(The Gaza Strip is a narrow strip of land bordering Egypt to the south, Israel to the east and north and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.  It is part of Palestine even though it is physically separated from the West Bank.  The government in Gaza is under the control of Hama, a political party elected by the people but is considered a terrorist organization by many nations, including Israel.  Since 2009, Gaza has been under a maritime blockade - ships trying to bring cargo to the area are turned away by the Israeli navy.

Gaza is almost completely cut off from the rest of the world, save for a few tightly-controlled gates.  Almost half the population is under the age of fourteen.  There is high unemployment.  Most people rely on aid from the government and from humanitarian organizations.  Although Israel has lifted embargos on food and consumer goods, items that could have duel use - such as construction material that could also be made into bombs - is not allowed into the area.  Such items get into Gaza through illegal tunnels under the border.  During the recent war between Israel and Hamas, many of these tunnels were destroyed.

I was unable to obtain permission to get into the Gaza Strip.  Through the assistance of the Tamer organization, I was able to talk with children there via a video link-up.

F. is a girl, one of the children I spoke with.   Remember, these interviews were done in January and February of 2013, before the current round of war.)

F. 14  

I live in Gaza City, right by the hospital.  I saw everything that happened there during the recent war.  And the war before that.  I saw everything and I put it on Facebook and Twitter so that others would know.

On the sixth day of the war, at one in the morning, I went to the window and saw a woman in a doorway shouting, "What will I do after you, my son?"  Her son had just been killed and she did no want to keep living without him.

There were lots of bombs.  The Israelis dropped so many bombs on us.  It was awful.  The sound of a bomb exploding is awful.  I pray you never have to hear such a sound.  When you hear a building explode you know there is a person inside it, maybe a family.  Maybe they are sitting together, saying to each other, "Don't be afraid, we will be all right."  And then the bomb comes and they explode apart with the building.

The sounds are awful.  The bombs, the planes, the helicopters, the screaming, the crying.  I'll never get those sounds out of my head.

Do I ever think about the Israeli kids on the other side of the border?  Think about them in what way?  Do I think they are human beings?  Of course they are human beings!  This war is not happening because the Palestinians don't think the Israelis are humans - of course we think they are humans.  They are like us - they laugh, they cry, they go to school, they want to grow up.  Just like us.  We know this.  That is not why this war is happening.

It doesn't help us to know the Israeli kids are human,.  Knowing that does not stop the war.

When I see bombs falling on Israel from Gaza, of course I feel sad for the Israeli children who are feeling afraid.  But they do not suffer as much as we do.  Israeli kids have everything granted to them.  They have good shelters to hide in.

When Gaza bombs Israel, we do it to protect our land.  When Israel bombs Gaza, they do it because they want to punish us for being Palestinians.

We have had to readapt to life quickly after the war.  No therapy.  After witnessing the horrors of war and oppression, we had to go back to our lives as if everything was normal.  It's a non-normal normal.  Why should it be normal for us to live this way?

We really felt the value of life during the war.  Our life could go at any second, so we don't want to throw our time away.

War meant fear for our loved ones and friends.  We use Facebook and Twitter regularly like any teen, but during the war we were concerned to wake up and use it to see who was still alive after a night of bombing.  We learned to hold loved ones really close because they could be killed at any moment.

I know so many people who got hurt.  A girl in our group lost both her grandparents in the bombing, and her father got hit in the leg.  My best friend's cousin is a journalist.  His house was destroyed, seventy percent of his body was burned and his wife and child were killed.  The doctors have him on heavy drugs because of the burns.  Every time he wakes up he asks about his child and his wife, but no one has the heart to tell him that his family has died.

Time was funny during the war.  Sometimes it would speed right up.  I'd look at the clock and three hours would pass but I would think it was only one hour.  And, sometimes, like when it is night and dark and you just want the morning to come, every minute crawls by so slow, it feels like an hour.

We all stayed in one room during the war.  If a family member had to leave the room for a few minutes, everyone was scared that they would be killed and we would never see them again.

I wish I could get to know the feelings of the Israelis who are in the planes dropping the bombs on us.  Do they have any feelings for the people they are dropping the bombs on?  Do they ever think about us?  Even butchers who kill animals for meat have feelings about taking the animal's life.  Do the pilots dropping the bombs think about us at all?  This is something I would like to know.

Israel is fighting a losing battle against us.  Palestine is our land and we won't leave it.  Even if Israel makes things one thousand times harder for us, we will stay and we will fight.

In the future - if I get to decide my future - I would like to be an architect, so that I can rebuild Gaza.  And when I rebuild it, I will add a special place where girls can go to play sports.  We like to run around as much as the boys do, but it is hard for us to find a safe place to play.

We have every right to keep our amazement over things and to love being alive.  We are still young.  We should be able to enjoy that.


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