It's taken me a while to unpack my trip to Gaza last month. Part of this is technical (I only just learned to upload videos to Youtube) but mostly it is emotional. I have a lot to sort out. Today in my notebooks from Gaza I find a scrawled message I left for myself while we were sitting in one meeting or another. "Annals of Tyranny." That is what we experienced in Gaza: we saw tyranny at every hand. Control over virtually every aspect of other people's lives–Arab people's lives.
We left Gaza with a tremendous responsibility to convey our understanding to the world. Today I'm going to try and execute part of my responsibility by posting videos of two students who have tried to leave Gaza on scholarships but have been prevented from doing so.
The videos aren't really edited, so I need to say something about them. The two students are both beautiful young people. Just watch their faces for a little while, you'll know what I'm saying. Summer Abu Zayed is the woman. She's 23, and dressed immaculately, in a white jacket. She reminded me of a student council president. She has a formal, outgoing quality, she's a graduate of Al-Aqsa University. She came to our hotel to talk to us about her youth organization. Then–23 seconds into the video–Tom Suarez, a member of our delegation, asks her about the scholarships she's gotten stopped from accepting. Summer begins by telling another student's story.
Go 4 and 5 minutes in, and Summer speaks of her own blocked fellowships in leadership.The thing I'd ask you to notice about Summer is how painful and mortifying it is for her to tell her story. At one point she starts to cry and collects herself. This is a young woman like the best young women in your family–your cousin or your niece, an upstanding girl who was made to head organizations– and she is compelled to talk about her personal humiliations and the "cold" emails she's gotten from the outside world to the point where she's scared to even go to the border and experience the rejection. She's a fucking prisoner.
Summer told her friends we were visiting Gaza, and the next night a half dozen other students came to our hotel, Marna House. This reflects a simple truth: The people of Gaza are desperate that you hear their stories. I pulled aside the kid I could relate to most, an engineer/introvert type, Hazem M. Abukaresh. Another beautiful young person, as you'll see. His family moved back to Palestine from Yemen after Oslo, because they thought that things were opening up. He's 24, and all he wants is to get his Ph.D. in communications and computer engineering by the time he's 30. He is obviously highly intelligent. He has had opportunities/scholarships in China, Malaysia, Jordan and Europe. He has been stopped at the border or in Egypt or Israel four times.
"I have a lot of dreams. I want to be a productive person in my society," Hazem says.
The thing I want you to see in Hazem is a young person whose face is alive with shyness, humor and perception, but whose spirit is being destroyed. He doesn't fully understand it, but the process has begun. His gifts are before him and the road is blocked. You can see the rage come into his face now and then, the despair. His gifts are dying in the sun, his spirit is slowly being crushed. His story begins with his winning a Chinese scholarship, then it takes
3 months for him to get permission to travel, and when he gets to the
border he learns the Chinese have cancelled the scholarship.
Watch these videos, or even a portion of them, hear the anguish in these children's voices, and you will understand why it is absolutely essential for American Jews to recall their cultural memory of the Warsaw Ghetto, and why it is essential for Americans to say, Let these people go.