Palestinian-American Teen: Watching Gaza from the U.S.

02/28/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.

President Barack Obama's interview with Al Arabiya this week signaled his interest in a new approach to the Middle East - one of conciliation with the Arab world, and a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As a tenuous ceasefire continues in Gaza, many Jewish and Palestinian families in the US are holding their breath, watching to see what happens. The situation is also sparking debates inside those families. Palestinian American Samr "Rocky" Tayeh tells us about his struggle to find a personal and fair point of view.

By: Samr "Rocky" Tayeh

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am the youngest of eight siblings from a Palestinian Family. My mom's family still lives in Jerusalem.

At home we have a special satellite dish which broadcasts news from overseas. When the fighting gets bad in Israel, my mom cries and yells every night. She screams for us to come downstairs and witness the tragedy on television. Violent images of dead bodies and people crying keep showing up on these news shows.

It started all over again when the war in Gaza started. However, I can't force myself to see this situation from my mom's passionate perspective. My sisters and my mom go to Jerusalem every summer. They love their homeland. I refuse to go. I don't feel I am connected to a land I don't know that much about. I also fear that I am putting my life in danger going to a war zone. My grandmother calls my mom sometimes and fills her in on the violence, which makes everyone sad. I try so hard to push away all these news reports and close my ears and eyes. What I try to do is understand this conflict from a fair point of view. I think the Israeli people have every right to guard and protect themselves from missile attacks and terrorist threats. And because of that, my sister screams that I have become "Americanized".

It was my friendship with many Jewish people that changed my perspective about this conflict. Sometimes we even joke about how we are supposed to hate each other. My friend Sarina begs me not to "throw a rock" and I beg her not to bomb my neighborhood because I threw a rock. I also babysit for a Jewish family. I have grown to love this family like my own. They treat me with such respect and passion and they always tell me: "Make yourself at home". I know some would call me a traitor for this, but I find it so beautiful that I help watch their children and house. Even my mom, who runs a daycare center with a lot of Jewish kids, has built very strong and loving relationships with their families.

But I also know she has probably gone through some hard times here in the US. I often find it extremely hard to say that my family is from Palestine. I fear I will be stereotyped. I used to wear a Middle Eastern scarf around my neck. After September 11, a lot people started looking at me like I had a bomb, and a couple of times I even got stopped by the police. It was a horrible feeling. I can only imagine how my sister feels, she always wears the scarf. From an early age I felt it wasn't cool to look or act Middle Eastern. That's why I like using my middle name Rocky.

When I look at all this madness in Gaza and Israel, I simply can't understand why across the globe we can't live together. Why at the holiest place on earth there is so much violence and death. I think we can live together under one government, not looking at people as Muslims or Jews.

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