Noor from Palestine represents children in conflict zones, children who live under occupation and children who support dialogue for peace.
"Children in the West Bank have very difficult lives. For example, we Palestinians don’t have freedom to travel without a special permit. I would love to go and see the sea when I want, but I can’t. Sometimes soldiers come to our schools, and we have to leave.
About one month ago, in May, I went to school to take a science exam. As we were writing the test, a tear gas grenade suddenly flew in through the class room window. Everyone started shouting and crying. My eyes were burning, I was coughing, and it was so hard to breath. I have a sensitivity against strong smells, which made everything much worse. Our teacher told everyone to hurry up outside, and as soon as we got out me and my friends started running towards our homes. On our way, we encountered a road block. Israeli soldiers showed us with their gestures that we could not pass, we had to turn around. We always walk to and from school, but now we had to find another way to get back home. I felt so sad and afraid, and I felt like I was weak and completely powerless. As we were walking, I and my friends talked about how unfair this is –we are children and we are innocent! And we were so disappointed that we couldn’t take the exam. We had prepared for it and wanted to get good marks, but in the end we couldn’t take it.
Eventually, my grandmother and mother started wondering why I was running so late. They called my school and the principal told them what had happened, and that all the children had ran away. My grandmother and mother were so worried! They sent my older brother Ahmad out to look for me. A neighbor boy in the same age as Ahmad went with him to look for his sister, who is my classmate. The two of them were out looking for us, but they couldn’t find us.
When I finally got home I started crying. I felt angry and sad and confused, it was like a mix of so many feelings. We have certain traditions for comforting someone who is upset. My grandmother read a part from the Quran, and she gave me olive oil to drink because this will make someone who is sad or angry relax.
The next day, at school, our teacher spoke to us and told us that we must always bring a glass jar with a piece of cotton soaked in something like a strong perfume, which will help us in case of this kind of emergency. She advised us to stay strong, and to be determined to get our education. I thought it was a very good advice. I love school. But I don’t like soldiers.
I would like to become an air hostess when I grow up. But because of the situation here, I cannot even dream about that job. Here in Palestine, there are no airports, no airplanes. Not even the sky is free for us. I hope that one day the occupation will end, so I can become an air hostess. My plan B is to study languages -Italian and French- and tourism. I want to work with tourism so that I can see all of Palestine, and show my country to other people.
I have a memory from when I was about four years old. It was in the middle of the night, and I was asleep, when my mother suddenly woke me up. She took me out of bed quickly, and the next thing we were running out of the apartment and down to the basement with all of my family -my brothers, mother, father, uncle, aunt and grandmother. I could hear horrible sounds from outside. I didn't understand what the sound was at the time, because I was very little, but I know now that it was the sound of shooting. I could see my brother and mother crying, and their eyes were full of fear. I was so scared!
The shooting came from an Israeli military post on top of a hill close to our village. It happened many times during the second intifada, both in the day and in the night, that they started to shoot and we had to escape to the basement to take cover. When a building is hit, the sound is horrible. My aunt says that when they started to shoot everything would be frozen. There would be no single person in the street. Sometimes the electricity was cut.
When the shooting had finished that night, my family went back upstairs to our apartment. They could immediately feel a strong smell of something burning. They started searching for the source of this smell and found that it came from my grandmother’s bedroom. When they entered, they were shocked by what they saw. The windows were broken and the room was full of smoke. There were bullet holes all over the room and shrapnel on the floor. They had shot through my grandmothers wardrobes and there was a bullet hole in the middle of the mirror hanging on the wall. We kept that mirror for many years, and every time I saw the bullet hole bad images came to my mind. I would think, “How could they do this to us? We just want a peaceful life!”. Many times when I have sat in my grandmother’s room together with my brother and my aunt, we have talked about what would have happened if we would have been in that room when it was shot at. What place is safe, if my home isn't safe?
In April this year, my family got a permit from Israel to visit a place called Nahariya. At the beach, we met with an Israeli couple -an old man and his wife. I have meet Israelis a few times before, but this was the first time I had a conversation with them. They asked me what my name was, and what grade I am in. They asked me if I love the sea, and to swim. I told them yes, but I wish that we would always have the permission to go. I was surprised that there was another kind of Israelis. I always met with the soldiers, and thought that all Israelis are bad and don't like Palestinians -they don’t even have mercy on the children. After talking to this couple, I began to change my mind. They invited us to sit with them, to eat and to drink juice. They talked about peace, and said that they hate the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. Later, the wife took me by the hand to help me swim.
I hope that one day we can live together as neighbours. I heard many stories from my father, who told me that most of the Israelis are good people who don't want war. They don't want to make any Palestinian mothers cry for their children. We must stand side by side to stop this war, and tell the bad people to stop causing trouble. We want peace!
I would like to tell the other children of the world that there is no place like Palestine, it is the most beautiful country and I love it with all my heart. I hope that one day it will be independent. And I hope that we will live as friends and neighbours with the Israelis. We should respect their religion, and they should respect ours. We have to respect each other! There should be no killing. No fear. We need to live in peace. The Palestinian people is a generous and warm people, which has had too much suffering throughout the history. It is enough.