Stuck In Gaza

Sometimes I feel curious about certain historical events; it came to my mind to search about the longest blockade in history, the information tell that the siege of Heraklion ( city in Greece) is the longest as it lasted 21 years. Some historians determined this point according to the kind of siege as there is a theory divided the siege into direct siege and indirect siege. Hence they  considered the longest siege is the Israeli siege for Palestine depending on considering it indirect siege, as the Israeli side controls the internal and external movement of the Palestinian people since 1948, so it is a 68 years siege and it is still remain up to date.

Now Gaza city in particular in a blockade condition since 2007 up to date, which is according to modern history specialists, political analysts and humanitarian considerations is the longest.

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In April 2014 it was published in news that Israel’s seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip is the “longest in history,” according to the newly-appointed United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

The main goal of this blockade was to punish Gaza or to be exact to punish Hamas party for controlling Gaza city not taking in consideration that Gaza people are not all Hamas members, but it doesn’t matter as Israel considered Gaza people as ” Hamas’s victims”.

Living in a blockade condition is not an easy thing for any people indeed, as there is an apparent suffer in all fields of the daily life and there is always a mass shortage in people’s needs.

Lately I’ve received messages from two different persons; one is an Arab and the second was European, they asked about the situation in Gaza and ended their speeches by asking ” why don’t you just travel from Gaza?” . This question stopped me to write this article and made the previous detailed introduction to clear this point. Almost all news websites write many details about the condition of Gaza, but it is clear that it is still ambiguous for many people too.

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Diagram shows Gaza Strip crossings and their use

To travel from or to Gaza for me is the most oppressive and exhausting thing you might experience ever. There are two borders for travelers; the Egyptian borders “Rafah crossing” which open every months for only three or four days and sometimes it is just ” closed until further notice” and the borders with Israel “Erez crossing” which opens almost permanently, but only certain people can get permission to go through it such as sick people, businessmen, foreigners with international organizations, journalists and students having visas to study outside Gaza.

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Palestinian passing through Erez crossing
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Palestinian passing through Erez crossing

To go through Rafah borders you have to register your name and to be put on the waiting list knowing that you may wait for years. There are rules too in order to register as you must be a student having a visa and register in a university outside Gaza, sick in a need for receiving treatment outside, have residency in another country, have a non-Palestinian passport, other urgent needs and no place luxuries for example traveling for tourism reasons. To be honest, sometimes you must bribe someone here in Gaza or in the Egyptian side  in order to ease your pass.

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Palestinians waiting to pass through Rafah borders
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Palestinians waiting to pass through Rafah borders

And therefore, we are just stuck in Gaza until a political miracle takes place.

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Ramadan Mubarak from Gaza With Love !

 

It’s the holy fasting month of Ramadan in Gaza City , the month all Muslims await to purify their souls and get close to Allah in all acts of worshiping like fasting, praying, making charity  and reading Qur’an. Sure this month has its own blessings, rituals and appearances and in the city of Gaza Ramadan is just like all Muslim and Arab countries.  Many will write about how miserable the situation  is in Gaza and how Gazans will suffer in Ramadan because of the political situation and its consequences such as; the blockade, the unaccomplished reconstruction projects, the unsolved situation between Hamas in Gaza and Fateh in Ramallah, the useless negotiations with the Israeli side, the continuous electricity problem and many other political BLA BLA BLA .

Despite all this BLA BLA BLA, the preparations for Ramadan are ongoing. Gaza people have their suffers and problems, but nothing ever will make them away from dressing their city with whatever it require in order to live Ramadan’s joy and spirituality as it must be. These preparations cost them a lot of expenses and  efforts starting from the tables of Iftar, social commitments and visits for the relatives, Iftar invitations for family and close friends and ending by Ramadan’s  decorations.

Leaving you with  the latest photos for Ramadan preparations from Gaza.

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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photographer: Mona Zemili. Instgram :https://www.instagram.com/monazemili/?hl=en Twitter:https://twitter.com/mona_zemili Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mona.zemili
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Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/AlJayyar.chocolate/
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Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/AlJayyar.chocolate/
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Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/AlJayyar.chocolate/
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Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/AlJayyar.chocolate/
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Photo source : https://www.facebook.com/AlJayyar.chocolate/
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1
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Photo source: https://www.facebook.com/careforGaza/?fref=ts&em=1

Adele : So Real in Gaza

 

Confident, spontaneous and so real; these are some of the words I heard from the Gazans when I talk about Adele. The British singer now have a really significant number of fans in the Arab world and especially in Gaza. Gaza is not that far from world music nowadays and every famous singer has his or her fans here too. But Adele is such a different phenomenon here, her fans almost consider her this age Deva. I myself one of those who love listening to her music and reading any article pops up about Adele knowing that I’ve never been interested in any non-Arab singer to this level, I just listen but I don’t follow any news or have any passion to anything except the lyrics and music.

