Israeli and Tunisian teens on the Gaza Strip

Since 2007, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and Hamas, the Palestinian faction ruling the Gaza strip, have been at war. Many Arab countries, including Egypt, share sympathies with Hamas. Israel has a strong ally in the United States.

This dispute has had aggression from both sides. Bombings and rockets have caused civilian casualties and deaths in both Gaza and Israel. On Nov. 26, Israel and Hamas, with assistance from Egypt and the US, reached a cease fire agreement, which is tenuous.

It is easy to forget that there are people our age who live in these conditions.

These are statements from Nofar Ratzon, of HaZafon, Israel, and Mariam Ben Ayed, of Sfax, Tunisia. I sent them each a message requesting that they share their point of view and experiences with the conflict, and what they think should happen next.

The opinions of these two high school girls is at times highly conflicting; however, there are similar themes. Both defend their side’s right to defend themselves, and agree that continued violence is both unhelpful and inevitable. Here’s what they have to say.

For 8 days, all I could hear in my family, in my school, and on TV was news about Gaza. All I could see on my Facebook wall was pictures of casualties. Gaza means a lot for us, more than anyone thinks. Palestine in general means so much for the whole Arab world.

What occurred in Gaza was no doubt a series of crimes against humanity. The videos and pictures I saw were terrible. Some people say that they were old pictures and videos, but those were really just a minority. The majority of them reflected a tiny part of what was really going on there, and trying to hide truth was totally useless. However, I’m wondering how some people dared to say “nothing is happening there,” or “Gaza started the whole thing.”

Hello! the truth is crystal clear. There were things happening. 166 dead including 43 children and 13 women, 1000 people were injured as well, 5-year-old children were deprived from their lives just because they were playing in the front yards of their houses. Some families lost their lives just because their houses were the direct target of a rocket. Some people keep on saying, “That’s normal. It’s war.”

I would answer with what Einstein said; “It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.” Killing is murder no matter what the circumstances are.

When Gaza’s people decided to drop some rockets back, to fight back, to defend themselves, even though Gaza’s arms are incomparable to the ones used by Israel, they became the mistaken.

“These people they are terrorists! Look, they dropped a rocket! How dare they do so!” In short, they took your water, burnt your olive trees, destroyed your house, took your job, stole your land, imprisoned your father, killed your mother, bombed your country, starved you all, humiliated you all, BUT you’re the one to blame: you shot a rocket back.

My dear reader, you might be saying, “This girl is talking, talking… all Arabs talk without acting!” I would answer “Yeah, you’re definitely right!” Most the of the Arab world just talks, as that’s the only thing we can do as citizens. The authorities have the money but don’t have enough power to react. I have to admit that in the last bombing on Gaza, Egypt was the only country who really was trying hard to stop things in Gaza. The Egyptian authorities have always been supporting Hamas. In fact, during the bombing period, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, met with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, and Mr. Morsi has recalled Egypt’s ambassador in Tel Aviv and thanks to some cooperation between Egypt , USA, Israel and Palestine, they could agree on a cease-fire.. For the other Arab countries, I don’t think authorities have done anything worth mentioning except some ministerial visits to Gaza.

However, concerning Arab citizens, including me, we took part in some strikes against violence and used social media as a way to express our minds, even though it doesn’t really make a change. The point is, violence is never the key to solving problems! Israel has said that Gaza started the whole thing. If that was true, even though I’m sure it’s far from reality, weren’t there any other ways but dropping rockets and killing people? They could have talked to each other instead of acting with not even a bit of humanity. This bombing has happened too many times before, and it’s always the same scenario: rockets, then a cease-fire agreement, then back again to rockets, and the casualties have always been citizens. If authorities had acted in a peaceful way, we wouldn’t have had that many wars in the world. I hope these people who have nothing to do in their lives but trying to steal other countries’ lands by killing and destroying open their eyes wide to see how much they are harming people. That’s somehow impossible, but I’m always optimistic.

It’s 8 p.m. in Israel. At 9 p.m., the cease fire will start. You must think that it’s a good thing, no more war; but it’s not exactly right. In my opinion, a cease fire is just a time for Hamas to get more weapons, and then they will strike again. So what’s the point?

I probably need to introduce my self. My name is Nofar Ratzon and I live in the north of Israel, so I haven’t lived under rocket’s fire for 12 years, but family does. Since I can remember, Hamas has shot fire on the south. As a child who went to visit her family in the south a lot of times, I remember running to the shelter or not doing anything because their houses were with no safety place.

Now I’m eighteen; when Hamas started firing on Israel I was six years old, and it was very scary to hear the alarms all the time. Israel agreed to cease fire before, but every time, it doesn’t last for a long time. More than that, in 2005, Israel gave Hamas territory, but it didn’t help. Hamas just gets closer to Israel. That’s the reason why I don’t believe Hamas. They are terrorists and everyone knows: you don’t negotiate with terrorists. I am very disappointed with the countries which force Israel to negotiate with Hamas. It’s not fair! Israel must defend her civilians!

You probably don’t know that most of the children who live in the south suffer from anxiety. For instance, my cousin’s child is scared to sleep in a not-safety room. I’m sure that any country wouldn’t accept to live like that. I think it’s absurd that the Israeli people have gotten used to living like that.

Last week, when I heard about the attack in Gaza I was hopeful that this is the end of Hamas, that now Gaza will be free, but I guess I was wrong. I don’t know what will happen know but I hope that Hamas will stop firing bombs on Israel but deep inside in my heart I know that it’s not the end.

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