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Dreams Deferred in the Gaza Strip

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I’ve dreamt of being an architect since I was a young girl, growing up in Kuwait and then in Iraq, the daughter of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who had been forcibly displaced in 1967. I moved back to the Strip in 2001 and studied architecture at the Islamic University of Gaza.

My parents were concerned that architecture would be a hard field to advance in, especially for a woman. They encouraged me to study something related to information technology, instead. But my dream of becoming an architect persisted. I imagined my fingertips on Gaza’s landscapes and landmarks, envisioning what my city, Gaza City, could look like, if only it was given the chance.

The year I graduated, 2006, there had been elections in the Strip and the West Bank. A tense period of political rivalry between the Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah ensued, followed by a big Israeli military operation and ground invasion into Gaza. Those who knew me personally when I was a student can tell you how energized and positive I was, back then. I used to volunteer in several places and my days were hectic with activity.

When I realized that my degree wasn’t going to help me secure a long-term job in architecture, under the circumstances of such pervasive political and social uncertainties, I became depressed. I remember lying on my bed, looking at the ceiling, and thinking as hard as I could – what should I do?

Graduating from university is a shock as it is, with existential questions about the future turning into the tangible burden of searching for a job. Graduating into a war zone took those strains to an extreme. Imagine being unsure if it’s safe to go outside; wondering every time you leave your house if you’ll ever be able to return to it. These questions are part of everyday life for people in the Strip.

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© Haaretz