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It is quite challenging to serve in Gaza, as it is either engaged in hostilities or recovering from them. A tiny strip of land isolated from the outside world by fencing and patrol boats, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas of the world and has little to no infrastructure or natural resources. Plagued by chronic high unemployment, Gaza’s unstable economy is exacerbated by international economic sanctions and blockades, as well as internal political conflicts, limiting future prospects and offering little hope.

In September 2014, when I took up my duties as the principal of the school, the school had suffered severe damage from the 51-day war that had ended merely weeks prior. We began the hard work of repairing and refurbishing the school buildings, initiating development projects and, most importantly, undertaking the challenging mission of working with staff, teachers and children who needed psychological support.

Being the principal of the school is a tough row to hoe; it’s not an easy task to deal with life in Gaza, where teachers, parents and students are living with the aftermath of war or are threatened by its renewal. Anxious and unnerved, tempers flared. I understood the burdens and fears of a people under siege and living in poverty with little hope in the future.

Most people in Gaza suffered from posttraumatic disorders in one manner or another — especially the children, who endured three bloody conflicts in only five years. I could hardly hold back my tears when I came to realize how much they were deeply and forever scarred. Some of the children had seen mutilated bodies or experienced the daily artillery shelling and heard the continuing roar of warplanes overhead.

“No place in Gaza was safe,” some would tell me, adding, that they experienced panic attacks whenever there was a bombing. So often when I heard these stories, I wasn’t able to contain myself and I cried.

In a tenth-grade class, a student named Salma told me, with tears running down her cheeks: “I will never get married because I can’t bear losing one of my beloved in war. I can’t bear seeing them mutilated; I don’t want to be responsible for the misery of my children by letting them live in Gaza to suffer as I do. I have lost hope in life.

“I’m expecting another war any time,” she said. “I struggle daily with the fear that next time will be my turn to die, or my father’s, or my mother’s, or my little brother’s.”

I am deeply concerned by what happens in Gaza. Siege, war, internal dislocation, pay cuts and long-lasting electricity outages impact every aspect of Gazans’ lives — particularly the children. Living in these circumstances has forced them to experience poverty, hunger and a daily struggle to exist. This situation has left most of the people dependent on humanitarian aid.

Whenever I have to face hardships and feel vulnerable, I remind myself of the words of St. Paul: “[The Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’

“I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.”

This comforts me and gives me strength, knowing that it is worthwhile to endure.

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