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The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

A seed of hope in the midst of war

While being far away from my family in Gaza, the W&L community offered me some comfort
25,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war.
Maxar Technologies
25,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war.

I was the first international student from the class of 2025 to arrive on campus. It took me around 70 hours to reach Lexington from Gaza in Palestine due to the Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinians. Since then, I have not been able to return to Gaza, and it looks like I might never visit the Gaza I once knew.

At the time of writing this, Israel has killed more than 24,000 Gazans, according to Palestinian authorities, most of whom were women and children. According to Aljazeera, more than 50,000 have been wounded, and 8,000 more are thought to be under the rubble.

I lost friends, two dozen family members, teachers and neighbors. Israel destroyed hospitals, churches, my family’s apartment and all five schools I attended. Israel has been indiscriminately bombing Gaza. According to the Washington Post, Israel has been using unguided bombs in nearly half of their bombings of Gaza. One hit my neighborhood, wiping it out.

While I sit in class, I cannot fully commit to the no-phone policy. I anxiously check telegram news channels for news on Israeli strikes, making sure none of them have hit areas where my family and friends have sought refuge.

If I am lucky, I can hear my parents’ voices once every two days, and occasionally, I receive a brief message from my mom: “We are still alive.” That is how I am assured my family is safe. Yet, surviving airstrikes is only a part of their struggle.

My family’s biggest challenge is finding food. According to the United Nations, half of Gaza’s population faces the dire risk of starvation. My close friend, Mahmoud, described how he fought to get a bag of flour when aid first reached his area. If my people manage to survive this war, they might not survive Israel’s starvation of Palestinians in Gaza.

Yet, a seed of hope has grown inside me during this war: Washington and Lee’s community. I cannot express the gratitude I have for my classmates, professors and staff. I received emails from so many people, including those I have never met, checking in on me. This overwhelming support encourages me every day as I go to class. It reminds me that whatever goals others have, peace is the righteous goal. Although some of you might not know the entire history of the conflict, almost everyone I know showed support and sympathy.

Friends organized several events on campus to recognize the tragic loss of life in Gaza. One event was planting 800 Palestinian flags, each representing ten lives lost. That was 14,000 lives ago.

While most of the conversations I had were thoughtful, I encountered only one bad experience. A student came to me after the vigil to mourn the lives lost. He did not have the baseline of any conversation: respect.

We could disagree, but having that baseline of respect is important to move forward. We could disagree on ideology, but the killing of 10,000 children is not debatable. That is a war crime. We could disagree on the way forward, but cutting food and water is a war crime. We could disagree on many things, but decades of brutal occupation is not debatable. Palestinians have the right to a sovereign independent state. Every nation has the right for self-determination, but the Israeli occupation does not believe so, as demonstrated in the United Nations’ 2023 vote on Palestinian self-determination.

Israel is still killing Palestinians, injuring us, starving us, arresting us, and viewing us as “human animals.” I go to class thinking about my city and my people living through hell. If you disagree with me, I am open to dialogue. But only a dialogue that recognizes me and my people as humans and not “animals.” If you agree with me, challenge yourself even more. Get your news from non-traditional outlets. Demand your representatives to call for a ceasefire. Peace is not abstract. Peace is the goal, and you can be part of it.

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  • E

    Eleanor Adams BarberJan 25, 2024 at 4:41 pm

    This is the first article I have read about the war that completely ignores the Gazan’s attack on civilians inside Israel’s borders on 10/7/2024; the violent acts, unparalleled in modern time, committed against women and children that day; or, the Israeli hostages still remaining in Gaza 111 days later.

    I recognize this is an opinion piece unburdened by the demands of journalistic integrity and factual documentation, but I am still stunned it was printed in the school newspaper. Its printing stands as a testament to the freedoms the author can enjoy studying in the United States.

    The US, the world, has supported Gazans for sixteen years and continues to do so even though Hamas, a terrorist organization, controls its land and its residents. We have shown that support with billions of dollars of aid, much of which has been commandeered by Hamas and used to wage war instead of providing for you, Mohammed, or your family, your friends, or your people.

    My wish for you is that you soak up all that you learn in Lexington and then bring back to Gaza the lessons and promise of peaceful democracy. I hope your time in the United States fuels your commitment to ridding Gaza of Hamas and inspires you to make peace with Israel. More immediately, I hope that your family will benefit from the 9,728 trucks of humanitarian aid that has crossed into Gaza over the past 91 days.

    I should not need to add this but your words prove otherwise. As I pray for peace, solace, and recovery for Gazans, I hope you are praying for the same for Israelis. I hope you are praying for the safe return of the Israeli hostages and for the physical and mental recovery of the women raped and brutalized by your compatriots. As you enjoy the beauty and joy of college life at W&L, there are innocent Israelis, babies, toddlers, and children among them, being held in tunnels under Gaza. I hope the next time you sit to write about this war, you remember to include them in your thoughts and your words.

    “Supplies and Dispatching in Gaza,” UNRWA, accessed 1/25/23
    “How much aid Gaza needs to survive: A visual guide,” Rachel Wilson, Krystina Shveda and Alex Newman, CNN, January 22, 2024
    “Screams Without Words: How Hamas Weaponized Sexual Violence on Oct 7,” Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times December
    28, 2023

    • A

      AnonymousJan 25, 2024 at 11:20 pm

      This comment is hard to read and incredibly tone deaf. Israel has bombed and killed thousands of children and innocent civilians since October 7th. That is unparalleled violence in our time. Your sympathy is shallow and condescending in the most horrible ways imaginable.

    • A

      AnonymousFeb 20, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      Mohammed, I feel for you and you family. Your piece is heartfelt and Palestinians should be afforded better lives. The question you and others in Gaza must ask is who will lead the way for this? Certainly not Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and which started this current violence on October 7 through state-sponsored terrorism. Here I agree with the first comment. It is important for Palestinian advocates to acknowledge this inhuman recklessness. Hamas, with its network of hundreds of miles of tunnels, has placed the small, congested land you and your family call home on a wartime footing. The resultant loss of life, with Israel compelled to fight against an underground enemy, is both atrocious and sadly unsurprising. Likely, somewhat less than half those killed have been Hamas militants. The majority, put into harms way by Hamas’ reckless October 7 action, have been innocent.

      I was in Israel just a few days before hostilities broke out and the politics there make ours look like child’s play. Hamas is a militaristic right wing organization and can’t begin to represent the majority of Palestinians who would prefer to live constructively in peace. Those living in Gaza have endured the diversion of funds and efforts towards military efforts and away from what might have otherwise benefitted the broader populace. Meanwhile, Israel also has its right wing groups which do not have the Palestinians’ best interests in mind. Somehow, the majority of each will need to find a way to come together. Here, the Palestinians have been their own worst enemy, by having little in the way of cohesive, constructive leadership spanning from the West Bank to Gaza. Without a single unified voice, it will be hard to be heard. Hopefully, people like you and your family can help to make this happen.

      While in Israel, and especially Jerusalem, some of my favorite moments included walking through the Arab quarters, which were busy and vibrant. Here, there is coexistence with people living out their lives together in the same holy land that is the nexus of three of the world’s major faiths. What a gift it would be to future generations for both Palestinians and Israelis to solve their many thorny issues, achieve a workable outcome, collectively live in peace with time to enjoy your great part of the world.

  • S

    Sarah GilbertJan 25, 2024 at 2:03 pm

    I am so glad you found care and understanding and sorry that it was not universal. As an alumnae I am thinking of your people day and night! may they soon be free!