Gaza girls have their opinions concerning Adele and these are some of what they think why Adele could get all this fame away from the quality of her music and the strength of her sound;

Spontaneous

” I was watching on Youtube her concert at Albert Hall Royal and in the middle of her performing she took off her shoes in a very spontaneous way made me feel finally those singers on stage are acting like real human being away from the crazy dances we used to see”

So real and down-earthy 

” No plastic surgeries .. no killing diet .. not killing herself to become skinny .. satisfied and confident about her shape and body, about her charming beauty .. have her own rules .. wasn’t one of the flock who formed themselves in a shape that suits the media “

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Creative

” She wrote most of her songs.. she sings how she feel .. she imposed herself in this great crowded domain  .. in a very short time she could gain fame, popularity and too many prizes “

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Her performance

” Her performance is so close to our Eastern culture and morals .. her almost conservative style impressed me .. sometimes I feel she is so close to the Star of the East ” Umm Kulthum” , so I guess we can call her ” Star of the West ” and her lyrics may seem so close to those of Fairouz too.

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Adele & Umm Kulthum

Close to her fans

” She is so close to her fans to the extent you feel she is someone you really know personally , her emotional attitude gives you this feeling .. the note she published when she released her last album was amazing, I had the feeling that she is talking to me personally ” 

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Marriage Reality in Gaza

If you are interested in any country or civilization, certainly you will ask questions about its history, traditions, beliefs and even superstitions. I bet that everyone had read topics like “weird marriage customs around the world or bizarre wedding rituals”. Anyway, regarding marriage customs’ in Gaza, you will not hear about crazy or bizarre rituals like those in India or Africa.

I may mention that there are mainly two types of marriages in Gaza; traditional marriage and non-traditional marriage.

When we talk about traditional marriage, what will come to your mind is the family arranged marriage, it is when the man’s family look for a suitable girl and arrange the thing with her family so both see each other in the girl’s family house and then give their decision about each other. What I meant by “suitable girl” is that the man’s family looks for a girl suits them socially, but what the man and the girl look for in this kind of marriage? Typically men look for certain levels of beauty, education, social class, the less demanding   and a good reputation. About girls in this kind of marriage, they evaluate the man’s social class, reputation, shape, level of education and financial abilities, then accept marrying him or not.

Yes, it is like this actually.

For more clarification, I may mention too the type of girls in such situation:

  • Girls who are totally controlled by their families and have now personality or vision or even opinion and they do whatever their families decide and see appropriate.
  • Girls who have a vision about their future life and how they imagine it to with the ability to accept of refuse the marriage offers regarding what they want, in addition for being raised with an understanding families encourage them to express themselves.

Concerning the non-traditional marriage, what sets it apart from the traditional marriage is how the man and the woman meet, they usually get to know each other before getting married whether they knew each other from the neighborhood, university, work or even from ant social media website it doesn’t differ . The challenge of this kind of marriage is the family attitude towards them, as both could be from totally different social class and what they only look for love and understanding in each other. There are families which will refuse this kind if there was a social difference and they will do whatever they can do in order to prevent this marriage, and there are families that will accept their sons’ or daughters’ decisions even if they didn’t agree in condition they won’t have any role in their lives in case of any future problems.

In this kind of marriage usually there are two types of men:

  • Negative men, who can’t stand against their families and after a while they will leave their “love stories” for the sake of their family’s satisfaction.
  • Positive men, who will not accept to give up and force their families to accept their desires even if they married so late or didn’t get married at all.

Now we must talk about the girls’ families’ attitude towards this marriage:

  • Families who consider it a kind of shame if their daughters had a relationship before marriage.
  • Families who will not be positive at all if the man was from a less social class and will refuse it even if their girl didn’t get married ever.
  • Families who will accept and regret later in case there were social differences.
  • Understandable families, who will agree.

Regarding the girls’ situation:

  • Girls who won’t accept their families decision and take their time to convince them and if they failed they will give up.
  • Girls who will force their families by threatening them they will not accept to marry any other man and by  promising to  undertake the responsibility of their marriage.
  • Girls who will react towards their families’ refusal by eloping, but these cases are few and rare.

This was a quick explanation for the reality of marriage in Gaza, but still as we say here       ” marriage is just like a watermelon no one knows how it would be from the inside”, we can’t judge any kind of marriage as what we may seem as a bad marriage, may become the most successful and what would appear to us as a great marriage, may turn to be the most miserable marriage.

Even we can’t guarantee the non- traditional marriage as it depends on both sides attitude after marriage.

Personally, Marriage for me is very complicated decision and a step really needs deep and cautious thinking, it is as a matter of luck; there are no guarantees for anything.

