Palestine, (Pal Telegraph) - Yesterday Palestinians all over the world marked Nakba-day, which commemorates the forced exodus of hundreds of thousands of their kin after the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. It is a day when Palestinians remember the fatal events 64 years ago and remind each other that they will not give up until Palestine is free.
Together with thousands of people I took to the streets of Ramallah, joined by a group of amazing women and their children. Even my colleague and friend who is very pregnant and passed her due date defied the sun and the crowds of people to be part of this day. The children had only half a day of school which was reflected in the crowd where children, dressed in school uniforms, carrying Palestinian flags looked like they had done this a hundred times before. A little girl walked by me wearing a hair band with a piece of yellow cardboard attached that had “We will return” written on it in Arabic.
Palestinian children grow up in a very politicized reality; they are affected by the occupation even before they are born. They grow up in a world of checkpoints and walls, a world where every family has had a family member who is or was in prison and where the only tool these prisoners have to get fair treatment is their empty stomachs. They experience their land being stolen from underneath them and from a very early age have to deal with realities that no one should have to go through. Sometimes children themselves are arrested by the Israeli military, accused of throwing stones at heavily armed soldiers who are put there to prevent the children and their families from taking back the land that is rightfully theirs. The stories Palestinian children hear from their grandparents are often memories of the villages they used to live in; villages they can no longer even visit, if they are there at all.
All of this creates an environment where children are introduced to the politics of occupation at a very early age. Even the games the children play are affected by the situation they live in. While European children play “cops and robbers”, Palestinian children play “Arabs and Jews” where the Jews try to catch, control and contain the Arabs who of course do what they can to show their disobedience and escape.
A couple of decades ago, last Palestinian President Yasser Arafat encouraged Palestinians to have as many children as possible to outnumber the Israelis. “They can beat us at the borders but not in the bedrooms” was a saying. Now, it is more about the quality than the quantity. Being a parent might be the most important task in Palestine today, as they are teaching their children about the past and raising them to be the future. A good friend of mine – a mother –once told me that it is all about finding a balance: you have to talk to your children and tell them why you have to go through checkpoints every day, but at the same time you cannot teach them to hate, not even the Israelis. The children should be educated about the reality they live in and be taught the history that led to this situation but it should be done in a way that equips them for a peaceful future.
I, along with every Palestinian parent, am looking forward for the day when Palestinian children can celebrate their independence instead of commemorating the catastrophe that created this reality 64 years ago. They are raised in a situation that demands that they are aware of the grave realities of their country from a very early age, but they are also raised with the hope and determination to change this situation. They are the future of Palestine.