Humans of Appleton North: Yasmeen


Sophie Plzak, Contributor

“The children were in the streets with rocks trying to defend their families, they had nothing. They slept in trees because they were afraid to sleep in their homes. Nobody knew about it when they came here, but people were protesting all around the world. I remember signs everywhere saying ‘One holocaust does not justify another.’ But nobody knows, nobody will do anything to stop it. I’m just waiting for someone to do something, but I don’t wanna wait.”

“It started out really great because we were gonna go see our family. But we get to Gaza and all of a sudden the borders closed. The whole thing started because there was a child who was burned alive; he was twelve years old, and his cousin who was 16 was beaten to death. That’s what outraged the Palestinians — it’s why they rioted.”

How did all of this come to be?

“What happened to these children was due to the fact that Israeli officials believed that a couple of their citizens were abducted by Palestinians. I cannot confirm nor deny whether this was endorsed by the government, but I know that this is something that went on. It may have been just an enraged citizen, but when it happened it was the last straw. Hamas, in retaliation, started sending bombs over towards the Israeli military base. In defense, the Palestinian people closed their borders and started bombing areas from the air that they thought Hamas may be living. There were 2000 civilians dead by the end of Gaza under fire. The average 6-year-old has seen three of these [bombings], which is really, really sad.”

“Our family, we stayed in our Aunt’s house… until it was destroyed.Then we had to move so we went to the hospital area, and we were helping the hospitals.”

What did you do at the hospital?

“I sent food out, I helped bandage people, people who were hit by the shrapnel. The people whose houses were destroyed, a lot of them took refuge in the hospitals and the United Nation buildings. At one point I watched on the news, it was really sad, these three toddlers were just shot on the beach because someone perceived them as ‘armed adults.’ I remember that day, it was not a good day. A lot of the people were losing hope.”

“Talking with some of the people there, they were just overall afraid of Israeli soldiers. They were raised to be afraid. The racism happened because, as a people, the Israelis were raised to believe that the Palestinians were bad. The Palestinians were raised to believe the opposite. They were just afraid, and I can understand that, but a lot of really bad war crimes happened. The media never covered it here. When I got back to the States nobody knew anything. Nobody even talked about it. That was what hit me the most. There were United States weapons that were being given to these Israeli soldiers to do this. It didn’t affect Hamas at all, it affected the people of Palestine.”

What do you have to say to people our age who don’t know about it? What do you want us to learn from you?

“Don’t assume. A lot of kids our age assume that all of the middle eastern countries are the same, but these are individual people, these are individual countries, these are individual stories. People just assume that everything is the same, that it’s all bad and oppressive. In some places it’s great. Israel can be fantastic, I’ve been there, it can be great. What a lot of people don’t see is the poverty in Palestine, the people who are oppressed by the Israelis.”

“I don’t really know how people can educate themselves here, a lot of the only media coverage is in Arabic that is not corrupt and unbiased. That’s why I’d say just keep an open mind, listen to people who have these stories and not assume that all Muslims or all middle eastern people are the same.”

Do you have a specific story from your time in Gaza that has stuck with you more than anything?

“I remember hearing about, just down the street from where we were, there was a United Nations building that a bunch of women and children had taken refuge in — my little cousin included. Her name is Jenna. There were a bunch of troops that were sent in — they were told that Hamas was there and that they were hiding weapons there, and so without looking, without caring they….  There were many, many casualties, of the families trying to take refuge there, my baby cousin included. She was 7 years old. It was then that I realized that each side was wrong in their own way. The racism was just so prominent among the Israeli soldiers.”

“I could talk for a long time about this because it’s something that stays with me every day. I wake up at night and I think about these people. I will one day go back. I’m actually planning on going back within the next year. I’m gonna write a bunch of their stories, and hopefully get them published here in the U.S. so that people can educate themselves.”