 

Successful Women in Gaza

This is Gaza city, a city that had gone through three consecutive destructive wars in less than 8 years, a city that has been suffering from political conflicts ended to militants’ coup or Hamas’ takeover of Gaza, a city that is politically and economically sanctioned and beleaguered since 2007.

So, welcome to the club my dear.

Logically these tragic and disastrous events affected all aspects of life in Gaza so badly especially the economic situation; lack of job opportunities, the increasing numbers of jobless graduates, the huge number of war injuries and disabilities and the massive destruction of houses and infrastructure facilities are all definitely reasons for the dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment rates in the city.

Despite this miserable situation there are people who can rise from the ashes, or as we say in Arabic, “people who are like roses among the thorns”. These people did and do their best to create their existence and achieve their innovations in this miserable fate.

Lately I’ve read and heard a lot about some photographers, painters, musicians, artists and many other talented people , they even got the chance to star in famous TV programs like Arab Idol, Arab Got Talent and The Voice.

As it was said “Pleasure in the job puts perfection at work”, I will talk about one woman who developed her passion into a source of living, it is just amazing to make your career and passion come together.

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Om Yousef

Om Yousef, who is obsessed with embroidery and handicrafts, is married and have 2 boys and one girl. Her family are Palestinian refugees who live in Jordan, due the israeli siege she was unable to visit her family easily for a long time, so she was a house wife having too much free time. One day, one of her friends suggested she could do embroidery and at that moment she had no idea about it. She enrolled to one of the  local women organizations where she got courses in doing embroidery . She liked it so much and created many things for her house until someone suggested that she could start her own business in embroidery. The idea was stunning for her, her problem was that she didn’t have enough money to start, so she applied to get financial support from one of the  local organizations and she managed to borrow more money from some of her friends.

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Embroidery: the spirit of Palestine

Surprisingly, her project boosted while there were too many similar projects, but as she says,  the quality of her works was the reason behind this success. Om Yousef worked to develop her professional skills, she got courses in administration and accounting.

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The project now is not only a source of living for her, but also to other 20 women who live in difficult situations. Some of these women are disabled , other are jobless graduated girls and other women are widows . Definitely, she had problems as a result for the political situation such as the lack of the needed materials due to the zionist siege, the difficulty to market her products locally and abroad, the low rates of sales in a country where people strive to win their bread, and the absence of tourists.

To see more of Om Yousef works and for direct contact on Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/mnobanee.rayyes

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innovation and hard work brings success

Gaza Dark Ages

The Dark Ages is a term refers to the Middle Ages in Europe as a symbol  of intellectual darkness, ignorance and the Church control over all aspects of life. Now Gaza is living its Dark Ages, but literary not symbolically . Gaza have got a high rate of educated people and they have been creative in different domains lately, but they live in completely darkness. Gaza city is having an electricity crisis since 2008, this caused a great loss for all the factories or to be clear the survived factories after the three wars and for different companies or institutions of the private sector.

Away from all these damages, I want to write about us, the citizens or the human beings living in Gaza. For a while my family used to buy fuel and use the generator whenever we didn’t have electricity, but we couldn’t tolerate the expenses any more. Usually people use candles or charged lamps or Uninterruptible Power Supply/UPS or solar power cells/Photovoltaic cells “PV Cells”.  Choosing the way you will use to lighten the darkness usually depends on your financial situation and choosing what suits your budget.

At the beginning of this crisis we thought it would be temporary and won’t last for a long time, but now it turned to be a remarkable feature for our lives. No one knows the real reason for this crisis some say it is Israel, other people say the reason is Hamas government in Gaza and other say that it is Ramallah government who created this crisis. The realty of the reasons doesn’t matter anymore what really matters is our daily suffer in this crisis.

I will talk about myself as a real example here , I work as a freelance translator and my work depends on using laptop, this problem affected me so bad as at the beginning I canceled many orders because I was unable to commit to the deadlines with my clients, then I bought extra battery for my laptop and finally I wrote down the electricity schedules of my friends so I can go to work in their houses whenever I have any order .

Besides, I have an extra mobile battery and had to buy one of those cheap tablets so I don’t lose connection with my friends and family in and out Gaza.

I may cancel any plan out of home when it is our time to have electricity in order to charge my devices or if I have to use the iron, the washing machine or even if I wanted to dry my hair. I don’t use my mobile to listen to music or watch anything on Youtube to save the power.  Usually we have electricity for 8 hours or 6 hours or even 4 hours per day. It is not enough at all to do anything. I almost forgot how it is the thing of having electricity for the whole day.

These are the Dark Ages of Gaza, the ages when the needs and rights become luxuries and wishes we dream about and the ages when our greatest concern become having UPS or buying fuel. The Dark Ages in Gaza means that the people had lost their basic human rights and with time they will lose their humanity as Che Guevara once said that if you imposed inhuman conditions over a man  and  if he didn’t rebel against it he will lose his humanity gradually.

