On Wednesday, Nov. 14, when the war in Gaza started, I became a wreck. I had no way of contacting my family, so my only solace was to check the list of the dead online almost every five minutes and stay tense until the cease-fire was announced. My name is Caroline Katba, and I am the only Palestinian at Amherst College who grew up in Gaza. Growing up in the Gaza strip is no fun ride; it is emotionally and mentally exhausting. Nevertheless, I am immensely grateful to all the experiences that I have had, because they helped shape me, and my perspective of the world.

Amherst College is a small community, so I am sure that many of my fellow classmates already know that I left Amherst to join the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). I am sharing my experiences with you from this past week to illustrate two things to the Amherst community: why I took a leave of absence to serve in the Israeli Army and why Israel deserves an apology from her many critics on and off of our campus.

Last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas submitted a petition for statehood to the United Nations. Clearly a two-state solution is imperative to ending the conflict. Both sides realize this — according to a March 2010 poll, 72 percent of Israelis and 57 percent of Palestinians want a two-state solution. It’s the only hope of ensuring a lasting peace, delivering justice to the Palestinians and it’s necessary for the survival of Israel as a Jewish state.

On Sept. 23, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mohamed Abbas, will formally submit its application for statehood to the United Nations (U.N.). This appeal for statehood began after the tectonic shifts in Middle Eastern politics following the popular uprisings last spring. The PA’s new approach, a U.N. bid, marks yet another transformation in the Arab World, a transformation which may leave Israel, the United States and diplomats puzzled over their former Middle Eastern policies.