Around twenty students and staff met in the Living Room on Thursday afternoon to talk about the events in Israel and Palestine. The majority of them were students who feel a connection with Palestine. Other students were there to support their friends. They talked in groups about the developments in the war, such as the blast at Al-Ahli hospital in which hundreds of people lost their lives. During the course of the afternoon, it became clear that many of those affected felt frustrated and helpless.

Relatives in Gaza

This was certainly true of first-year medical student Mohammed Shamallakh, who is Palestinian. “I didn’t come here to get away from what’s happening; I’m not here to find comfort.” His family comes from Gaza, and he says that, over the past ten days, he’s lost sixteen relatives. “I feel sad, frustrated and helpless. I came here to convert my frustration into action and to tell the story of my people.”

Since the war broke out, Mohammed has been unable to concentrate; he says that he constantly checks his phone. “I can’t keep away from my phone, because my sister is still in Gaza with her husband and newborn baby. They’ve already fled three times.” He calls her regularly to check that she is still alive and to keep her up to date with developments, which she does not know about because there is no Internet. She asks about the supply of electricity and water, for example, and whether there is a ceasefire yet.


Mohammed is concerned that the war is difficult for many students, particularly for other Muslims. “It’s something that affects all Muslims – all Muslims are just as frustrated as the people in Gaza.” He hopes that the university will provide support, so that students who are experiencing problems as a result of the war do not fall behind in their studies.

As it happens, he has slightly more flexibility when it comes to his studies, because, following the shooting at the EMC, exams are currently being replaced by written assignments. Mohammed does not need emotional support. “I don’t want to see a psychologist. I don’t need someone who asks me whether I’m frustrated.” What he wants from the university is an understanding of the Palestine cause: “Seek out the Palestinians, make them feel that they are understood.”

Listening ear

The walk-in event was primarily intended to provide emotional support to people who are struggling with the situation. So, as well as the Living Room hosts, there were also student psychologists from the university. “People have moved past the point of looking for comfort”, says Perry de Boer, a student host in the Living Room. “The people who are here today don’t want to talk about their feelings, or they say that they feel terrible and then immediately start talking about action, about what they can do to help. They feel that they are not doing enough to help.”

The host says that, on this occasion, compared with other walk-in meetings, they support students in a different way. “Many people are emotional, but they don’t talk about themselves.” During this meeting, the main job of the hosts is to provide a listening ear. “Normally speaking, we can console and support people in the event of a crisis, as we did during the walk-in session after the shooting at Erasmus MC. But in this case, we can’t talk to people about how they can feel better, because they don’t want to feel better, they want to do something.”

Read more

18 of 20 EUR students recovered from Israel, ‘all students are safe’

Eighteen EUR students on exchange in Israel, have returned to the Netherlands. Two other…