Who I Am
I am Noor Omar Shaban Ismail, a sixteen year-old teenager who lives and grew up in one of the most dangerous areas in the world, the Gaza Strip. I have only one brother who is studying civil engineering in France. I really hope to follow in his footsteps and become successful to achieve my dreams and goals.
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. It has absolutely no kind of infrastructure and one of the highest rates of people living below the poverty line. Every year there are 20,000 new college graduates who have the enthusiasm to work and achieve success for their country. Sixty per cent of the people are unemployed, so they will lose their enthusiasm and start to become radicals and stop thinking about their future. This is what the Israeli siege is doing to Gaza. It is not only destroying our buildings and infrastructure but also destroying the people and giving them no chance to develop themselves and build their future. Because of the siege these ambitious young people do not have the possibility to go out and see the world and see the endless opportunities they could and should have to achieve their dreams.
There are three important things you should keep in mind to survive in wartime; adapt, improvise and overcome. I survived three wars on Gaza. The first was Operation Cast Lead in 2008. The second was Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and the third is Operation Protective Edge today. Surviving the war is not that easy, you will be nervous, afraid and worried about your family and you stop thinking about anything except how to stay alive. Living three wars really changed me and gave me experience how to stay alive. To survive, first you should adapt, by bringing water and food supplies, preparing your house, and your documents and things if you are going to need to evacuate to somewhere safe. You need to convince yourself that this its is wartime, and prepare yourself for all scenarios.
Second, improvise, by keeping calm and not being afraid or nervous or worried, but being responsible, sensible, a safe thinker and brave, and helping the children and make them feel safe no matter what.
Third, and this what I like in these rules because it is simple, brave and makes you unbeatable: just smile. Some people might think it is impossible or ridiculous to smile in the middle of a conflict, but for me I think my life is in the balance and maybe I am going to die in a second, and that actually the only way to beat a savage enemy is to smile to make him lose the frenzy of killing you. That’s real strength because power means that you can control others. Real strength is when you control yourself and stop anyone or anything from controlling you. That’s how you overcome and prevail.
Well, in my case I am very lucky because I was able to travel outside Gaza so I managed to see the world and the possibilities of achieving any dream I want. The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the airport and people and everything is the comparison. I compared my life in Gaza and other people’s lives and I felt so annoyed because at the end of the day I am human like them so why cant I have a real life like theirs? What have I done to live a life full of tough circumstances with painful memories? And when I got back all my friends gathered around me asking me about the other world. Their simple questions made me full of bitterness and pain because I really wish that I could answer them but I know they wont like the answer and will compare what I tell them to what they are living. After that I planted a goal in my head and that’s to travel to "the other world".
And actually when I got out of Gaza it really flipped my mind and that’s what the youth in Gaza suffer, the lack of opportunities to go outside Gaza to see the world with its huge prospects and possibilities. This is the worst effect of the Israeli siege. It destroys the youth’s dreams and goals.
I always worked on expanding my options because one of the problems in Gaza is that if you did not get an excellent senior year exam result it means you are a total failure despite any other skills you have. That made the youth feel they are losers so they take other ways, for example by becoming radicals. So I always worked on expanding my options. I took my TOEFL exam in English; took French lessons; photography; learned how to play music on the most important, oldest and hardest oriental instrument; read literature, poetry, politics, economics; took courses with the International Red Crescent Society about international law; did voluntary activities with youth forums; and am still working on other skills. I always wanted to have a background in everything and to expand my options by having various skills, and all of this is a result of that one trip that I took out from Gaza to the other world and that made me feel that nothing is impossible and that I can achieve success in anything I want.