Palestinian Youth Narrate: Life under Occupation
By Sonia Nettnin
World leaders should see the art work of Palestinian youth. I saw an art exhibit that contains diary entries, drawings, letters, paintings, and poetry. The exhibit has Palestinian narratives and visual depictions of daily life under Israeli occupation.
The international community should experience such art exhibits and utilize it as constructive feedback for political and economic performance plans. Here is a description of some violent experiences endured by Palestinian youth.
A girl from Beit-Jala describes life in her diary entry: “It’s that holy land which has turned into a dry desert of war and injustice. Being born to open your eyes on this land, means being deprived of your human rights and even some daily needs!”
Another girl from Beit-Jala shares her life experiences. The following are excerpts from her letter: “I want to tell the world that we are living in hard conditions under Israeli occupation . . . the schools are closed and pupils had to stay at home. We can’t study and if we want to, the explosions that are often heard, the bombing, the noise of tanks prevent us to do so.”
She stated that her house is near the violence. As a result, her family sleeps at a relative’s house regularly. In horrific detail she narrates the night the soldiers broke into her house.
“My father tried to prevent them from entering the room, when one of soldiers held his gun towards his head and threatened to shoot him. . .we were five people squeezed in a small room…we wanted to go out of the room to the bathroom but were not allowed to do so. My little brother was crying from pain of fear…we stayed in the room for three days…the soldiers got hold of the other rooms…they broke the fridge, they threw empty bottles onto the floor, they cut the wires of the telephone, they broke the furniture…” and her account continues about her psychological trauma.
One night she was forced to sleep standing against a wall.
With hopeful spirit, she concludes: “Please, I want to raise my voice and tell the people of the world, we Palestinians, want to live a peaceful life with the Israelis. We want to have our rights as all children of the world do. Please stop occupation and help us to live freely in our own land.”
Despite her traumatic experiences, her words are a plea for peace.
Their art work is an art expression of their lives. In the midst of warfare, these children transform messages of peace into artistic expression. Despite their experiences with violence, they hope for solidarity.
A Palestinian boy in eight-grade wrote a letter titled, “Palestinians Always Peace in Heart.”
“Every day we saw Israeli army killed, injured, caught Palestinian, destroy houses and took off Palestinian grounds…what I want from this message to know, that we want peace,” he says. On green construction paper, he drew a Palestine flag in a heart.
In one of the diary entries, a girl states that the Palestinian people endure water, electricity, fuel, and medicine shortages. She conveys her perceptions of the children around her when she writes: “…many Palestinian kids and youth are suffering from depression and stress. They are traumatized by the war crimes that take place in their daily lives. They’ve been caused to become hopeless and pessimistic at such a young age.”
In her diary entry she talks about suicide bombers.
“The world speaks a lot about Palestinian infants who sacrifice themselves for the sake of their country and condemn their actions. But after all no wonder…their lives are nothing worth to them anymore.”
Her concluding statement has a resounding message when she says, “‘Man has two harts: a hart that suffers and another that hopes!’”
Every diary entry, letter and poem ended with an uplifting message. In the poem “What should I do? /Everyday/Every hour every minute/Always killing/dying never stops/This is my own life.” By R.B., the last, four lines say:
“Our Arab soul is flying in the sky/asking for salah al-deen asking for peace. / Finally I wish that our sun will rise a gain, to/ keep a smile on the children face.”
When one woman saw the children’s art work, she cried. She was shocked that they painted guns, helicopters, tanks, and dead bodies oozing blood.
One girl creates another dimension for Shakespeare’s work in her piece, “To everybody who love freedom: To be or not to be this is the question.”
In her final paragraph, she writes: “…there is not life there is nothing just blood, we want peace because peace is the end of the blood, but Israel didn’t want any peace, every boys and girls want peace, life, and play this is our dream and i hope in somebody it will be truth. So i think the real question is to be or to be.”
A girl from Ramallah talks about life under siege. She stated there have been numerous killings, home demolitions and curfews.
“On the checkpoints, we face those soldiers holding weapons threatening people on their way to work and scaring children on their way to school,” she says.
In the top, left-hand corner of her letter is a dove…in her beak is an olive branch.
The creative expressions of peace, love and hope made this exhibit a powerful argument for negotiation-resolution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A boy from Ramallah had his house occupied by Israeli forces over a week. In an excerpt from his speech-letter, “I Have a Dream,” he writes: “I have a dream that one day all peace lovers stand behind us the children of Palestine to help us grow with no harm physically, mentally and morally, to be the future leader who will build Palestine as a peaceful nation.”
Their moving works show the power in hope. Out of this
conflict grow resilient boys and girls who possess an
inspirational spirit. Through their yearnings, dreams and
aspirations is an eternal humanity…their narratives are
instruments for peace.