Gaza has long not been inundated with hoards of English-speaking tourists…aid workers, yes, unfortunately, a product of the Israeli occupation, the various Israeli wars and invasions on Gaza, the years-long siege. Yes, aid-workers are prevalent in Gaza, the one thriving industry).
Palestinians have an exceedingly high drive to learn and attain higher education. Of course, here in a besieged Strip, with even school materials deemed non-vital by the Israeli overlords, education is a challenge. Understatement.
Post-war on Gaza, psychologists like Dr. Eyad Sarraj’s Gaza Community Mental Health Programme report an increase in students’ lack of interest in or inability to concentrate at school.
“Children here have lost joy in life. They can laugh but there is no joy. They are unable to maintain hope,” he said. He later said, “Whether consciously or unconsciously, the fear of another war is always there.”
And even without the psychological impact of war, students have been suffering under the siege, studying by candlelight during power outages (at times, the power was out for 12 hour a day, 16 in other areas) –and even candles became scarce–and making due without proper textbooks and materials.
It’s well known, to those who seek other than the corporate media, that hundreds Palestinian university students wait for their chance to leave Gaza to study abroad. Many have lost scholarships because of sealed borders.
And for the average Palestinian who might like to travel as any human being, perhaps work and study along the way (as I have done myself), this is an impossible dream.
It cannot be stressed enough what a toll this siege, these Israeli invasions and massacres (land, air, sea), the 42 year occupation, the denial of prisoners’ rights, the fact that there are so damn many prisoners (over 10,000, some say 11,000), the rising number of martyrs in any given Palestinian family (in occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza), and the daily trials, in Gaza, of loss of hope, work, purpose, opportunity…has on the psyche. No easy cross to bear.
So why and how, then, can Palestinians be so gracious, forgiving, and inspirational? Too many welcomes, invitations to iftaar, invitations even to live with families… offered so effortlessly, because this is the nature of most Palestinians.