Steven Aiello

Gazan Youth Speak II

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). Whatever your political views, I think that the responses communicate clearly how youth are victims of this conflict, while also showing the range of individual perspectives of both Gazans, and the Jewish Israelis who asked the questions. The responses are presented as is, with only minor editing of typos, and explanatory comments in (parentheses). All are anonymous, with only letters representing individual responses.

Are you scared?

2 students: Yes.

2 students: Sometimes.

3 students: No, with no further comments.

A: No I am not. What I was frightened of the most, happened when I was 10 years old.

B: No I am not scared. After what happened to my family, fear is no longer a strong feeling in me. It was such a traumatic event that nothing can compare to it.

C: No, I am not. I feel calm, and whatever happens will be part of history and there is a meaning in everything.


Do you believe things can be better?

Yes: 5

No: 0

  1. Yes always
  2. Depends on us humans.
  3. Yes I do.
  4. Yes I know they can.
  5. Yes. They can.
  6. Yes they can always be but it takes time, and young people.
  7. Things can always be better.


Do you understand what what happened in Israel?

Yes: 1

No: 5

  1. When? Hamas went in and fought. I think they kidnapped soldiers to get our prisoners freed. And many rockets and destroyed the wall.
  2. Yes they (presumably referring to Israel/IDF) are kidnapping children, women and fathers, and they never come back home. In East (i.e. West Bank–East of Gaza) the occupiers (Israelis) are torturing Palestinians, and we are forced to do slavery in occupied Palestine.
  3. Not fully I think, there are so much fake news and made up stories that it is hard to know what is correct and not.
  4. No I was not part of it.
  5. Not fully.
  6. What has been done is something that has brought up trauma so severe that for now it is hard to comprehend it. So no, I don’t think anyone really does understand it.


Do you want the things that have happened to you to happen to someone else?

Yes: 0

No: 1

  1. Yes I want people to understand what I went through to prevent it from happening to others.
  2. Not the bad things
  3. when you live on occupied ground, you never are really innocent. then define how civilians are different.
  4. yes some things absolutely
  5. No one should be raped ever
  6. Losing my entire family? No, but then don’t do it. Hatred is not felt from nothing, something has made an individual hate.
  7. No, there are enough orphans on this planet.
  8. it depends on what things
  9. No, being all alone is a nightmare. That makes you feel like there is no one on this planet who cares whatever happens to you. And you will never again be part of anything.
  10. yeah sure, it hasn’t been too bad. I get education, I have friends, I am well taken care of.
  11. Yes, being close to Allah and his creation is something I hope everyone can feel. Those with open hearts know it.
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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