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Illinois College Student from Gaza Speaks Out

Updated: Wednesday, July 30 2014, 12:18 AM CDT

Tonight an Illinois College student from Gaza is worried for the safety of her family.

The sophomore lived through two wars growing up in Palestine.

Now safe in the United States, she can't stop thinking about her family as they fight to survive another round of conflict between Israel and Palestine.

The day after Fatima Alshantti left Gaza, the border closed.

Had she waited just one more day, she would still be living in Palestine.

Although Alshantti escaped the turmoil, her family did not.

"It was hard, you wake up in the morning leaving the house not knowing if you're going to come back safe or not," Alshantti said.

Alshantti, describes growing up in Gaza.

"You have no guarantee that you're going to reach your family again or see them again. Every goodbye or see you later, it may be the last one you say to your family."

Now across the world, Alshantti is spending the afternoon safe on the campus of Illinois College in Jacksonville.

"I lived through two wars before 2006 and 2008 and then I said that's it. I'm not going to live here anymore. I want to escape. So that's why I applied for scholarships, I did anything just to leave there," Alshantti said.

But she wonders, if the last conversation with her family really was her last.

"I'm worried about them. I'm not in touch with them for three days and I can't call them and there's no service there. There's no electricity, so I'm waiting. That's all I can do," Alshantti said.

Paul Findley is a former U.S. Representative from Jacksonville.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the focus of his career for fifty years.

As an Illinois College alum, he works to help Palestinian students go to college at IC.

"They wonder why this calamity could possibly happen given the wonderful life that we have here in this country," Findley said.

Alshantti was given a full-ride scholarship to Illinois College through the Hope Fund, an organization that brings Palestinian students from refugee camps to colleges in the U.S.

"We don't just pick students and bring them over and forget them. We stay with them the whole four years," said Nancy Qubain, Executive Director of the Hope Fund.

"They support me in everything I do, which is really amazing. I've never seen this much support," Alshantti said.

On July 10, rockets hit the land next to Alshantti's family's home and destroyed it.

Alshantti tells us she's not sure she will ever return home to Palestine, and if she does, she may choose not to marry in order to save her children from witnessing the kind of war she has.

Illinois College Student from Gaza Speaks Out
Illinois College Student from Gaza Speaks Out

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