{mosimage}Saturday has become a strange day of rest for the families from Anata, East Jerusalem. Parents go about their work without the anxiety of going to the secondary school gates where children are collected on weekdays. On Saturdays, the Soldiers do not attack the school.

Abu Baha, headmaster of the boy’s high school in Anata: "It is a battle every day!"

During the rest of the week, a familiar scene is played out every day at 1 pm as children finish their classes. The girls and boys leave school; the Soldiers throw tear gas and try to arrest some of them. Children throw stones, and the parents do their best to try and take their children safely to their homes. Gathered in the centre of the town, the families wait until they can take their children by the hand and head home together.

If clashes break out and children are arrested it can be days before some parents see their children again.

We asked headmaster Abu Baha what had happened to the school since the Apartheid Wall was built in Anata.

“The situation escalated with the beginning of this school year, on the1st of September 2005. The Occupation Forces started digging in the schoolyard to build the Wall through it. Every day clashes took place between the students, the Soldiers and the workers that built the wall. The Occupation Soldiers repeatedly attacked the school, beat or arrested teachers and students. They have even threatened to close the school, or to force us to move to another place.

Above: Soldiers have caught their target of the day – a young student from Anata school.
They have transformed the structure of the whole school. One day, after the weekend, I came to the school and found the schoolyard closed. They put the Wall in front of the bathrooms and moved the entrance for the bathrooms. The Soldiers go everywhere, intimidating and threatening the students. When the children go to the bathroom they often have to face the Soldiers. The small ones sometimes urinate in their own clothing than go alone to the bathrooms.

When the students have their morning break, the Soldiers walk in the yard or in the school to provoke the students. Then the students start throwing stones while the Soldiers launch tear gas and beat them. The daily battle starts…
It will interrupt when the classes start again, only to break out once the school day finishes and the kids leave. The Soldiers wait for the kids in front of the school. What can I do? How can I protect the students?

During the morning, the private guards along the Wall play music at high volume and insult the students through the megaphones, provoking them and distracting them from their studies. How can they work in such an environment? Where are the minds of our teachers in such circumstances? How can they teach and children study? What can you say when the Soldiers attack the school and arrest the teachers and the students from the class? The reason given by the Soldiers is always that the kids have thrown stones.

Above: Students at Anata schools have to grow up quickly to resist the attacks of the soldiers.
Even, when they are in their classes, the students are not safe. Five days ago, the Occupation Forces took pictures of one or two students and now they want to arrest them. They walk into the classrooms and take them out of the school. They use dogs and horses, guns and tear gas to water jets against us – we have been attacked with everything but helicopters. When you have the Soldiers standing in front of the windows of the classrooms, or in front of the bathroom door, this is not an atmosphere where children can study.

In this school over half of the students have already been arrested by the Occupation. Some have been held for months, others taken away from their families for several hours.

“Where is my son, Abu Baha?”

"I carry the responsibility given to me by the families of the students in this school. When their kids are taken by the Occupation Forces, the first thing they do is come to me. The Occupation has arrested me three times and taken me for interrogation with the “special intelligence” where they told me that I am responsible for the situation, and that I have to control the students or they will close the school. The Ministry of Education of the Palestinian Authority (PA) places the responsibility of the students upon me as well. Yet, what can I do? Shall I control the kids in the school or control the Soldiers? When the students go out of the school gate, how can I follow them to protect them?”

“Did you confess to us?”

Above: The young boy is arrested and brought to interrogations.
“Imagine, a student who is 11 years old or 15 or even 17, forced to go to through interrogation with the Occupation intelligence, or is detained by Soldiers for hours and questioned. Leaving aside the psychological pressure and impact on the youngsters, these kids are coerced to confess to the Soldiers or to make lists of children that are their friends…what will be their morals and their future?

One of the tactics of the Occupation is to single out one of the kids and to start speaking pleasantly to him. Later they ask him to write the names of others. By now, the students look at each other silently wondering which of them are collaborators. They are still so young. If they ever might speak and tell names, it is because they get scared from the Soldiers. This happens every day and causes problems between the students themselves.”
(Abu Baha, Yousef Alayyan, headmaster of the boy’s high school in Anata)

“If you confess, I will bring you back to your home today!”

