By Nour Shnino
In the blockaded Gaza Strip, an increasing number of young people face a daunting decision: remain in their occupied and long-sieged homeland or seek a brighter future—a safer one–elsewhere. As living conditions in Gaza deteriorate, the pressure on its youth to make this choice looms, leaving them on an uncertain and challenging path.
Over 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza are held in a relentless struggle marked by the Israeli occupation’s restricted access to essential resources, which resulted in soaring unemployment rates. The continued Israeli blockade, imposed on the strip for over sixteen years now, has inflicted substantial damage on the Palestinian economy, compelling the people to rely heavily on international and donor aid.
The scarcity of basic necessities has led to inflated prices, placing an enormous burden on families already struggling with financial instability and living under the poverty rate. In this dire economic climate, many feel powerless and hold onto fading hope abroad.
The job market in Gaza, heavily reliant on imports and hindered by trade restrictions and controlled by the Israeli occupation policies, offers limited opportunities for the educated and talented Palestinian youth in Gaza. This not only erodes their financial security but also chips away at their self-esteem and potential contributions to society and overall development.
The constant exposure to Israeli military aggression, fear, and suffering further exacerbates their difficulties, resulting in a pervasive sense of low self-worth and a bleak outlook on the future.
Trapped Dreams: Freedom Denied to Entire Generation
Palestinians in Gaza face severe mobility restrictions, both within the strip and beyond its borders imposed for sixteen years by the Israeli occupation. This lack of freedom stifles personal growth, educational exchanges, and professional development—crucial elements for youth empowerment.
Since 2007, the occupation has illegally enforced travel restrictions on Gaza and limited the movement of goods and people, to the extent that it may constitute a form of “collective punishment.”
Students also yearning for higher education opportunities abroad are forced to give up their dreams, eventually hindering socio-economic progress in the besieged strip.
This has catalyzed an economic crisis, deepened the difficulty of trade, and created employment prospects. In Gaza, for example, Palestinians face significant hurdles when seeking medical treatment outside due to the occupation’s complex—often unguaranteed—travel permit system.
Yearning for a Better Tomorrow
The urgency to leave Gaza is rooted in the lack of economic liveability and soaring unemployment rates, worsened by a volatile environment and restricted access to fundamental resources due to the Israeli occupation’s continued discriminatory strategy of leaving the vital sectors deteriorate on a daily basis and limiting foreign aid dedicated for the needing population.
Gaza’s youth, particularly, look for stability and security, as many search for better opportunities beyond the confines of their homeland. Whether pursuing higher education abroad or seeking asylum in countries offering safety and prosperity, they opt for the travelling choice to seek a more hopeful future.
The Only Romanticism in a Tragic Reality
However, the journey of departure is fraught with obstacles. It often involves overcoming bureaucratic hurdles and checkpoints of the Israeli occupation and later on in receiving countries. Many destinations have tightened refugee policies to especially discriminate against the Palestinian people, making it increasingly difficult for Gazan asylum seekers to gain entry.
Leaving Gaza also means saying goodbye to loved ones and familiar surroundings, adding emotional hardship and uncertainty about future reunification.
Despite these challenges, the Palestinian youth in Gaza maintain a deep connection to their homeland and cultural heritage. As they strive for a better future, they continue to embody resilience, determination, and the hope of living one day soon without the injustice and adversity of Israel’s occupation and its military rule.
Nourdine Shnino is the news editor and researcher for the Act for Palestine Foundation (APF) from the Gaza Strip.