Rasha N. Abushaban*
Gaza, April 25, 2014 (Alochonaa): The children in Palestine constitute almost half the total population. These children suffer from different kinds of deprivation of their basic rights and live in very unusual circumstances. Throughout the last 66 years of the Israeli occupation, thousands of children have been killed, wounded, tortured or arrested. Thousands of children have been struggling to get over the traumas they faced after assaults, wars, imprisonment and many other shocks.
There are thousands of heartbreaking stories can be told about children’s experiences. Some have witnessed the death of their parents or families, sometimes even being forced to stay for days with dead due to non-stop fighting. Other children have been used as human shields on tanks to invade villages. Such stories are common in wartime but for these children the misery continues all the time. Children in Gaza are raised without the decent standard of living they see or hear about in other parts of the world, and they know that they are trapped inside the Palestinian Territories with no option for a better life.
They want to play like normal children but they can’t find safe playgrounds. They want to have a proper education but they’re schools are poorly equipped and funded. They aspire to get higher level degrees but often drop out of school to enter the workforce so as to provide for their families. They want to eat proper foods but many cannot afford a balanced diet, meaning many children suffer from malnutrition. They want to play in the afternoons and do homework in the evening but they can’t because there is often no electricity – in fact, the use of candles and other forms of combustion in the home has lead to many deaths.
Whatever their challenges, none of this prevents the Palestinian children from trying to live their childhood; the time of innocence, joy, love and happiness. When you deprive people of everything in life it is hope and their beliefs which keep them alive. They are children, but inside them there are seeds of strong beliefs being cultivated. When they lose a member of their family, they believe they are in heaven now. When their homes are destroyed they know they can rebuild them, and they appreciate that they still alive. When they go to school they feel grateful that they have this chance to learn and create. When they want to play they run after donkey’s carts or plays games with chalk lines on the ground and jump and laugh out loud from deep in their heart.
Yet in Gaza you can also meet a 10 year old child who gives you an analysis of the political situation, whilst others will express their opinion about reconciliation, and still others will tell you about methods for mobilizing support for children’s rights or the Palestinian cause. They live in this abnormal world, they interact, they observe, they hear, they absorb, and their thoughts and beliefs are shaped.
Here in Gaza, the honest, loud laugh from a bare foot boy playing in puddles put a smile on my face for hours. That funny dance of children over water puddles, in that broken street of the camp, cheered me up for days. The words of a short story I heard from a little girl about meeting her mother in heaven made my heart ache for weeks. The vision of small children playing on swings they made from cords hanging from the ceiling of their poor house, also stuck in my mind for months. I work with the children of Gaza and every single time I meet one I learn something new. They teach us, inspire us, and give us hope.
When children of Gaza look around they recognize that it is not easy to cross these tightly closed boarders surrounding them, so they look up to the high sky and know that there is no limit to their dreams. They live to believe, to struggle and to survive, and hope is what keeps them alive and strong inside. Children in Gaza do not only hear news or read about history, they live the news and they take part in history.
Children of Palestine and Gaza are, like any other children in the world, pure and innocent. They deserve what every single human child deserves. Children have the right to a certain standard of living, health care, education, services, to play and have fun, and to be protected. Anyone who believes in humanity and justice has a responsibility towards these children, to guarantee their rights, and to invest in them today because they are the future and there is no way to build a civilised and strong society without empowering the children.
*Rasha writes from GazaStrip .
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