Lament for the universities

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Students at Islamic University, Gaza.
Hamza (center) with friends at Islamic University, celebrating their last Ramadan as students.

Islamic University in Gaza holds huge personal and social meanings for me, because that is where I took the coursework that launched me into the field of translation. The first higher education institution to be established in Gaza, it is known for the excellent education it provides and its wonderful facilities, especially its picturesque buildings. This beloved university has graduated thousands of students like me who are now working in various sectors around the world.

None of us expected that it would be destroyed by horrific Israeli raids. Al-Ahzar University, which is adjacent and where I also took courses for training as an English language teacher, was also heavily damaged.

The light of education that illuminates the darkness of my life has been cut off. My memories, my education, and my wonderful days on campus are blown away with the wind.

I spent many amazing days at Islamic University with my colleagues before I graduated a few months ago.

Islamic University students at an exhibit.
Hamza (right) with friends at an Islamic University exhibit on Western history.

When I would enter the vast campus, I would feel like I was inside a beautiful mini-city. My friends and I used to gather to study under the ornamental trees that lined the campus, so we felt the beauty of nature even as we learned. The trees reminded me, too, of the stolen land of our ancestors. When we finished studying, we would go drink coffee at a shop on campus—the best, most distinctively spiced coffee of any university in Palestine!

I loved the library. I could seclude myself there and escape from the noise of the world.

It was one of the best places for reading. I would relax into one of its plush, fabric-covered foam chairs and literally merge into my reading. I read to educate myself but also for enjoyment—Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was a favorite.

Now it is destroyed. The feeling in my heart is like giving the sun a last kiss as it sets into the sea and the darkness comes down all around you. My life has become a dark sky without stars or colorful clouds.

Editor’s note: Hamza shared video of his destroyed university in another WANN essay, Tell the world what’s going on. He submitted this essay via text messaging to his mentor on Oct. 25, 2023 “while the bombardment was around me, my hands shaking with fear.” As he responded to edit queries, also via text, he added, “I’m writing and my heart [is] beating with fear; my eyes turn right and left, the bombing comes without warning.”

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