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:
*Don’t hurt others
*Keep your mouth closed
*Never give up
*Eat healthy food
*Like to help others
*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.