Mahmoud Reqeb, 27

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I graduated from university in 2014. My years in university were shaped by the blockade and resulting difficulties. I spent nearly six years in university because my family didn’t have enough money for me to easily pay for school. I had to work hard to pay for my school.   

My family is large. When I graduated, I really wanted to look for a job so that I could be on my own and be independent.  Now that I have graduated, I am also looking to my future, for example marrying or completing a master’s degree, but given the blockade over Gaza, I can’t see a future where these things are possible, and I have stopped thinking about these things.   

My father used to work in Israel in construction. He would go to Israel during the week and return home during the weekend. During that time, our situation was OK, but during the second Intifada in 2002, the situation became more difficult and then after the blockade it became even harder. I have five brothers who have graduated from the university, and they are also unemployed. Three of my sisters have stopped studying at the university because we can’t afford their fees. 

Mahmoud Reqeb
Gaza’s unemployment rate is over 40 percent—one of the highest in the world. Youth unemployment is over 60 percent.

My father feels he has to be responsible for our family, but he can’t find work to help us. He has tried various jobs, for example a chicken farm, but his business failed. He also considered sheep farming, but it also wasn’t economically sustainable in Gaza. Now we owe money that can’t be repaid. Because of this my father often doesn’t leave home because he is embarrassed that he owes people money.   

I started a project myself to sell recycled metal for construction. I gathered metal and spent about $5,000 of my own money to gather and market metal.  This is a good source of income, but I sold it to people on credit and can’t collect the money I am owed. I don’t have any money to spend and the people who owe me also now don’t have money to pay me.   

What should I do given our economic situation and the blockade? Israel controls and limits income and money in Gaza. What can we do while we are under siege?   

Israel and the U.S. treat all of us in Gaza as terrorists. We are all punished. It isn’t only Hamas who is punished. Why should we all be punished? We like the people in the U.S., but our punishment is unacceptable.  

We don’t have security in any part of life. Children grow up in a situation where they don’t have a right to education, where they don’t have clean water, where they don’t have electricity. This creates anger, and I fear that it will create more extremism, particularly in how people see Israel.   

In other parts of the world, children play with cars and or balls. Here children’s play often reflects violence. Why? Because every day children see shelling, drones, shooting, soldiers.  

All of this affects how they respond. This causes us fear for the future of our children. We want our children to live in peace like children live in America, Europe, or other free places. We don’t want our children to grow up with missiles, shooting, and violence being a constant part of their lives.   

International NGOs, consulates, the media, and other sources produce reports and stories about Gaza, but they talk about Gaza as a place of terrorism and violence that should be punished. I want to ask you: Look at us and see us as people. We aren’t all terrorists, and Gaza isn’t all violence.  You must end the blockade.