When a fighter dies who is lost? When a young man ends his life strapped to a bomb who is left behind? And where do the new generations find a place from which to start? This short radio documentary looks at the relationship between children and the situations of conflict they inhabit.
Download MP3 – 40.6 MB
Here the line between external and internal violence is blurred as children in the Jenin refugee camp struggle to reconcile the death and loss they are surrounded by on a daily basis with the simple reality of childhood. These realities are filled not only with conflict but also with contradiction. I tried to fill this documentary with contradiction.
audio: MP3 at 40.6 mebibytes (download torrent)
In the northern west bank city of jenin, there is a road that leads from the large arabic coffee pot sculpture in the center of town straight to Haifa.
In the past, jenin was one of the wealthiest cities in the west bank, but now, it is one of the poorest, and the road that leads to Haifa, is virtually abandoned. Like so many cities, towns, and villages here, Jenin has been isolated economically, as well as physically by the wall constructed by israel, and residents from the wealthy port city of Haifa, now in Israel, no longer bring to Jenin their disposable income.
At present, Haifa’s major contribution to Jenin consists of refugees who have filled the camp that borders the city to it’s west.
The Jenin Refugee camp is currently an autonomous territory in Palestine. It is governed and policed not by the Palestinian Authority, but internally, by the resistance. In 2002, the Israeli Army occupied Jenin in an attempt to wipe out this resistance, resulting in what some call the battle of Jenin, and others call the massacre of Jenin. A large portion of the camp was completely razed to the ground durring the invasion.
And it is this invasion that so colors life in Jenin today. It was a new Nakba for the displaced descendants of 1948. Yet another generation has lost everything, and yet another generation will grow up in the chaos and aftermath of such a loss. This new generation is what concerns Abdullah Mousa, Director of the Torture Victims’ Center in Jenin.
Children’s behavior has change completely, after the Jenin camp 2002 massacre.
Their play became violent. They play the game of soldiers and fighters. (Palestinians Vs Israelis)
So, unlike children in other countries they do not play fun games. The Palestinian children, and more specifically children of Jenin camp have gone through a very tough experience.
This affected them very badly, and was also reflected on their personalities. They became more violent and very afraid and aggressive. There are many cases of in-voluntary urination in the camp.
This also makes the children behave in such a way as to seem much older than they really are, in order to adopt with the environment around them.
So, Palestinian children and especially children from the camp, are childless, because they did not live their childhood. Anybody in the world will be the same if subject to similar situation.
Many children suffer from social phobia because of the physical violence they were subject to by the Israeli soldiers.
Everybody knows that the victim acquires the morals of the victimizer, which means that Palestinian children are acquiring the morals and the behavior of the Israeli soldiers.
Ahlam Nouah is 10 years old and lives in Jenin camp. I talked with her after school with the help of one of her teachers Mohaned Sarhmoud who translates.
Interview with Girl at School in Jenin Camp.WAV
After speaking to Ahlam, I wanted to talk to people who work with kids in Jenin. And as it seemed to be more and more of a reasonable question to ask, I wanted to try and understand the relationship between the kids and the resistance.
So I sought out the children’s theatre, which recently reopened in 2005. It was started in 1993 by Arna Mer-Khamis, a Jewish Israeli peace activist after she won the alternative nobel prize for her work in Jenin. She used the 50,000 dollars she received to build a children’s theatre seating over 200 people, in the refugee camp. Arna died in 1995 but the theatre continued to run until 2002 when it was destroyed along with most of the camp itself durring Operation Defensive Shield. In 2005, local community leaders partnered with staff of the child rehabilitation center in the camp to start the theatre up again. Juliano Mer-Khamis, Arnas son, left a successful career in theatre in Israel to work on the project, now called Freedom Theatre, as it’s director and currently run’s speech therapy workshops and various other therapeutic drama programs. They don’t have a new theatre yet, but according to Juliano, they will. I spoke with him in his car, as we were leaving Haifa.
For more information on the freedom theatre visit their website http://www.thefreedomtheatre.org.
Also – for an incredible documentary find "Arna’s Children" directed by Juliano Mer-Khamis
Reporting from the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, I’m Seth Porcello with the IMEMC.org