Friday, July 18, 2008

1948 Refugees

I met with leaders from Ibdaa Cultural Center and stayed in a homestay with two youth from the Shiira (sp?) cultural center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine near Bethlehem. This is some of what I learned about people's lives there-- The grandparents of my generation, fled their homes and agricultural lands in 1948, they lost friends and family. Near Bethlehem, they then spent 2 years being told they would soon return to their homes, living in a tent set up by the Red Cross. After 2 years, temporary cement structures were built and still being told they would soon be able to return to their homes, entire families lived in these small rooms for 10 years. People lived their lives, had children, in this small area which is still controlled by the United Nations (there is now one doctor who sees so many patients per week that if you break it down, he can give each patient approx 6 minutes each).

Then, in 1967, these small dirty streets were taken over by the Israeli military (still with UN presence- one dr, a school, etc). And then, not even the refugee camp slightly belonged to them. Still mourning a new slew of losses from the military invasion, two decades after families moved there expecting they would leave soon to return to their villages- with external control of most resources- the community has still developed infrastructure through a committee structure- paved streets, a sewage system, etc. People have built larger homes on top of and next to the cement structures that were meant to last a few years.

Then some years later: the camp was totally surrounded by the military, and curfew began to be instituted for days, weeks and months on end- this means lockdown in people's homes all day and night. People get hungry, and are be unable to access food or medical treatment. Recently, the Grandfather of one young woman who I met insisted he would leave his house to get food for his family. He said the military wouldn't shoot him, because he's an old man, not like his grandson or his nephew- not the 17 year old boys "they really want". So he left their house, and the young woman I met, heard a round of shots. And 35 later, hitting his 62 year old skin, blasting into blood, she know her grandfather was dead.

The father of the family I stayed with has been trying to take a vacation for ten years, but no one will grant him a Visa; For those who have seen SlingShot HipHop- This is the same camp where two young boys who were writing a hip hop song about their friend who was killed several years ago, were arrested for throwing stones 2 years prior and then spent several years in prison; And now, there is a 29 foot cement wall preventing everyone in Dheisheh from most hopes of getting work.

The night I stayed in Dheisheh, the military invaded a home and broke everything in it and hit members of the family- including women and children. One of the children attends Karate camp with the 13 year old girl in my homestay, but she would not be coming to camp the next day. Still- children in the camp make a circus, learn Debka- Palestinian traditional dance, and paint murals with flowers and words like these: "Walls and armies do not bring security, Justice will bring security and peace."

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