“I want to raise my children living their childhood because neither me, my father or my grandfather had it. This is the most important for me as a father, I want my kids to have a childhood.” I received this answer talking with a tour guide in Bethlehem who was giving workshops for children in the camps between 12 – 16 years old, about their civil rights and how they should react in case if they would be interrogated or arrested by Israeli forces. “The kids in the camps know how to talk about politics from a really young age, tell me where in Europe have you seen this?” I didn’t know how to answer because I had a beautiful childhood in my village and I wasn’t afraid that somebody could take my freedom away.
In another conversation, a father of two told me the same idea “I want for my children to live their childhood. Maybe I will teach them how to go to a peaceful protest but my priority for them is to be educated in order to become an activist. Even when I see kids throwing stones to the wall or teasing the soldiers, I stop them for a talk and I try to explain to them that they could be more powerful if they will be educated first. I became an activist at 10 years old and I was harassed many times by Israeli soldiers, I didn’t have a childhood.”
I felt that this is the most important consequence of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, today there are generations without childhood and children that are forced to learn to defend themselves too early. But this situation exists on both sides of the Wall because don’t forget that in Israel the military service is mandatory for boys and girls.
The first thing that we heard from a young man in West Jerusalem while we were waiting for our host was: “Everybody in Israel is a soldier.” “What about you?” I asked back. “I’m smart, I can not hold a gun because I’m bipolar.” How do you educate the youngsters to become soldiers, I’m wondering? Probably by convincing them that the country is in danger without their service or by promoting hate and racism. Where in Europe, you’ll prefer a diagnostic of having psychological issues and actually consider yourself smart in the same time? In both countries there are children affected by this conflict and we should be aware of this.