It is said that broken dreams pave way for better things, but for Palestinians in Gaza, it is a far-fetched idea. In Gaza, broken dreams are not ambitious goals but wishes to see your dead family member again, or maybe just sit in the comfort of your home once more.

It has been five months that Gaza has been under intense bombardment, attacks and innocent civilians have lost their lives. Nearly 30,000 people have already been killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces since October 7, 2023. Thousands are still under the rubble, dead or alive, while almost 95 percent of the population is now reportedly displaced.

Twenty Three-year-old Sami Jawad Almashharawi’s dreams have changed as well. Earlier it was to be a doctor so that he could help his community, but now it is to leave Gaza so that he can keep his family alive.

A resident of Gaza Strip, Almashharawi is a fifth-year medical student at Al Azhar University in Gaza. The university was reduced to rubble when Israel bombed it last year. As Israel’s non-stop bombardment has left 95 percent of Palestinian population displaced, many people are finding ways to leave for a safer country.

Almashharawi is one of them. He has started a fundraiser on his social media as leaving Gaza is not easy and highly expensive.

“I always dreamt of being a good doctor. I studied and worked hard in order to achieve it but now my dream is to escape with my family to safety out of Gaza,” Almashharawi told The Citizen over WhatsApp.

Happier times- Sami Jawad Almashharawi outside a hospital in Gaza before October 7. Photo: By Arrangement

After being displaced four times and escaping death countless times, Almashharawi realised that the safety of his family is more important.

“It is hard to leave my home but now after five months of war, displaced four times, escaping from death many times, I cannot just stand, do nothing and just watch my beloved family die in front of me. Some decisions are hard, but if we do nothing, the consequences would be far harder,” he said with pain in his voice.

As the noise of chaos could be heard in the background, Almashharawi started the message by saying “I am still alive”.

For Palestinians living in Gaza, this has become a normal way of declaring that they have managed to stay alive another day. On social media, people are shocked to read such a status. Could we have ever imagined witnessing a genocide on social media and people declaring they are alive everyday there?

There is no way of answering it after witnessing the catastrophe in Gaza.

“I am still alive. As a citizen of Gaza I have escaped death many times, displaced four times and running around everyday for basic necessities of life,” Almashharawi, meanwhile, told The Citizen.

The desperation to take his family out of Gaza and to see them alive has become a priority.

“I don’t think things will ever get back to normal, the extent of destruction, the days we live and the things we see it will be hard to go beyond and live a normal life. Every place we ever go is now ruins or ashes. There is nothing left except the memories we have,” he said adding “We struggle in these circumstances, living unattended, suffering in bitter cold, lack of food and drinking unclean water.”

Before the war, the young medical student had dreams and aspirations. He dreamt of becoming a doctor who wanted to help his community. Always living under the shadow of war, Almashharawi’s heroes had always been doctors.

View of Gaza before October 7. Photo: Sami Jawad Almashharawi

“Growing up, when I saw all the heroes in the medical field, it paved the way to this feeling inside me to be one of them and helping people, no matter what it cost,” he told The Citizen over the phone.

Life before the war, even though difficult, was fairly normal. It was “heaven” as Almashharawi now describes it.

“I was in the fifth year of my college, I used to go to the gym, had my family, had a beautiful house on the seaside, I bought a new car and used to go out daily with my friends. I was also supposed to prepare for my brother’s wedding that was supposed to take place in April 2024. But all of it is shattered,” he said.

Globally, students in universities live their best lives. They study, party with their friends, have a safe home and try hard to achieve their goals, for Palestinians these aspirations come only when you are alive. But staying alive is not a choice that most of them have.

Sami Jawad Almashharawi’s family house before, and after the Israeli bombardment. Photo: By Arrangement

“I miss sitting at peace with my family in our home, I miss my friends, some of whom are not there in this world anymore. I miss attending work during hospital hours. I miss going to so many places with my friends and family that are in ruins now,” he added as his voice started quivering.

As much as Almashharawi is proud to be born in Gaza, he knows that this time things are different.

“Gaza has always revived. After every war it has revived. The last few years, Gaza honestly became a heaven but this time, it is a genocide. Everyone has been impacted some way or other. Gaza will revive for sure, but it will take a very long time,” he said.

With almost all structures in Gaza becoming the victims of Israel’s relentless bombardment, Almashharawi house is no different. His land, his uncles’ warehouses, his house and everything they owned is now in ruins.

“My home in Gaza Strip is partially destroyed. The Israeli soldiers then entered my home, stole and destroyed most of it,” he said.

As he desperately seeks help with his fundraiser so he can, along with his family, move to Egypt or some other country, the dream of becoming a doctor still stays. “After leaving Gaza my goal would be to find a new university and complete my education. And of course, being a doctor will always be my dream,” he added.

“Gaza will always be my home,” Almashharawi said, “The place that I would always prefer staying at but now after going through so much, I do not think staying back and see my family in danger is an option.”

Sami Jawad Almashharawi wants to continue his education after evacuation from Gaza. Photo: By Arrangement

He still does not want to leave his land, but he also wants to see his family alive. “When Gaza is safe for living again, I will come back,” Almashharawi said.

Despite pressure from the global civil society, and even political pressure, Israel and the United States, both equally complicit in its crime against the Palestinians, have refused to budge, and have only intensified their attacks.

Meanwhile, the International Court of Justice, continued with its hearing on Thursday, from dozens of states and three international organisations who question the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from countries including China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya were expected to deliver their positions during the third day of the hearing at the ICJ.

Speakers from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, with the Kingdom’s envoy to the Netherlands Ziad Al-Atiyah stating Israel’s continued actions were legally indefensible.

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, called on the ICJ to stop the “systematic killing machine” against the Palestinian people and the end of “mass murder” and “genocide.”

Al-Barrak talked of Israel’s “barbaric acts”, including “air strikes and rocket attacks targeting civilians.”

“These acts constitute war crimes executed with a criminal intent” and are serious violations of the laws of war, the Iraqi representative said, and added that Israel “must be held accountable”.

Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said that “Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship by banning Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and not protecting priests from humiliation and abuse from Israeli extremists.”

Safadi said that the “occupation was unlawful, inhumane and it must end.”

“Israel has been systematically consolidating the occupation, denying the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.”

Safadi closed his remarks, saying “Palestinians are being killed in the hundreds every day in Gaza and in the West Bank because Israel is not being held accountable for its war crimes and violation of international law… rule that the Israel occupation, the source of all evil, must end.”