Steven Aiello

Gazan Students Speak V: What is Peace?

Ongoing series involving questions sent to Palestinian students (ages 12-18) in Gaza. Here are the questions and answers (the students have no direct contact with me — everything is communicated via their teacher). The previous post can be read here. And responses from Jewish students from Israel defining peace can be read here.

What is peace to you?

  1. Peace to me means that I can move freely wherever. I will not be afraid anymore. Not lose my mom and dad and sister and brother because of an airplane attack. And not be hated because I am Palestinian.
  2. When I do not need to be afraid because of the bombing and shooting, and I can live wherever I want.
  3. Peace to me means to not be afraid anymore that I have to go to bed and wake up from bombs. Or be afraid of losing those who matter to me.
  4. To me it means to be without trauma, nightmares, triggers, PTSD, and no more fear. And that there is trust enough to meet.
  5. To get away from the vicious circle of war, and revenge, and just be free and be whoever and wherever I want. Absence of fear.
  6. To me it means when wars are over and we can trust one another. And [we can shed] tears from other things, not from war. When the circle of violence is destroyed.
  7. Peace to me is when seeing an airplane doesn’t instantly make me scared. But rather wonder where the people in it are traveling. Something I have never seen. It is also to feel safe enough to sleep, without wondering if I will ever wake up again or if I will die in the rubble of my own home.

Peace to me is when I can rest in the arms of Islam and truly appreciate the beauty of Allah’s creation. Peace to me is when no matter where a child is born, the child is loved and safe. And the child won’t be an orphan because of war. Peace to me is when we all can accept one another as human beings. Then we can truly find inner and outer peace.

8. Living in peace means to exist without fear of anything – fear of losing loved ones, fear of not achieving goals, fear of having one’s rights and dignity violated. Peace is learning to love others despite their differences and wishing them well. Love is peace.

About the Author
Steven Aiello is the Director of Debate for Peace (, and a board member of the NGO Committee on Sustainable Development NY. He has a BA in Economics, MA in Diplomacy and Conflict Studies, and MA in Islamic Studies. He teaches Model UN for schools throughout Israel. Among his other hats he serves as Regional Coordinator for Creating Friendships for Peace, and Dialogue Officer at Asfar. Steven has also served as Chief of the Middle East Desk Head for Wikistrat, interned for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the American Islamic Congress. His writing has been published in the NY Daily News, Jerusalem Post, Iran Human Rights Review; Berkley Center at Georgetown;, and the Center for Islamic Pluralism. He can be reached via email at
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