Opinion | I Can Help Rebuild Gaza. First I Need to Survive Today.

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I was a little boy living in the Jabalia area of ​​northern Gaza, when I saw an Israeli soldier for the first time recently. The Israel Defense Forces raided the camp and our house. They stayed for three days. After that I was afraid of the Israelites. I always thought they were coming to kill me or rob me.

And yet I know the world can be better. I have seen how people in other conflicts have worked to live together, and I know that one day I will work to make Gaza better, rebuild our society, and move forward. But this week, I took the only chance that secured my future, and ran away.

I am a Palestinian who grew up in the Gaza Strip, so I have known conflict for a long time. My family since 1948. My grandmother used to tell me wonderful stories about our village, Al Muhraqa. It was on the eastern border of Gaza, nine miles from Gaza City.

Still, every time the war broke out in Gaza, it never reached this level of intensity. This is the first time in my life that I don’t know where to go or whether I will survive. But seeing a different version of this world, I was still disappointed.

Seven years after the first soldiers invaded my home, I met the Israelis on my own accord. I was 15; My brother encouraged me to look into attending Seeds of Peace in the United States, which promotes coexistence and seeks future community leaders. Descendants gave me a full scholarship. It was 2015; A year later, war with Israel and seven years later, Gaza was under a ban on entry and exit. Entering the camp was my first chance to get out of the conflict. The opportunity changed my life.

Gazans cannot communicate with people outside the region. We can’t really afford to travel and explore the world. Through Seeds, I learned not only how to see beyond Gaza, but also how to tell my story in a way that affects others, connecting my life to the lives of others. I took the opportunity because I wanted Israelis and others to see how a Gazan lived and survived. I wanted them to learn that we deserve to live. And I wanted to educate them about the culture here in Gaza in a way that would allow them to take drastic measures in their communities.

After race, I continued to pursue courses in political science and peacebuilding. I studied law at Gaza Al-Azhar University and focused on conflict resolution. Two years ago, I attended a program based in Jerusalem – remotely – that helped me build the skills I needed to do peacebuilding in and out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. I traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and met with the people of the Good Friday Agreement. I now have friends from conflict zones around the world. So this summer, Seeds of Peace asked me to help plan and develop a community action program, trying to teach the kids how to take serious action in their community.

Meanwhile, I went to work as a legal officer for a solar energy company called Sunbox, trying to bring electricity to Gazans, who even before this conflict would often go without power for hours at a time. I moved to Riyadh Saudi Arabia for my job. Before October 7th, I returned to Gaza for my sister’s wedding reception and to visit my company’s solar projects.

The past seven weeks have been terrifying. I was with 85 members of my family when the war started. We never stayed in one place for long. Instead, we traveled from Gaza City to Khan Younis, Khan Younis to Rafah, Rafah to Khan Younis, and then to Gaza City, to my parents’ home, forever in search of safety.

For weeks our daily routine was to find clean water to drink and charge our phones. Even this can take hours and hours. Every morning some people go to fetch bread, some other food, others water. The lucky ones come back with something. But as the battle drew near, we had to hide in the basement and could not get out at all.

After hours of walking and donkey carting, we returned to Khan Yunis earlier this month. There were shots and explosions around us. The roads were littered with sand, sewage and bodies. It was very dangerous, but we couldn’t stay in Gaza City – all the children in my family started getting sick. We simply had nothing to give them. I myself went for days without food. Nothing felt certain.

Then, on Thursday, I had the great opportunity to cross into Egypt with part of my family, including my parents. Leaving Gaza is very difficult. We leave our friends and family behind to face the grim reality of life in the rubble of their homes. I am very grateful that my family survived, but I am saddened that the people of Gaza are not.

After all this, I still know two things for sure: civilians should not be in the middle of this and coexistence is the only solution to this conflict.

I think there are two main steps to making this happen. The first is at the individual and community level: people must believe that both peoples can live together and live in peace. This can happen from schools raising awareness and promoting coexistence activities. That was the main part of what happened in Northern Ireland.

But after that, there should be another step by the government and the international level. Countries and governments in the world should promote the idea of ​​coexistence and acceptance of what both people deserve to live in peace on the same earth; Without needing to be biased against one another.

I believe cohabitation is the solution because I’m fed up. And the more than two million people living in Gaza are tired of the conflict. We have to live in peace because the people live on the other side of the fence. I think it is possible; It just takes more effort to do so.

It will take a long time to rebuild everything. But the devastation I see isn’t just about rebuilding those chunks of concrete. It’s about the stories behind those walls and houses. We need to bring back those lives, those stories, too. And that’s why we need people who care about those stories – the connections I’ve made in my conflict resolution experiences.

I think we can rebuild it, even if it takes 50 or 60 years. We can find global interest in reinvesting in war-damaged or damaged projects. We want peace. We will fix everything that the war is doing in this beautiful place. I’ll work on fixing it when I get back.

Kamal Almashharawi is a lawyer working as a commercial and legal officer for the solar energy company SunBox in Gaza.

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