New York, October 31, 2011—Huddled on the ground of her family’s kitchen in Nablus, Thuraya Aghbar returned the embrace of her four siblings to avoid stray bullets, as she first confronted the vivid reality of occupation at 14 years old.
This night that Thuraya, 21, says she “will never forget” was during the second intifada (uprising), a period of increased violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Without electricity, water, or the knowledge of when the gunfire on her street would end, Thuraya’s moment with death awakened her desire to eliminate fear in Israel-Palestine.
“I don’t want anyone else to experience that fear that we had at that time,” said Thuraya. “When I have children, and for my little brothers and sisters, I want this [occupation] to end.”
A senior majoring in electrical engineering at An-Najah National University, Thuraya finds value in her education to advance the Palestinian state that she avidly promotes in all parts of her life; whether diving into engineering books on fuel conservation or leading Palestinian political activism.
“I joined engineering because it solves the problems in helping to build a society,” Thuraya explained. “If you want to build a state, you need human capital, and people who can design the country.”
Defying the trajectory of most of her peers, Thuraya aspires for a master’s degree and in time, a doctorate in international relations to teach as a college professor. However, Thuraya’s reputation is not only one of academia, but also of her intentional investment in the lives of fellow Palestinians.
“The thing I love about Thuraya, she wants to do something,” said Mohammad Asideh, OneVoice Palestine (OVP) youth council delegate. “She realizes the reality, and she wants to see a place in the future for both [Palestinians and Israelis].”
In this desire to “do” and not wait to see change, Thuraya previously volunteered with Tomorrow’s Youth Organization, hosting sports programs for Palestinian children in a Nablus refugee camp. She worked to bridge the frequent divide between Palestinians and those living in the refugee camps.
“Thuraya wants to learn, and she has a desire to do volunteer work inside her community,” said Asideh, who encouraged Thuraya’s participation in OVP. “I saw in Thuraya a very good opportunity for OneVoice to develop this girl and her knowledge.”
Through the introduction of her university acquaintance, Ahmad Shouli, Thuraya became involved in OneVoice activites that included representing OVP at the Young Presidents’ Organization Forum in Amman. Now OVP is one of the many avenues where Thuraya advocates the call to service and Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“If you are white, red, green, whatever your color, your religion, whatever you are, you are a human being at the end,” said Thuraya.
Thuraya will join her Israeli counterpart, Shir Lachish, in leading an International Education Program tour of London from November 5-11.