Nearly five decades have passed, thousands of Palestinian refugees in three northern West Bank camps see no signs of improvement on the horizon.
Askar, Al Ein, and Balata refugee camps are on the eastern side of Nablus, an ancient city that has experienced a near daily campaign of Israeli invasions since the beginning of the Intifada in 2000. The reality of life in Nablus' camps has attracted researchers and observers, concerned with their political, economic and social plights.
Refugees issues researcher Sabri Zukan writes of the suffering that began in 1948 that led to the establishment of camps in 1950 in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and throughout the Middle East.
Khalid Mansour is one of those responsible for the basic services in the camps through his position in the United Nations Relief Works Agency. Individuals, political parties, local government, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestine Liberation Organization also aid the refugees, but officially the job belongs to the UNRWA.
Askar Refugee Camp was established in 1950 and is the only one of the camps that received an increase in space, however small. In 1964 Askar was expanded by 90 dunams. One dunam equals 1,000 square meters.
Seventy year old Ahmed Abu Rajab lives in nearby Balata Refugee Camp. So do his grandchildren. He makes certain that they do not forget their original land or their dignity. Balata Refugee Camp UNRWA school teacher, Mohammad Abu Laila, said that when students are asked the names of their original villages, each child knows.
Balata Refugee Camp is located in eastern Nablus City, named after the land of the neighboring village it was built in. At that time, 7,000 refugees were placed on a small plot of land. There are now 22,045 people on that same piece of land, according to UNRWA statistics. Most of the families come from 25 villages that now lie within Israeli boundaries.
Coordinator Nasrallah of the Committee for the Defense of the Rights of the Palestinian Refugees based in Balata said that when the idea of compensation has been discussed, although never officially offered, the idea has been categorically rejected. "This would not even begin to solve the refugee issue."
Sixty-five year old Ahmed Masimi said that a small piece of land does not make up for the “original mountains that are worth more than gold.” He described accepting compensation as “being a traitor to our homeland.”
Ein Beit El Ma (Number 1) Refugee Camp, or Al Ein, was established in 1950 on an area of 45 dunams. The population at that time was 450 people. Named after a spring in the area, Ein Beit El Ma now holds 6,500 Palestinian refugees.
Fifty-five year old Abu Khadija Hadira told PNN, “When my children are asked where they are from, they certainly do not say Al Ein Refugee Camp.”