Education: The Only Weapon Left

A month into my senior year, I’m nervous about entering the “real world” after college ends. Yet, at the same time, the real world keeps intruding into college.

I started my semester off on the right foot at Al-Quds Bard College, with progress on my senior project, a film about how Palestinians view the local media in the years since the rift between Fatah and Hamas opened in 2007. I’m also taking three great courses: documentary film theory and practice, installation art, and critical literary theory. It’s a lot of difficult, heady stuff. But the intellectual energy I receive from the courses is worth it.

What makes college life most fascinating are friends, of course. When I remember that I am graduating next year, I think about them and get stressed. I don’t want to leave college. When I start thinking about life after graduation, I think about my coming responsibilities in the professional world and the challenges of applying to graduate school. Will I succeed? I’m not sure I want to grow up.

In the end, though, life goes on. It unfolds spontaneously, without excuses. I should prepare myself psychologically for the next phase of my life. It might be more interesting, anyways.

Amid everything I’m facing—the same challenges students from America to Australia deal with every year, I suppose—Palestinian students like me face another unique crisis.

I remember when I saw the image of the Syrian child washed up on the Turkish beach. It blew my mind. On that day, I couldn’t study. In my books and on my laptop screen, I saw the image of that child. There were many photos like that, of babies killed, in the 2014 Israeli-Gaza war. The Syrian child washed ashore around the first anniversary of the Gaza conflict. I experienced flashbacks. I felt traumatized.

The Syrian refugee crisis is not the only thing that disrupts my focus, however. In the West Bank, things are getting out of control. Tensions between Israeli soldiers, Israeli settlers and the Palestinians are ramping up in a dangerous way.

The last two martyrs, Dia al-Talahmeh and Mohannad Halabi, were students at Al-Quds University. My college is affiliated with the school.

Dia al-Talahmeh, 21, died last month when a bomb he was going to throw at a West Bank checkpoint exploded, according to Agence France Presse. A few days later, Halabi, 19, killed two Israelis and wounded two others, including a toddler. He stabbed his victims before grabbing a gun from one of them and starting to shoot. Police killed him.

Al-Talahmeh and Halabi acted in response to frequent Israeli attacks on Jerusalem in general and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount specifically. Israel has prevented Muslims from praying in the mosque and mistreated women at the site. The two young men were also fed up with the settlers’ actions against Palestinians, especially after Jewish extremists killed an eight-month-old Palestinian baby, Ali Dawabsheh, and the child’s parents in an attack in Nablus.

This climate means that it is no longer easy or safe for me to go to school. On October 4, a wall of tear gas stopped me from entering campus. It wouldn’t have mattered if I had made it through the gas. Israeli soldiers closed the school’s two main gates. My parents don’t want me to even leave the house, since I have to pass through so many Israeli checkpoints targeted by militants. Students and Israeli soldiers have been clashing on campus, too. The soldiers throw tear gas and sound bombs.

Additionally, electricity is unreliable in the wake of the Israeli attacks. But I have some assignments. I wrote this blog post on my cell phone because my laptop was not charged. I couldn’t submit a midterm paper on time. I had to ask one of my peers to send an email to my teacher to tell him the situation.

Safety is a huge concern for students’ parents. But passing the settlements and the checkpoints, attending lectures and organizing protests where we exercise our right to free speech and show our solidarity with the martyrs of the university is part of our legal resistance.

Nothing should frighten us from completing our education. For any young person, it is the key to their future. For Palestinians, it is also the only weapon that Israel has not taken away from us so far.


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