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You Can’t Keep a Good Kid Down! Gaza Kids Write To NZ

You Can’t Keep a Good Kid Down! Gaza Kids Write To NZ

By Julie Webb-Pullman for

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The Students of Beit Hanoun say “Hello New Zealand!”

(5 April 2012 - Gaza Strip) Today I visited the Association of Educational Excellence in Beit Hanoun, a city on the north-east edge of the Gaza Strip with a population of about 40,000 people, 99 percent of whom are Palestine refugees.

The Association provides services to the poorest and most marginalised families in Beit Hanoun, to improve students’ performance and academic achievement, as well as providing social, material and psychological support to them and their parents.

Their services are necessary - Beit Hanoun has extremely high levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in its population, particularly the children.

It is not surprising - in May-June 2003, seven people were killed, more than 100 were injured and 26 houses were destroyed by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), leaving 37 families (223 individuals) homeless.

In 2004, IOF bulldozed almost every single orange tree, lemon tree, grapefruit tree and grape vine in this farming community of citrus groves and vineyards, and destroyed more than 40 wells, thus its economy.

In 2006, the day after the UNRWA Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd visited Beit Hanoun, 19 people were killed by IOF, the fatalities including women, children and infants from the same family. More than 40 were injured, and over a hundred left homeless.

In 2008-9 during Operation Cast Lead, Lama Talal Shehda Hamdan (4), Ismail Talal Shehda Hamdan (9), Haia Talal Shehda Hamdan (12), Oyoun Jihad Yousif an-Nasleh (15), Iyad Nabeel Abed al-Rahman Saleh (16), ‘Arafat Mohammad ‘Arafat Abed ad-Dayem (12), Islam Jaber ‘Arafat Abed ad-Dayem (16), Weam Jamal al-Kafarneh (3), Ahmad Sameeh Ahmad al-Kafarneh (17),Angham Ra’fat al-Masri (10), Aseel Muneer Matar al-Kafarneh (1), Nareman Ahmad Abed al-Kareem Abu Odeh (15), Ahmad Sameeh Ahmad al-Kafarneh (17), Angham Ra’fat al-Masri (10), Aseel Muneer Matar al-Kafarneh (1), Nareman Ahmad Abed al-Kareem Abu Odeh (15), and Basma Yaser al-Jalawi (5), were all killed - and that is just the children from Beit Hanoun who died - many of their parents, uncles, aunts, or those of their friends, also perished. In addition, hundreds of their brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, and schoolmates, were injured, made homeless, and otherwise traumatised.

Writing the letters to send to New Zealand

Click for big version

Click for big version

Click for big version

Many schools were also destroyed, creating such a shortage that there are two sessions a day, and children attend either in the morning, or in the afternoon.

Such death and destruction is not merely a matter of the past – it is ongoing, and constant, with drones and F-16s a perpetual presence in the skies above them, rendering the children – and many adults –fearful that at any moment they could be next, wondering will their home, their school, their loved ones, still be there when they return.

Against such a backdrop, the Association holds sessions twice a day for severely traumatised children, morning sessions for the afternoon-school-children, and afternoon sessions for the morning-school-children.

At this-morning’s session, I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the kids, and their excitement at having a New Zealander visit them. Yes, they know where New Zealand is, and yes, they all study English at school!! They were impatient to get down to work, and used up the entire session doing their best to write and draw so well that New Zealand kids will be inspired to write back to them, and share their lives. They even sent a big ‘hello’ by video!

Insha’allah there will be a school somewhere that will respond to their offer of friendship!

Their letters will arrive in New Zealand in May, and Gaza SCOOP will help get replies from New Zealand kids to the kids in Gaza, so let us know if your school is interested!!

Salam from Beit Hanoun!


Julie Webb-Pullman (click to view previous articles) is a New Zealand based freelance writer who has reported for Scoop since 2003. She has been reporting from Gaza for most of the past year and is currently the only Western journalist located in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

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