I was born in 1998, in a small hospital just outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. Long before then, a war in 1948 caused Israel and Palestine to have a continuing conflict regarding the land in Israel. Because of this, Palestine started carrying out attacks all over Israel. As far back as I can recall, these attacks have taken place just miles from my home, but in September of 2015, that all changed.
My family lives in a cramped apartment in the beautiful city of Jerusalem. I live with my mother, father, and my three sisters, Chana, Adina, and Ilana. We adore living in the city, but sometimes it can be rather frightening and violent. There are spasmodically acts of terrorism in our city and other parts of Israel performed by the Palestinians that imperil the lives of many innocent citizens. I never knew the reasoning behind it, but before one 6th grade history class, I was always inquisitive as to why they tried to harm our people.
The date was October 4, 2011. I strolled into Mr. Aaron’s 6th grade history class eager for that day’s lesson. I slid into my desk and took out my notebook as other students filed into the classroom. As I patiently waited for the lesson to begin, I noticed that the lesson title was written up on the blackboard; “Israeli Palestinian Conflicts.” I was beyond excited to learn the answer to a question that had been residing in my brain for numerous years.
After everyone was settled in, Mr. Aaron began his teaching. “Near the end of a war in 1948, Israeli and Palestinian conflicts began to arise. The British, who were formerly in control of Palestine, left the country, leaving Jews and Arabs to figure out the lay of the land on their own...” Mr. Aaron’s continued talking. I processed the information, quickly realizing that the conflicts were all about the Israelis wanting Israel to themselves, because we believe that God gave us this land, while the Palestinians thought they should have the land, because they were there first. As a compromise, two dangerous regions called Palestine and the Gaza Strip were created, where the Palestinians live.
As a follower of the Jewish Religion, and a strong believer of the Torah, I too believe that God gave us the land known as Israel. Yet, after that 6th grade history class, new questions flooded my head, because I still couldn’t understand why there couldn’t just be peace.
Now as a senior in high school, there are still some things that I will never understand about these conflicts. All I really know is that I am in constant danger, and am scared of the potential attacks that could be made on our country.
On a hot September day of this year, I abruptly woke up to enormous bangs, glass breaking, and people screaming all around my apartment. I yelled for my mother, but there was no reply. My heart was racing, faster than it ever had before. I’ve lived through plenty of invasions, but all of those were miles away from my home. By the intensity of the noise, I could tell that this raid was right outside my door. I jumped to my feet, scrambling around my room looking for some shoes. In between the loud bangs, I could hear my mother faintly yelling, “Maya! Maya!” I opened my bedroom door, and was greeted by a dark cloud of smoke. I covered my mouth and nose with my hand, and starting feeling my way down the hall. As I got closer to what used to be the entryway of my house, the smoke grew darker, but the sound of my mother yelling became clearer. I also heard one of my sisters continuously coughing, but I didn’t see her. I kept feeling my way down the hall, all the way to the end, where I saw a huge pile of debris of what once was the walls of Ilana’s bedroom. Squinting my eyes, I started grabbing at the pieces of crumbled dry wall, which eventually revealed the rest of my family who were covered in soot.
Seeing as how I was in the best condition out of everyone in my family at this point, I helped each one of them off the floor, struggling to catch my breath as the smoke filled my lungs. Although devastated by our destroyed home, we ran outside where Israeli police carrying guns, pulled people from their homes up and down my street, provoking them to take shelter somewhere else. People were running frantically about, children were screaming, and everyone had tears rolling down their face. As I took in my surroundings, I began to daze, trying to remember what it had been like here only a day before. I was brought back to reality from my daze by my mother grabbing my hand, before quickly dragging me down the street. I let her drag me on, as I looked back at the ruins.
As I continued being towed down the cobblestone roads of Jerusalem, all I could do was just stare back, with my jaw dropped, shocked. I felt my mother trip on an uneven stone, and her sweaty hand slipped from mine, in an effort to save herself from smashing her face off the ground. I was left sitting in the middle of a back street, too frazzled and out of breath to find my way to my feet. I just sat there, my eyes scanning all around. I tilted my head back, looking up, following the planes flying above me with my eyes. When I focused my vision back in front of me, I noticed what appeared to be a Palestinian boy around my age, running towards me, armed with a gun. I tried scrambling to my feet as I heard my father yelling, “Maya! Come on!” from just down the street. The boy kept getting closer, but my legs were too weak to support my standing weight. I began shaking, thinking that this was the end. I could feel tears rolling down my face, and my eyes slowly closing, just as my father picked me up, throwing me over his shoulder, and starting off in a sprint, dodging the bullets that were being shot in our direction.
Before I knew it, we had made it to a nearby bomb shelter, where about thirty other families gathered. All around the city now, I heard the loud bangs that woke me up only forty minutes before. With my back up against the wall, I slid to the floor, putting my head in between my knees, hoping this insanity would be over soon. As I drifted to sleep, I heard families whispering that this was in fact another one of Palestine’s attacks.
