GAZA CITY : Hope is just so scarce a commodity in enclave where jobs are few and frustrations at life and living, ever rife.

NO ONE would ever pick out Saber al Gerim from the crowds of Palestinians demonstrating against Israel along the heavily guarded fence that has helped turn the Gaza Strip into an open-air prison.

Not for his youthful appearance. At 22, he wears ripped jeans and white sneakers, has a modish hair cut and carries a few extra pounds from many, many months without work.

Not for his anger. ''Screaming Allahu Akbar!'' and hurling stones with a sling, or straining to pull a cable hooked onto Israel's barbed wire barrier in hopes of tearing it apart, he is just one in a fevered multitude, a protagonist in nobody's drama but his own.

Not even for his willingness to risk death, or his dream of going home to patch of land he has never seen and cannot really visualize.

BUT zoom in on this man :

A beggar's son, just a few yards from Israel and squarely in the line of fire. Soldiers, the only Israelis Mr. Gerim has ever seen this close, can be spotted through the smoke of burning tires, moving about about in their foxholes atop tall sand berns, occasionally-

Launching tear-gas barrages sometimes using live fire. Over a loudspeaker. one warns Palestinians to retreat or risk death.

Mr. Gerim, well-within range and resting between slinging stones, shouts back : ''We want to return!''

SAY WHAT you will about root causes and immediate ones - about incitement and about militancy, about siege and control, about who did what to whom first - one thing is clear.

More than a decade of desperation and deprivation, with little hope of relief, has led thousands of  young Gazans to throw themselves into a protest that few, if any, think can actually achieve its stated goal :

A return to the homes in what is now Israel that their forebears left behind in 1948.

The Sadness of publishing this latest Operational Research on Middle East, Palestinians and Israelis continues to Part 2.

The World Students thanks authors and researchers Iyad Abuheweila and David M, Halbfinger. 


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