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    Posted July 27, 2014 by
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    New violence in Israel and West Bank

    NaimjN and 14 other iReporters contributed to Open Story: Israel-Gaza conflict felt around the world
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    Views of the Israel-Gaza conflict from a Palestinian-American


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     Palestinian-American Naim Naif wrote an impressionistic essay about what it was like growing up in the West Bank, but also about feeling helpless as he watches the Israeli-Gaza conflict from the U.S.

    “The day the four children were killed while playing soccer on Gaza Beach, my friends and I were at St. Pete Beach playing volleyball,” said the Tampa, Florida, college student. “Unlike those children, we made it home safely to our families.”

    Read his full essay on CNN.com.
    - zdan, CNN iReport producer

    I am an American, and I love my country… I also love my heritage.


    I was born in Tampa, Florida to Palestinian-American parents. At a young age, my parents’ decision to move from America to Palestine is one that has changed the course of my life. The purpose of the move was for me and my siblings to learn Arabic and our family’s culture. Yet, the four-year experience was much more than that.


    We lived peacefully in Ramallah (West Bank city just six miles north of Jerusalem) for a couple of years. My father built a home in Area C (Israeli controlled). During the first two years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at a quiet period. Our lives were pretty normal. My older brother and I attended a private school operated by the American education system, and my two older sisters went to an all girls-Catholic school operated by the French education system. in our free time, our days consisted of shopping in Ramallah, taking cabs to Jerusalem and even hiking the mountains of Ramallah.


    In the summer of 2000, our lives were flipped upside down by the second intifada or “the uprising”. A 26’ tall harsh concrete wall was constructed around the West Bank, there were placements of checkpoints between towns and villages as well as daily clashes between Palestinians and Israeli authorities interrupted our day. We no longer had the liberty to take cabs to Jerusalem, shop in Ramallah or hike in the mountains. Our sense of freedom was stripped away from us.


    My family soon discovered that living in fear and under occupation was dangerous and too hostile. So we decided to move back to the U.S. My family’s decision to leave was one that would carry guilt on our shoulders for time to come. Leaving our extended family behind in a war torn country left us with feelings of sadness.


    My life in America has been very different than my life in Palestine and much different than the lives of Palestinians youth in Palestine today. Going to school in Tampa, my only morning worry was getting a decent grade on my homework. My cousins in in the West Bank on the other hand, also are worried about grades but now have to worry about checkpoints and random clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli authorities. The day the four children were killed while playing soccer on Gaza Beach, my friends and I were at St. Pete Beach playing volleyball. Unlike those children, we made it home safely to our families.


    As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, the world is watching with big eyes. In the U.S, public opinion has been very wary. American’s opinion about the conflict is split between both sides. Some support Israel, some support Palestine.


    For me, however, I have a different perspective of the Gaza-Israel conflict. When terror hit America on 9/11, I was filled with sadness, sorrow and anger. I thought ‘how could someone do this to my people’. The anger lingered for a very long time, and still does today.


    These past couple of weeks have also made me angry. Waking up everyday I would discover a new increased death toll of Gaza civilians. I would turn on the TV to find limbs of Palestinians plastered all over the news. I am sad, I am angry. I thought, ‘how could someone do this to my people’.
    I think I speak for many Palestinian-Americans when I say I feel helpless in watching the continuous deaths of civilians in Palestine. I guess my reason for writing this essay is to express my feelings about the conflict in order to help the Palestinian people – my people – in some way.


    Before leaving Palestine, I remember taking a walk with my mother in the hills of Ramallah. On the bottom of the hills was the West Bank barrier. Once we reached the top of the tallest hill, my mother grabbed my arm and pointed in the far distance. “You see that city over there? That’s Jerusalem. That’s where I was born, where your father was born and where you are from. One day, well walk from here to Jerusalem… And no wall or soldier will stand in our way.”

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