Gaza’s stand-up comedy

Now it is the age of technology and globalization. Gaza always has its place in any field and now it is having a place in stand-up comedy shows. The new generation definitely has its own style and thoughts, which differ a lot from the old generation. As one person of this new generation I can tell that life is becoming claustrophobic not only because of politics, but also because of the traditional style of life and the old thoughts and beliefs. It is such pressure to live in a society ruled by old fashion ideas and for sure it is a great struggle to break these rules in an acceptable manner. So you don’t turn to be troubles maker in the society. I can assure you that lots, if not most, of the local old traditions and norms don’t follow the true essence Islam, and even sometimes contradict and challenge Islam.. Modern challenging trends become the way in which youth can express their different thoughts and objections over any issue to break through into now horizons. Social Media had provided a wide space for them to create their own atmosphere away from what society think and dictates. Stand-up comedy  requires special performance skills and abilities which enable its presenter to be a comedian critic and acceptable in the same time. It provides a frame for the “stand-up” comedian to criticize social paradigm in a funny and acceptable way. What other personal skills besides a being courageous personality does it require to start your own stand-up comedy show? Basically, you got to have your own Youtube channel, Facebook page, video camera and reasonable budget. Yes, it is just that simple, which allows many guys in Gaza to start their own programs and channels. Mahmoud Zuaiter  got his fame and place in this domain creating his own show Bsyazalma, he is one of numerous guys who proved themselves in stand-up comedy shows in local events and ceremonies. Up to date these youth depended on their own hard work and there wasn’t any governmental or institutional sponsoring for these initiatives. Even in West Bank there was one program called “Watan3Watar” that was showed on the official Palestine TV channel, but it was stopped for criticizing the government and its policies. These guys turned now to work with Jordanian media production companies and Radio stations. Back to Gaza, you may be interested to know the subjects they talk about in these shows; it is allowed to handle social phenomena and issues, but for sure politics is a “Taboo” subject unless you talk in general without mentioning certain politicians or the VIPs personages. Any government can’t tolerate the stand-up comedy shows easily after the Famous Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef who was one of the factors behind the overthrow of the previous Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and his government. We hope one day we get the freedom of speech and expression that allows youth or even anybody to discuss any problem.

Buy Your Tickets for The Next Movie in “Gaza Cinema”

Yes it’s just as you read in the title you can buy the tickets and guess what else ,, it is for an  affordable price, only 10 Shekels what equals almost $2.6 . That’s awesome isn’t it ??

For decades Gaza people were deprived from enjoying this kind of entertainment. Once there was a cinema in Gaza, it was Al-Nasser cinema. It was opened in 1944, but it was closed in 1987 after the First Intifada began and re-opened again in 1994 when the Palestinian Authority come back to Gaza. Unfortunately, it was damaged and burned in 1996 in riot actions and this was the end of Gaza Cinema. For 19 years it was just a dream to go to a cinema for the Gazans and the new generation had no idea about how a cinema really looks like and how it feel to watch a movie in the cinema, can you imagine this?

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(Cinema Al-Nasser Before)

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(Cinema Al-Nasser Now)

Now this dream became true, Ain Media Company for media production and Fos7a Network launched the program of Gaza Cinema to give the new generation this type of entertainment. The screening of the films takes place in The Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s theater, which can host almost 150 person.

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(Gaza Cinema project in The Palestinian Red Crescent Society’s theater)

This was a great step in changing the reality as no one know when Gaza will live in stable political condition, the idea of this program was one of Gaza’s ways to live and adapt with the imposed circumstances whether because of the Israeli conflict or because of the internal political conflicts.

It may seem silly thing “Mini-Cinema” for only 150 in a country its population is nearly 1.82 million people, but I can simply imagine it might be experimental project to study the idea or re-opening the old cinema” Al-Nasser Cinema “.

I can honestly tell that the responsible people are doing well as they keep asking the people about their opinions and what they would like to watch in the next time, they used to screen mostly Palestinian films or documentaries, which usually deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and it consequences ,which from my point of view became normal and usual for them and I believe that people need to forget about politics and the Israeli occupation even for two hours weekly. Unexpectedly the last time was remarkable as they screened Leonardo Dicaprio’s Oscar winning movie, The Revenant.

With the existence of such an hungry audience for watching films, I believe this project may grow faster than any one can imagine especially in Summer.

This initiative was just one of the proofs that Gaza people really want to live in peace and enjoy their lives, they want and need to overcome the difficulties of being a Palestinian citizen. They had suffer enough until now and maybe it is the time for them to take the chance to decide how they want their lives to be, this new generation just needed this chance. The whole world watched how Gaza was in war times, now it’s time to see how Gaza can rise with the dreams and hopes of its people.