As a Palestinian, I Often Feel Alone

By Hana Fares

Illustrator: Khaled Hourani

As a Palestinian going to high school in the United States, I often feel alone. When I see the never-ending bad news about what’s happening there, I feel depressed. Sometimes I hide in the bathroom stall and just cry. 

I was in a very low place a few weeks ago, so I told one of my closest friends that I was feeling sad because of the Palestinian-Israeli situation. She then asked, “Are you Israeli?” I had told her I was Palestinian before, but she, like so many others, had been taught to think about the violence through the lens of Israeli suffering. 

My feelings are usually ignored or overlooked, unlike some of my Israeli classmates’. They are on the “right” side and I am on the “wrong” side. It’s hard for me to say I am Palestinian because people don’t take it well. I am proud of who I am, yet I am scared of how people will react. The school district hasn’t created an environment where I can share who I am or even talk about the situation. The only class I feel accepted for who I am is my Arabic class. 

At lunch, I hear a lot of conversations about the conflict. Most of them are talking only about the Israeli side. A schoolmate told me that Palestinians started a war after Hamas attacked Israeli citizens. She said there was no reason behind Hamas’ actions. It pains me to hear people totally exclude the Palestinian side of the story. 

When I explain the situation to people who have questions about it, they often tell me I’m wrong. One student told me that Israel was a country for longer than Palestine. I told her that Palestine has been there long before modern-day Israel. I searched it and the first 10 sources on the search said that I was correct, but she took my phone and proceeded to find a separate sketchy random source that vaguely said she was right. She was so sure she was right that nothing would convince her otherwise. 

I had hoped high school would be better at educating about Palestine. I heard it was a very globally focused school. When the Hamas incident happened, my teachers talked about how horrible it was. I think any loss of human life is terrible. Still, no one made those remarks when the hospital in Gaza was bombed or even mentioned the thousands of Palestinian children killed under the occupation.  

I am scared for my safety. On the side of our house, we had a Palestinian flag. An older man saw it and started yelling at the flag. He screamed lots of horrible things about Palestinians. In another incident, I was on the Max train heading to a protest downtown with my grandmother. I was wearing a keffiyeh and holding a protest sign. A man a few seats down started yelling at us. He called out ugly words so loud the whole train could hear and pointed at us. My grandmother held my hand and said, “Don’t say anything.” 

I hear about the three Palestinian college students shot and the 6-year-old Palestinian boy killed in the United States, and I am scared for my safety. Since wearing a keffiyeh is enough for murder, when I wear mine to school I am on a constant lookout. As a Palestinian student, I feel isolated, judged as untrustworthy, and frequently fear for my safety. Still, I am proud to be Palestinian, and I will keep wearing my keffiyeh with pride. 

Stones of Poetry

By Hana Fares

Tell me, am I a poet?
Will I bring light to
People’s eyes
whom the darkness of deception has shaded?
I tried
I swear I tried to show the truth to the denialist
The one who looked away
From the death of my people
I shone my light
But she stayed in the darkness
Looked away from the children
trapped in an open-air prison

Walking through the hallways
I wonder why
The school doesn’t teach about my people
I try to make up for it
I use watermelon tears
As ink in my pen

I am on a journey
when I say
I support the land of olive trees
It does not mean I am a terrorist

I am on an expedition where
I will no doubt fall,
But the bumps in the road
Are the stones of poetry
That I will continue to throw
So tell me now,
Am I a poet?

Hana Fares is a teenage Palestinian poet and activist aspiring to influence peace in the Middle East.

Artist Khaled Hourani’s art can be seen at