In the streets of Palestine, a boy wakes up to the sound of gunshots and the stink of blood instead of his mother’s soft caress calling him to a table full of fresh Filisteeni breakfast. God knows where his mother is now. She is definitely not with him, because she wouldn’t allow him to look like what he looks like right now. His hands are covered in dust and fragments of bullets. His face is full of small cuts from falling down every five minutes. And his bare feet are crippled, running away from danger.
In sociological terms, childhood is defined as the status of children in society, and it is not a fixed value, but one that differs between different times, places and cultures. What does that mean? Most of us have had a normal childhood living in well-developed countries. We go to school, meet with friends, dream of having careers, but in a different place not very far away, Palestinian children are seeing their status of living and childhood being taken away from them. Literally.
The majority of Palestinians (3.7 million children and young people) are under the age of 25, and nearly 40% of them (2.5 million) are under 18. Imagine children feeling like they have no hope for the future. All they hear are bombs, screams, and shootings. An estimated 7,000 of those children and more have been detained, interrogated, prosecuted and or imprisoned within the deadly Israeli military justice system. Yes, children in prison. In an interview conducted by Press TV, children said they were blindfolded and handcuffed, and were subjected to physical and verbal abuse during their arrest and transportation. Furthermore, many were arrested at night and deprived of sleep before being interrogated. That is not all, as much as we would like it to be. Almost half of the children interviewed agreed that they are failing to return fully to normal life. An 85% of them said they have changed due to their experiences and the impact of their detention is felt most when they try to get back to normal life with their families — if they still have any left, that is. Former child detainees in the interview report an inability to trust anyone and build meaningful relationships in “post-detention life”. In fact, they display poor social skills and tend to isolate themselves from the outside world because of their insecurities and fear of “the others.”
According to child psychiatrist, Joanna S. Barbara, “War affects children in all the ways it affects adults, but also in different ways. Children are dependent on the care, empathy, and attention of adults who love them. Their attachments are frequently disrupted in times of war, due to the loss of family. Second, impacts in childhood may adversely affect the life trajectory of children far more than adults. Consider children who lose the opportunity for education during war, children who are forced to move into refugee or displaced person camps, where they wait for years in miserable circumstances for normal life to resume, if it ever does. Consider a child disabled in war; they may, in addition to loss of a limb, sight, or cognitive capacity, lose the opportunity of schooling and of a social life.”
They potentially could lose meaning in their construction of themselves in their world too. They may have to change their moral structure and be forced to lie, kill, and steal. The Palestinian children may lose their community and its culture during war, sometimes having it reconstituted in refugee or diaspora situations. So even if they were to be saved, they would still probably develop signs of PTSD or a detachment of emotions like empathy and love. They don’t know what it feels like to be loved since most of their parents have been displaced and or murdered by Israeli forces. Their life consists of barely surviving, rather than actually living. Palestine is not a social scientific experiment. Palestine needs to be free. Palestine has to be free to save the next generation of its children.
At the end of the day, as a teen, be thankful for what you have. You have the freedom to use your voice, protest and boycott against what is happening. Grasp all the spiritual blessings you have… your community, your friends, and your faith. Don’t underestimate the value of your life when the children of Palestine dont even know what it feels like to have one. But at the same time, let’s also not let the pain and tragedy of these little kids, these small, innocent faces hidden behind statistics, reduce to a life lesson for you. It’s going on in your generation. It’s going on at the same time that you’re reading this. This will be going on when you sleep at night in the comfort of your own home. And this will continue to go on if we don’t give attention to the cries of help in Palestine. We should read personal stories of these children. Whether it be a sixteen year old being burned alive in a “price tag revenge killing” or children playing on the street when Israeili forces murdered them all in a split second. Read it. Because the truth is we don’t mourn the loss of Palestinian children enough. We don’t pause to remember the children who were wiped out, their homes and schools methodically being blown up, and the sociological and psychological impact it does to their lives. Their story wasn’t spread. Their loss wasn’t humanised. No one learned of their joys, dreams, or their aspirations.
Find your place in the midst of all this. Which side are you on? If you’re just silent, who is your silence benefitting? Find out in what ways is your government and your community supporting what’s happening. Find out how many people in your community have no idea about this. Find out which product it is that you go out to buy that puts money in the pockets of those who are hell-bent on snatching away the dreams of those poor kids. Ask more questions like these, and find out their answers. Find out answers until there are none left to find out.
Featured image via Middle East Eye