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What do Palestinian teenagers wish for in 2013?

New Year’s resolutions offer us a glimpse into the hopes of the children who live under Israeli occupation.

A colleague of mine, a fellow journalist and writer, teaches English to Palestinian children in Hebron. I visited her recently in the West Bank and she generously shared her teenage students’ New Year’s resolutions. They are published here, sans names, with the students’ permission.

From a teenage boy:

*Study hard

*Be lovely

*Don’t hurt others

*Work better

*Keep your mouth closed

*Imagine well

*Never give up

*Eat healthy food

*Hate injustice

*Like to help others

*Smile

*Fight bad insects

The next one list was written by a girl who seems unusually self aware for a teenager. The most heartbreaking entry in her list was number 11, which she’d drawn a line through. It shows how hard it is for her trust the world around her and alludes to the severe impact it makes on her personal relationships:

1) Focus more on my studies in class

2) to Work more on my relationship with God.

3) Stop and think before I do anything.

4) Fix my relationship with my dad and mom

5) Stop talking when the teacher is talking

6) Watch fewer programmes at T.V.

7) Stop listening to music that’s not good

8) Have breakfast before going to school

9) Take real things seriously.

10) Try to tell everybody how you feel about him or her

11) Stop believing every body lies

Another young woman’s list shows, again, how hard it is for these children to have faith in the people around them. No surprise given the fact that their lives are so unstable and can be changed on the whim of an Israeli soldier.

1) Study hard

2) Prepare myself to Al-Tawjehi

3) Start to make my dreams a fact

4) See my life in another way

5) Don’t trust people so quickly

6) Don’t tell my rivals in school my marks

7) Enjoy my school day with my friends

8) Eat pizza

That these lists do not mention the occupation does not mean that living under Israeli military rule makes no impact on the children’s lives. Rather, that the students don’t talk about freedom of movement or seeing their brothers, uncles, and cousins released from Israeli prisons suggests that it doesn’t seem like a realistic hope.

The New Year’s resolutions remind me a bit of the writing my university students do. It’s often focused on their family, friends, and goals. My female students sometimes write about a love interest. The political circumstances that make a huge impact on their lives are often surprisingly absent. Some of my students say that they just don’t want to deal with things; others feel like nothing they do or say will help. So they turn inwards, retreating into the concerns of their daily lives.

But these lists and my students’ writing reveal something else–I’ve met too many Jews and Israelis who imagine Palestinians as people who spend all day everyday obsessing about the nakba and the occupation and liberating Palestine. It’s an egotistical, self-centered, fetishizing, dehumanizing way to regard Palestinians. It strips Palestinians of any humanity. These lists remind that while, yes, Palestinians care about the political situation, most just want to live normal lives. Which is what any one anywhere in the world wants.

And what is a normal life? One with complete civil and human rights. One where a teenager can leave his house any time of day and night without worrying about being harassed by soldiers or arrested and held, without charge, in administrative detention. The ability to eat pizza as they wish.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. BOOZ: I deleted your comment because I’m not comfortable with anyone whose email address includes “Kahane” commenting on my channel.

      Your subsequent comments will be deleted, as well.

      Best,
      Mya

      Reply to Comment
      • BOOZ

        Can I help if am an homonym of a loathsome person? BTW I appreciate your disclosing my personal details on a public forum.

        It is as though I would be defiant of any person named “Guarnieri” for your pronouncements. FYI, I searched that name in the “Pagine Bianche” and I have hit 5 pages in Rome, 4 pages in Milano….which is many people.

        BTW you seem to have a very thin skin to objections…

        Reply to Comment
        • andrew r

          You label someone thin-skinned and think having Kahane in your e-mail is a personal detail. What, is your e-mail kahane@kahane.kahane?

          Reply to Comment
          • BOOZ

            FYI I hold that name from a man ( my father) who was active in the Ha’shomer Ha’Tzair in Eastern Europe back in the early 30′s, then just fell short of enlisting in the International Brigades in Spain, then fought fascism during world war II in the French Foreign Legion… nothing to be ashamed of, really.
            Your remark is despicable beyond comment.

            Reply to Comment
      • Matti

        Seriously? Enjoyed your article, but I enjoy it much less now after reading this comment of yours…

        Reply to Comment
    2. Thank you for this post, Mya. I particularly like ‘be lovely’, ‘imagine well’, ‘keep your mouth closed’, and the injunction to eat pizza. I may try and adopt these. :P

      I did a similar exercise with some slightly younger kids at the beginning of Advent (Church’s new year) two years ago. We wrote resolutions on ribbons and hung them on a tree. There were hardly any occupation-related things on there either, except, “Don’t wake dad up before Fajr” (written by an ex-child detainee who has a problem with nightmares).

      Reply to Comment
    3. Vicky, Thanks for reading and thanks for your thoughtful comment. I found some of the children’s resolutions inspiring, too, and am trying to put a few of them into practice, as well! :)

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mitchell Cohen

      [Qoute]I’ve met too many Jews and Israelis who imagine Palestinians as people who spend all day everyday obsessing about the nakba and the occupation and liberating Palestine. It’s an egotistical, self-centered, fetishizing, dehumanizing way to regard Palestinians. It strips Palestinians of any humanity.[End of Quote]

      Fair enough, but one can say the same about how the other side views Israeli kids (i.e. bloodthirsty, fascist, Arab-phobic, etc.). The lists you show above could just as well have been written by kids in Sderot. And just because they don’t mention “code red” or bomb-shelters in their lists doesn’t mean they are not traumatized by the missiles….

