I don’t know personally Nour AlGhussein but I do know her sister, writer Walaa AlGhussein, pretty well and for a long time. They are among the five children- four girls and one boy born to Fatma and Khalid AlGhussein in Gaza. The AlGuhssein children are our future- all our futures. From what I know, they are very smart, independent, giving and passionate about making a meaningful difference in the lives of their family, Nation and world. And while so many others among us have seemingly given up, surrendered to events which some unfortunately they cannot impact, let alone change for the better, the children of Fatma and Khalid have refused to go silently unto the night. Though young and in the early stages of their life’s journey- its a travel of purpose, pride and accomplishment despite the great deprivation and danger that their family — indeed, all families in Gaza — faces every day. To be Palestinian and young is not easy.
Following in her older sister Walaa’s very large and capable footsteps, this past summer, Nour attended Portland State University as part of an exchange program of sorts with young women and men from all over the world, largely impoverished communities at that, to attend universities in various countries outside their own. To accomplish this was no small task in its own and fraught with a large degree of uncertainty and at times, danger, given the circumstances in the communities from which they come.
For many of these young students, its the first and only time they’ve been able to escape the daily stress and strain that can be living a life not just in poor communities but, as in the case of Nour, a deadly war zone under constant siege that has cost the lives, health and well-being of many hundreds of thousands of her community for no reason other than they are Palestinian and civilians- easy and vulnerable targets. And while some of the world just does not give a shit- we do !!
For those of you who have watched in horror the crimes of Israel or who have followed this blog or my work over the years, there is no need for me to repeat here the nightmare that is the occupation, genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment that never takes a rest in Palestine, especially in Gaza, at the hands of Israel under the watchful and approving eyes of the West and their system of regional surrogate states. Despite this nightmare, or maybe because of it, lots of young Palestinians have pursued knowledge and, often against impossible odds, formal education with a passion and determined reach that is second to none, including those of us who may have come from privileged societies or backgrounds.
Nour spent this past summer at Portland State University a peaceful supportive community of the young and not so young where she flourished as a student, representative of Palestine and just being a “kid,” among many others. While in school she graduated from PSU’s Middle East Partnership Initiative Student Leader’s program. In addition, Nour recieved further recognition for her work at PSU by receiving its prestigious ‘International Student Award’ for her overall accomplishments during the summer. Predictably, Nour made many new friends from all over the world and was for the first time in her young and difficult life able to read when she wanted, walk where she wanted and just hangout with whomever she wanted untouched by anything but her own desires, drive and intellectual appetite. For one all-too brief period at PSU, unlike the constant deprivation and isolation that is Gaza, in Portland Nour was able to pursue her dreams solely on the basis of her own vision of who she is and what she wants for herself, her family and her Nation.
At summer’s end, Nour returned to Gaza, where the duck of bombs, frequent wail of sirens and the struggle to survive has once again become a constant roar in her life- its just the way things are there no matter how warm, wonderful and wise you may otherwise be in a land under incessant attack of one sort or another by one of the most deadly killing machines in the world. To be Palestinian is to be targeted, every day. However, to be young and Palestinian, does not mean that you stop dreaming or working to may your dreams become reality.
Before returning to Gaza, Nour applied for and was accepted by Portland State University as a full-time student beginning this January. To do so is, however, not an easy, inexpensive or emotionally comfortable experience. To leave your family behind in the life and death struggle that is Gaza not knowing what the future holds for them, or for you, is just not like it was or is now for many of the rest of us. Typically, when we’ve gone off to school, often its been a climb into the family car to travel some short hours away from the love and the safety that has been our home to go to a campus knowing that those we love and need are just a simple call or vacation away. To be Palestinian and thousands of miles from your home which is often without electricity, running water or phone service is never an easy or painless journey.
Nour needs our help. She is fiercely proud, determined and driven to succeed. And when she does, mark it up as another victory for our community- one which struggles to take control of the world that is ours and to change its contours in warm, peaceful and humane ways that embrace people of all race, religion, politics, gender and choice and does so without the dictate or confines of anthems, borders or flags.
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Help Nour to realize her dreams and ours.
Up the Rebels.