A few hours later, I awoke to my youngest sister, Adina, tapping me. Only a few families remained in the shelter, and silence spread throughout the city. Once I was fully awake and stable, my family and I slowly exited the shelter, peering around the corner making sure it was in fact safe to enter the streets. Families who were now displaced from their homes crowded the streets, all walking around with a particular sadness on their faces. We headed to our apartment, which almost felt like a walk of shame, as the other citizens followed us with their eyes in silence. When we approached our home, I could see that the whole front face of it was destroyed, and all that remained were the front steps and the door frame of what once was our front door. I could hear my mother sobbing, and I noticed the wave of depression that washed over my father who worked so hard to provide everything, including our home for us. I slowly approached my front steps, where I took a seat. My family gathered around me, all baffled. As I reflected on what had just happened, and all that was lost, one of my most recurring questions popped into my head. Why are the Palestinians trying to harm our people? How could someone ever be cruel enough to destroy people’s homes, belongs, and dreams. My head fell into my hands, and I too began silently sobbing.
Life in Palestine is very interesting to say the least. As an 18 year old teenage boy, I have had to be apart of the group who arranges attacks on Israel. As soon as you turn 16 in Palestine, you are recruited into this group. As a child, I was goodhearted, and free spirited, but now being a part of this group, I’ve had to hide that side of me.
Now let me go into what it’s like living in Palestine, in more depth. Our homes are disheveled in appearance, and each house is leaning right up against the next. Inside, we don’t have many belongings, only some food, a few furniture pieces, clothes, and of course weapons, if you are over the age 16. The people here all walk around with some kind of attitude, and no one ever really acknowledges each other’s presence. Our land is very sandy, and it’s extremely hot all day, and chilly at night. We have very few trees, because most of them are killed by smoke when Israel attacks us, in an effort to exile us from the country.
Only few children get an opportunity to go to real school, where they learn mathematics, science, and other worthwhile things, because as soon as you turn 16, you must go to a special defensive program, where we learn strategies on how to make our attacks on Israel more significant.
Recently at this unique school that I attend, we have been learning about all the plans for an upcoming attack. This raid is supposed to be bigger than any other that has been carried out before. In school, I have to act like I’m supportive of the plans, but really I want nothing to do with it. Anyways, the attack was scheduled for the next day and we had specific instruction to go home and get a good night’s sleep. After sitting in school, bored out of my mind for 6 hours, I was glad to be able to go home and sleep. Of course we’d have to get up at four o’clock a.m. so it was best that I get an early start to bed.
The next morning, I was startled awake by a loud fist banging at the front door of my home. I practically jumped to my feet, quickly throwing on my clothes, and sliding my gun into its holster. I marched to the door, and opened it. Outside, stood the leader of the attack group, ready to make sure my family was fully prepared to move out with our arms and ammunition. Once the check was completed, we were motioned out of our home into the brisk morning air. I took in my surroundings of numerous other families mustering together, who were reanalyzing the attack plan.
We eventually hoped in several trucks that would carry us over the border into Israel. Every time we wanted to cross over into Israel, we had to go through a checkpoint, where our weapons and ammunition were at risk of being confiscated. I was one of the people in charge of hiding the weapons inside the truck, and luckily, we made it through the checkpoint unscathed.
The ride to Jerusalem was about an hour in length. The ride was usually dead silent, with only the sound of the old truck bouncing around the road filling our ears. Before I knew it though, the city of Jerusalem stood before us. We filed out of the truck, two at a time, jumping over the side, with gun in hand. Once we had all exited the truck, the leaders pointed in the direction of the attack site, which was a small back street.
We headed for that street, and quickly small bombs and grenades were being set off everywhere. Instead of shooting at people fleeing from their homes like everyone else was doing, I stood there in silence, watching the front faces of the apartments crumble into a million pieces. The attacks began to spread to neighboring streets, and only a few people were left on the street of the original attack site.
As I began to find other group members, I saw a family of 6 escape out of one of the completely destroyed homes. I noticed a girl about my age being dragged along by her mother, who accidentally dropped her hand, leaving the girl motionless in the middle of the street. My childhood personality kicked in at that moment, and I began running to save the girl from the other Palestinians who wanted to kill her. I knew she saw me, because as I got closer she tried scrambling to her feet. A man who I presume to be her father, came to her rescue, yelling, “Maya! Maya!” before lifting her up and throwing her over his shoulder.
As I stood there watching them sprint off, I heard footsteps coming up behind me. I whirled around, and noticed one of my group members in a stance with his gun, ready to shoot.
“Why didn’t you kill them?” He yelled, as I stood frozen. I tried to answer, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth. Angrily, the man pulled his trigger, shooting at the girl and her father as they continued down the street.
The member ran off, on a quest to find more Israelis to kill. In shock, I stumbled my way back to the truck to await the arrival of everyone else. I climbed into the bed of the truck over the side, and sat down. All I could do reflect on what had just happened, blinking every so often. I honestly had no idea why we always attacked Israel, and I wanted no part of it anymore. Realistically, I am actually just thankful that that poor girl and her father got away safely.
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