      Reply to Comment
      • “The lists you show above could just as well have been written by kids in Sderot.”

        But isn’t this the point? Children are just children after all.

        I saw this most clearly in Umm al-Khair, when the last football in the village went over the fence into the Karmel settlement (a routine annoyance for the Umm al-Khair kids). There were some children playing on the other side, and the Israelis who were with me asked them to return the ball. The younger children refused, but extended an invitation to us to join them: “Come into the settlement, it’s nicer here, we have trees!” My friend Shemer persevered, and eventually a teenager who had been reading a book alone on her porch got up. She didn’t look at us as she scooped the ball back over. We called out thank you, and asked her for her name, but she wouldn’t give it, just stayed silent and slouched off back to her seat. The Umm al-Khair kids were quite excited by this happening, as once a ball goes over that fence, it’s normally gone for good. I looked down at Hanadi, nine years old at the time, and then at the retreating back of the Jewish girl on the other side of the fence who was only four or five years Hanadi’s senior, and thought how strange and how sad that they live fifty yards apart and don’t even know each other’s names.

        Children are just children, and the tragedy is that adults won’t allow them to be that. Kids get dehumanised in propaganda all the time – think of the infamous Palestinian baby bomber photos, the pictures of Israeli children writing death wishes on missiles with coloured chalks. But the people who circulate these and get all indignant very rarely pay any attention at all to children as children. What kids think, how they write, what they want. I think the best we can do in the face of that is to just to listen to what these children have to say for themselves here, rather than defensively comparing trauma from occupation to trauma from missiles. (I realise that’s not what you’re doing, but this discussion could easily slide that way.)

        Reply to Comment
    5. Amit

      “I’ve met too many Jews and Israelis who imagine Palestinians as people who spend all day everyday obsessing about the nakba and the occupation and liberating Palestine”

      I found this view common among radical left wing activists no less and maybe more than in other Israelis.

      you are right that “That these lists do not mention the occupation does not mean that living under Israeli military rule makes no impact on the children’s lives”. But it does show that the situation is not as catastrophic as a lot of people would like to represent it. When the majority of Palestinians answer in polls that their number 1 worry is the economical situation and the occupation comes as number 2, maybe we should actually listen.

      Reply to Comment
      • I agree that we should urge the economic right of transport within and beyond the Bank, as this cannot but improve the economy and so the life horizon of the kids mentioned above.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Vadim

      This reminds me of a time in the Technion. We were studying for an exam in a library and a group sat nearby and heatedly discussed something in Arabic, with hands thrown in the air and people silencing one another. It really looked like a political debate. It was very funny when one of them said something about Pentium Thalatha and took out his laptop to demonstrate something.

      “I’ve met too many Jews and Israelis who imagine Palestinians as people who spend all day everyday obsessing about the nakba and the occupation and liberating Palestine”

      Who do you hang with?! I’ve never met anyone with these kinds of opinions…

      Reply to Comment
    7. Shmuel

      “But these lists and my students’ writing reveal something else–I’ve met too many Jews and Israelis who imagine Palestinians as people who spend all day everyday obsessing about the nakba and the occupation and liberating Palestine.”

      The point of this article seems to be that Israelis are the war mongers while the Palestinians just wish to get on with their lives.

      Ok we get it. We get it even if we don’t agree. I guess we live in a parallel universe. The question is which one is the real one? Yours or ours Mya?

      Reply to Comment
      • Zephon

        When and how did it become the duty of a journalist to care how or why the public does or does not respond?

        A good journalist is the conscience of humanity. When that journalist no longer feels the fire of conscience within the public; THAT is the moment the journalist’ fire burns stronger – with conviction. Doubt the conscience of the Israeli people they certainly haven’t proven why you shouldn’t – but how can you doubt your own convictions? If you feel your fire weakening then you’ve been fueling your flames with the wrong incentive. You should burn stronger for every flame that goes out. How else can you expect the people to find their way in the dark and cold?

        Humanity disappoints but when has humanity ever failed?

        Would you feel the same if you fell out of love for someone? Would love no longer be worth chancing if love were nothing but disappointing?

        And what of Hope? Just imagine if you gave up on that. What would be the point of living at all?

        This line encompasses my meaning.

        Do not go gentle into that good night, rage. Rage against the dying of the light.

        In your case that would be your fire.

        Reply to Comment
        • Shmuel

          Yea but just because your fire is burning, there is no need to totally invert reality.

          What is wrong in reporting on reality as it really is?

          The two societies, Jews and Arabs/Palestinians have been fighting a low intensity war for a century. Therefore, many people on both sides are suspicious of the other side. And some people on both sides stooped to vilifying and hating the “other”.

          To make it seem that only Israelis are prone to this is just dishonest.

          PS
          Mya, that may not have beent your intention but it did come across that way. So please correct me if I misrepresented you.

          -

          Reply to Comment
          • Zephon

            Why is your reality different from those of a Palestinian? If you both marginalize each other, both live in suspicion and expect the worst from one another. Governments determine your lives. While both of you perceive that neither of you would ever live in each others so called ‘realities’… You’re already sharing each others one reality.

            The Palestinian is living in a cage surrounded by enemies. You are also living in a cage surrounded by enemies – only your cage is gilded and you get a menu. However, you both are trapped in the region; a region where you both are loathed for one reason or another – equally. With that reality you can see you both have that much more in common.

            The question shouldn’t really be about whose living in which reality. The question ought to be why neither of you recognize that together; both your realities are one in the same – and you’re both equally miserable in it.

            Reply to Comment

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