Steven Aiello

Gazan Youth Speak

Through a friend in Gaza, I was able to send some questions from Jewish students and friends in Israel 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). Each letter constitutes a separate student’s answer. 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.

Why do you choose to be in Gaza?

  1. I didn’t have a choice
  2. My family has been here for a long time
  3. I chose to stay because I want to be part of its future.
  4. I had no choice and I don’t want to leave now, only to travel.
  5. I did not choose; I was born here.
  6. No choice.
  7. What do you mean? I was born here. Also I have nowhere else to go, I can’t afford fleeing. I want to be where my parents, brothers and sisters are buried.
  8. I have no other choice at the moment
  9. I didn’t choose to be here, I was born here. I chose to stay, because I have to.
  10. I was born here, I had no choice
  11. I never made the choice. I have been here since my mother gave birth to me.
  12. I was born here. I have lived here my whole life


2. How does this war feel from your side of things?

  1. Like all worrying — stomach aches and difficulty sleeping.
  2. Same as before
  3. Same as all other wars, not different.
  4. I think it is the longest I have ever experienced.
  5. Like all other wars, useless and a sign that something else has to be done to make Palestine become totally free.
  6. It is always awful with war again and again
  7. It brings back flashbacks, but I also hope for a change to happen.
  8. Nothing special, it is as awful as any other war.
  9. It feels violent and like it will last for a long time
  10. It feels quite usual still.
  11. It feels like a waiting war, waiting for something that never has happened before to happen.
  12. Like a revenge war, a war very much like the US war on Afghanistan.


  1. Do you agree with the way the October 7 attack was done (killing, raping and kidnapping of civilians)? This was only asked to older students, due to the sensitivity of the topic

A: No.

  1. They (i.e. Israel) have kidnapped lots of Palestinian civilians over the years. So I don’t see it as a problem. Rape is never okay, and I doubt there are as many cases as they say there are. Probably some, but few and done by a small number of really disgusting so called freedom fighters.
  2. I don’t know how it was, but I don’t think it can have been well done. I am sure it was really evil.
  3. No killing of civilians shouldn’t happen. But it also depends on how one views and defines a civilian. Who is really a civilian?
  4. The kidnapping yes, the breaking of the barrier of course. It should have been destruction of homes instead. It should have been property destroyed and lots of other more effective things.
  5. We all aspire to receive divine help in our daily struggle against shaytan (satan) no? Against wanting to create even more evil. And sometimes we lose the struggle. What was done was an act made possible from years of humiliations and mass murder events. And many people (in Gaza) have lost their loved ones. I don’t know a single person here, who hasn’t lost at least 1 family member. And none that hasn’t lost at least 4 friends. What can be worse. I don’t know if it was worth it, yet another war. Hoping that those leading the war don’t fall into the trap of listening to shaytan. Don’t fall into a war of retaliation, but a war of change. War of thoughts. Let it be something that will change, rather than destroy.


  1. Do you believe there are innocent people here (in Israel), including women and children and old people who aren’t any different to your own families?


  1. Yes
  2. No- they fight at an early age like us and take parts of Palestine to occupy and grow many soldiers. Only under the age of 11 are innocent.
  3. Yes, of course.
  4. Somewhat.
  5. a few exist.
  6. They are different.
  7. yes there are some.
  8. Yes I know.
  9. Sure.
  10. I think there are far less orphans, and far less street children (than in Gaza). Anyways, people are sort of the same no matter where they are on earth.
  11. Yeah sure.
  12. Of course there are.
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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