I came to my hometown this summer to be exposed to an endless amount of history behind the division between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I was 8 years old the first time I stepped foot onto Kafar Qasem, which is where I am from. Back then, I was naive, too young to understand what suffering was. I carried too small of a mind to understand what the true meaning of pain was, but most of all too young to understand what true fear was.

Ten years later, I am now 18, and I am mature enough to understand that Palestinians do not have it easy.  They fight every day for their lives, hoping that they will be able to stay in their land, their homes where they grew up. Viewing how different lives are compared to here in the U.S. is a true eye opener to be blessed for what you have. Imagine having to carry your passport everywhere you went just to get past. It reminds me of crossing the border from the United States to Mexico, but in this case it happens each time you leave a balad. Unnecessary questions that are asked by the people who took your land and claimed it as their own. Being interrogated, not because you have done anything wrong but just because of the so-called power that was given to these people.

My father took me to this balad known as Khalil, and on this day we witnessed numerous Palestinians riot against the Israelis, not because they were rebellious or reckless, but to always remind themselves and the Israelis that the land they had taken over as their own, they carried no entitlement to it, that land was and always will be the Palestinians. The Israelis have been making illegal actions by planting illegal settlements on what used to be Palestinian Territories. The treatment that Palestinians are exposed to each day of their lives makes me feel for them, because it is so heartbreaking to know a place where you grew up, a place that was once yours, has been taken over by people who have no ownership.

When we drove down to Jerusalem, I witnessed how the division is split between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israeli side is more up to date and nicer, the Palestinian side is crumbling to bits. When the Israelis first came and took over, they started off very little, but each year it gets more excessive, and each year they find new ways to take more of our dignity away from us.

I ask you all to honestly take a moment and realize how thankful we all should be that we live in the U.S. I understand that each country, or state for that matter, has its own conflicts and its own personal suffering. When living in the U.S., do we have to carry our passports on us at all times in order to identify ourselves? Do we have to fear that one day the homes we live in will be taken from us? Do we have to identify ourselves as a false nationality in order to get from place to place? Imagine having your own home no longer entitled as yours and has been stripped away from you, imagine one day not even being asked, but being told “you have two weeks to get out, this is now our property.” One would think that since the Israelis were the oppressed during the holocaust, they would never wish for the same thing on others, yet they are now the oppressors.

I understand that the feud between the Palestinians and Israelis is an ongoing topic, but I believe it needs to be acknowledged and discussed more. For if it is not, there will be no change. We Palestinians may not fit the Western beauty or life standards in others’ eyes, but in ours we do, and we will forever remind those people of power that we were here first and we are here to stay.

By Ayah Isa