Kiyan Haled a-Sifi - 'We were on our land'
Photo: Hassan Shaalan
Yasser Mashali - dispel injustice'
Photo: Hassan Shaalan

Palestinian prisoners' kids visit Israel

Initiative brings Arab-Israeli, Palestinian children together in special summer camp to promote co-existence. Most participants – children of security prisoners

While Israel and the Palestinian Authority participate in a diplomatic battle as September looms ever nearer, 18 Palestinian children from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp near Bethlehem arrived in Israel on Monday to take part in the "living color" summer camp together with children from Arab villages and cities in Israel.


The visitors have special "pedigree" – most of them are the children of security prisoners who were members of terrorist organizations, some of whom were even accused of attempting to kidnap soldiers.



The group behind the initiative is the Jewish-Arab institute at Beit Berl. The Yanbua association from the Reineh village near Nazareth is responsible for the camp's activities, which end on Friday. The camp also welcomed orphans from the Dheisheh Refugee Camp.


"The main purpose of the visit is to promote co-existence and the relationship between Palestinian children and Israeli-Arab children," explains Farouk Amrour, chairman of the Jewish-Arab institute at Beit Berl.

'Historic opportunity' (Photo: Hassan Shaalan) 


"Yesterday we visited the institute and took part in a number of activities. We also visited the Holon Country Club and the Osem factory. The children behaved beautifully; for them this camp is a historic opportunity."


'Never forgive'

Yet in spite of the good intentions, it is only too evident the road to stronger relations is long and winding as most of the children have trouble forgetting the past.


One of the participants, a 12-year-old girl whose father was charged with attempted kidnapping of an Israeli soldier said angrily: "My father had a very difficult life and I can't forget that – vengeance is the right way.


'I hate what the Israeli government is doing' (Photo: Hassan Shaalan)


"I will never forgive anyone for what he went through mentally, socially and economically; we live with hardship because of the occupation. I was scared to cross the border but it is my right to visit Israel."


Mohammad Fuad al-Ham, whose father was also imprisoned in Israel, said that he feared that he would not be allowed to cross the border and would be forced to go back because of his father's actions.


"I was very happy when I got to Israel and that I will be able to fulfill my dream – to swim in the sea for the very first time. I want peace very much but I hate what the Israeli government is doing."


'Intifada victims'

Sisters Gida and Mida Abed al-Navi described the excitement they felt upon visiting Arab villages: "The moment we arrived, we started crying." Their father was charged with security offences, but now they hope for a better future: "Sadly he was a victim of the intifada and the occupation, that's why we want the IDF off our lands, we're sick of it."


Shafa Ma'amra from Reineh was happy to meet Palestinians her age. "I'm very happy to be friends with Palestinian children that came to visit us. They have emotional stories and I'll try to make them smile."


Kiyan Haled a-Sifi, a member of the foundation responsible for the Palestinian children said: "From the moment we arrived in Israel we felt we were on our land. The children were happy when we drove by the sea they never visited the beach or swam in the water."


Another member of the Palestinian foundation, Yasser Mashali, said that the purpose of the visit was to dispel the feelings of injustice, occupation and displacement felt by the children and strengthen relations between us and Palestinian Arabs living in Israel and also having the children visit here for the first time."



פרסום ראשון: 07.19.11, 21:52
 new comment
This will delete your current comment