From Palestine Chronicle
"At bedtime, I am afraid to turn the lights off. I am not a coward, it is just that I worry that this bulb hanging from the ceiling is the last light that remains (shining) in my life."
Soon after he penned these words, Moath Alhaj, a young artist from a Gaza refugee camp, passed away in his sleep. After disappearing for two days, Moath's friends broke down the door of his house, and found him huddled with his blanket in a place in which he lived alone for 11 years.
Moath lived in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, one of Gaza's most crowded camps, a name which is associated with historic hardship, war and legendary resistance. Raised in the United Arab Emirates, Moath returned to Gaza to join the Islamic University, but remained there, experiencing three wars and a decade-long blockade.
Somehow, the young man maintained a semblance of hope as expressed in his many drawings and emotive commentary.
Moath learned to live in his own world ever since he was young. The outside world to him seemed unpredictable and, at times, cruel.
When his mother passed away, Moath was only 1-year-old. He father died of cancer in the UAE and, due to circumstances beyond his control, Moath lived alone. Keeping him company were his friends in the neighborhood, but mostly it was his self-effacing, yet profound artistic expressions.
"Smile, may the war feel shame," was one of his cartoons. In it, a little girl with a flowery dress turns her back at the reader, looking the other way.
Moath's art characters always had their eyes closed, as if they refuse to see the world around them, and insist on imagining a better world inside their own thoughts.
After his body was thoroughly examined, doctors concluded that Moath died as a result of a stroke. His heart, heavy with untold personal and collective miseries, had just given in. And just like that, one of Gaza's finest young men was buried in an ever-crowded graveyard. Social media buzzed with statements of condolences, made mostly by young Palestinians from Gaza, devastated to hear that Moath has died, that his last light had been extinguished, and that the young man's life had ended while the siege and state of war remain.
In that same week, Palestinians commemorated the three-year anniversary of the end of Israel's devastating war against the Strip. The war had killed over 2,200 Palestinians, the vast majority amongst them civilians, and 71 Israelis, the majority of them soldiers.
The war left Gaza in ruins, as over 17,000 homes were completely destroyed, and thousands of other structures, including hospitals, schools and factories destroyed or severely damaged.
The war fully shattered whatever semblance of economy the Strip had had. Today, 80 percent of all Palestinians in Gaza live below the poverty line, the majority of whom are dependent on humanitarian aid.
There is a whole generation of Palestinians in Gaza that grew up knowing nothing but war and siege, and have never seen the world beyond Gaza's deadly borders.
These are the voices of some of these young Gazans, who kindly shared their tragic personal stories, hoping that the world would heed their calls for freedom and for justice.