“They tied my hands at my back with handcuffs and tied my legs as well and started to beat me. The Soldier told me: “If you confess that you throw stones and who was with you, I will let you go to your home today.” I didn’t answer. Then he took me by my hair and tore it. I said, “I will confess”. I gave a whole list of names that do not exist in our school. When the Soldiers looked at the paper with a list of students that threw stones, they couldn’t find any of the names I had mentioned. So the Soldier told me: “I have seven names. Confess about them. It is better for you.” I told him that I don’t know these guys. So the Soldier started beating me. In the interrogation they showed me pictures while I was throwing stones and they told me that my friends have confessed on me. I stayed in the prison for one and a half months.”
(Sufian Shibli Shawamre, 16 years)

Confined at home

Above: The students of the boys’ school are regularly beaten, humiliated and intimidated by the Occupation forces.
The Occupation Forces brought me to court. My family had to pay 1000 NIS as a fine and the Occupation Court has put me under house arrest. I have another hearing on the 31st of May. For now, my mother has to bring me to school every day and consign me to the headmaster. When I go back home, I need to wait until she comes and accompanies me home again. During the day I am forbidden to go out of the house.
I feel like a small child, accompanied by my mother every day. She is teaching in the school next to ours. I ask her to bring me to school very early, before the other students arrive, as I feel very ashamed from this procedure.

During the period of arrest I fell behind in all of my subjects, but I need to pass my high school exams this year. So I have to take private lessons while the teachers promised to help me. I have to find a way … I don’t know.
(Amin Khalil Ajalin, 18 years)

What are the problems at the girl’s school?

“Every day, the Soldiers throw gas bombs that fill the school and the yard with smoke. The boy’s schools and another girl’s school are in the same area and all three schools are under regular attack. We normally ask the girls to line up in rows to sing the national anthem – and all of a sudden, we see the tear gas bombs between the girls and the teachers. We have cases of breathing problems and people fainting every day.

Above: The empty tear gas canisters that are pumped into the school yard of the girls’ school are piling up.
It is a daily challenge to resist this situation. Among the teachers are pregnant women that can’t handle the gas as well as students with asthma. We need to give first aid to the girls in the schoolyard. But when I have breathing problems myself from the gas, how can I help the girls in a good way?”
(Sausan Abu Salb, headmaster of the girls’ school in Anata)

I want to run to escape but I can’t

“Their uniforms scare me terribly. They are all heavily armed. They wear helmets and when they look at us I get afraid. I fear the Soldiers will take me from the street and arrest me. So I don’t want to go home alone. I wait until my mother finishes the classes she gives in the school and then I go with her. Only sometimes, when there are no clashes and shooting do I go home with my friends – not to our house, to my Grandma’s house. This way I don’t need to pass where the Soldiers stand. I see them but I always take the other direction.

Every time I see the Soldiers, my legs start aching and I feel paralyzed. I want to run to escape but I can’t move. Then I start crying. Once my mum and me were going back home when a jeep came very fast towards us. I thought that they wanted to arrest us. I started to cry and shout. Then they threw their rubbish at us and left again. I saw them many times beating the boys in the school. Just recently my friend told me that they caught a boy and they hit with a rock. So I get very scared.”
(Fatima, 5th grade)

The children and their families have resisted these daily attacks of the Occupation for almost a year. Their aim to force the schools to close and destroy a vital service for the people in Anata has not been achieved. Their motivation – to make life unbearable for Palestinian life unbearable and create an exodus for more Zionist expansionism – has not altered the steadfast determination of Anata’s students, teachers and wider community to their lands.

800 square meters of the schoolyard was destroyed on the 15th of August in 2005 for the path of the Apartheid Wall which cuts across the playground as it ghettoizes Anata and shuts it out from the rest of Jerusalem.

Dozens of students have been injured, detained and arrested, while one student had his leg broken after Soldiers attacked him. Anata is woven into the fabric, culture and history of the Palestinian capital, but the Apartheid Wall shuts the area out of the city and cuts the inhabitants of Anata from their land.

Palestinians here once owned more than 34,000 dunums of land. The total land of Anata today is a mere 4,000 dunums, due to the continual expansion of Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

Against all threats and attacks, parents, children and teachers start every by challenging the Occupation, struggling for their future, one of dignity and freedom.