War has left me without a future

Families are continuing to leave the northern part of Gaza during the truce. (Ahmed Ibrahim / APA Images) 

Ever since I was a child, I have excelled in school. I love science and I’m passionate about learning.

I’ve always been at the top of my class and won prizes in academic competitions.

I graduated from dental school at the end of June and began my internship in September 2023. Throughout my internship, I planned to implement all the skills I learned at university.

My internship program included working six months in private clinics, a month of maxillofacial surgery in a Gaza hospital, a month in a clinic run by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), and four months at a primary care center.

Many of these centers and hospitals have been destroyed by Israeli attacks. I have lost colleagues, doctors and friends who I admired.

I can barely describe how this feels, to experience such loss in these horrific attacks.

I’d try to go to sleep every night, but the explosions kept me awake. I’d wait for morning to come and then, when the sounds of explosions had subsided, I could finally sleep.

I’m sleep deprived. I have headaches and nightmares throughout the night.

I’ve lost weight from the fear, anxiety and sheer lack of food.

Evacuating our home

On the first night of Israel’s airstrikes, they bombed my neighbors’ home with no warning. It was a two-story home and it collapsed atop everyone inside.

Our four-story house lit up red and was filled with dust, missile parts and a suffocating gas. All the windows in our house shattered, and the whole structure shook violently.

We all ran toward the house’s entrance, shouting and crying.

As a result of the nonstop strikes, we lost internet and endured constant interruptions of electricity and water.

On the morning of 13 October, people living around us in Gaza City’s Tel al-Hawa area began to leave and head south.

I saw the displacement of neighbors as the roads filled with cars driving south. Everyone was leaving: men and women, old and young, people who were healthy and those with special needs.

My best friend Sahar, who I’ve known since sixth grade, sought shelter in a school affiliated with an international aid agency, because she had no relatives in the south.

On 14 October, my family and I headed south after a particularly violent and scary night. We were in traffic the entire way.

We arrived in the south as Israeli strikes continued on northern and western Gaza.

Life in the south is not easier

Back in the north, Sahar returned to her home to retrieve some belongings. She found that Israel had bombed the building.

Nothing remained.

She called me in tears, and I tried to calm her down.

Another friend headed to the Deir al-Balah area of central Gaza, where she had family.

They lived 20 families to a classroom. There was a shortage of everything: water, food and personal hygiene supplies.

People were getting sick, and it was spreading throughout the school.

She took showers in a house next to the school, with the permission of the owners. The bathrooms at the school were overcrowded and barely usable.

Her father used the gas they had saved for the car to prepare food. Eating was of a higher priority than driving at that time.

After about a week, she returned home with her mother to retrieve winter clothes and blankets.

All of the surrounding homes had been completely destroyed, while theirs was partially destroyed. She found the body parts of her pets and chickens in the street.

They took what they needed and left.

Before the war, I had enrolled in a course to help study for the international TOEFL exam, which is an assessment of your English-language abilities. I had hoped to get a scholarship and to travel abroad to study.

But now, I’ve stopped studying. My internship has also stopped, as all the facilities I had worked in were destroyed.

I am not sure what my future looks like.

Tasneem Elholy is a dentistry graduate based in Gaza.