Growing Up Occupied and Growing Old Hopeful.


I understand Finals weeks is around the corner for many of you and it is going to get pretty hectic and busy for the next week. Well, I hope that you will take a break from studying to catch my blog! I told you all about my experience in Palestine.  I felt like I needed to shed a little more light on it as far as I understand the issue, how you do,  and what your perspective on the occupation is.

I was unsure of where to start… I will just address the issues that I witnessed or that were told to me by the people in the villages I visited.

I stayed in Husan, as I stated in a previous blog, with my aunt and her husband, my uncle Ismail. The village was filled with kids our age, and many of them unfortunately just accepted their circumstances as they were- it was heart breaking. I am struggling on a way to structure this, I am just going to list what I noticed and was told to me.

  • Lack of an education
  1. It is hard for them to find transportation because often the road to the university may be blocked or closed by the IDF.
  2. A degree doesn’t mean anything because there are no jobs available in the occupied territory.
  3. Pursuit of a higher education is expensive and only wealthier families can afford to send their students to; Jordan (for example) to study.
  4. Many join the PA through wasta (patronage) or receive permits to work in the Jewish cities.
  5. Some don’t work at all.

I do not know if you recall, but I had posted a photo of an entrance into the Jewish cities.  Many people who are looking for work  just for the day, such as temporary labor or a substitute for someone injured, wake up as early as 2am, and they wait till the IDF arrives to open the entrance. The pathway is so small that people are often toppling one another and some climb over others as well.

  • Exponential population growth
  1. It is a well known fact that the Palestinian population is outgrowing the Israeli one; it is because of lack of an education available and options for a future.
  2. Many of the young ladies in the village are married off when they turn 16; there is no work available for them and no resources available to pursue a higher education resulting in having larger families. By the way, marriages are not arranged, just instead of dating people are engaged- they are basically dating during that period.

  • The Wall-Road access-Visas
  1. The Wall has cut off many people from being able to access social services such as, medical treatment, entrance into other Jewish cities, and ambulances in case of an emergency…etc.
  2.   The segregation of roads has made it more difficult for Palestinians to get from one city to the next. My uncle stated that, if he were to drive to Ramallah through Jerusalem it would take 30-40 min max but through the back roads that they are required to take it takes between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes.
  3. Visas-It is very rare that the Israeli government accepts visa requests from the people of the villages, even one like Husan, which is in good standing with the Jewish people and government. It was sad to hear of many of them who had family in Amman that they hadn’t seen in over a decade. My friend Yousef missed his niece’s wedding because he is in the PA  thus he will never be permitted to leave the village unless it is with the actual PA for work, and is never allowed to enter a Jewish city.  I saw IDF soldiers all over the streets in the West Bank but it was not permitted for PA soldiers to enter Israel.
  • Living conditions: I will just state what I saw.
  1. Garbage piled high in the streets even on roofs of supermarkets.
  2. No cinemas, parks, any form of recreational activity for the kids.
  3. School buildings were filled with graffiti.
  4. Most days are spent in the streets of Bethlehem because no access to cars or buses that would take them to other cities or villages.
  5. Husan sits on a hill, many kids sit and look through the fence and down at the settlement roads that segregate two people who want the same land but don’t even know each others story.

This experience inspired me to dig further and I visited a Refugee camp in Jordan. The people in it have been here since 1948 following the first Nakbeh (day of catastrophe)  and have raised their families there ever since. It was interesting to see that photos pf Palestinian leaders and activists were posted everywhere; shop names were titled after Palestinian cities such as, “Bread of Jersualem” or “Ramallah Hair Salon” etc…

I ended up meeting with the oldest woman in the camp and conducted a full length interview. She discussed with me how her neighbors were Jews who immigrated from Iraq and warned her and her husband to leave because they did not want them to die for their sake. That same day they left, they walked and took nothing with them. She mentioned it was very hot and there was a lack of water. She witnessed people placing their children under trees because it was too hot and difficult to carry them, they would just leave them there in hopes that someone else would be able to provide them with shelter, food, water, or they would be left to die. She kept screaming at Obama during the interview, she said, ‘we just want you (U.S.) to communicate with us and stop Israel from killing our people and taking our land.‘ She mentioned that the Arab countries are no longer united in the Palestinian effort and they need to be. She said it was up to the States to return Palestine to a sufficient state because they are responsible for the state it is in now. The last thing she told me was that, her only wish was to die and be buried in her village.

The outside of the woman’s home that I visited with.
Inside of the woman’s home
The kitchen
The bathroom

It was quite emotional for me… I was upset to see what living conditions US tax dollars had subjugated the Palestinian people to. I’m ashamed of endorsing the segregation of two people when we fought long and hard in our own country to prevent that from happening. I’m saddened by the predictable future of the many boys and girls our age and the lack of education they receive. Above all, I was amazed that they were not upset, vengeful, or bitter with the Jewish population for the most part, but rather its representatives, Zionists, IDF, and the US government- not the people. Many of them just don’t understand WHY…Why can we not live side by side? Why can I not go to school? Why can I not visit my family? Why are we still imprisoned by the wall? Why am I a security threat?

How familiar are you with the Arab/ Israeli conflict?

Do you think that once anyone speaks out against Israel in the West it is viewed as Anti-Semitic?

Do you think that a solution is possible? If so, what kind would you propose?

How do you feel about Israel stating that the lives that the Palestinians are subjugated to is for their “security”?

I personally believe that Israel is a state of immigrants… the Palestinian  population was there before 1948 and they are not asking to even return to a state that was once entirely theirs… they just want a home free of occupation, fear, and imprisonment. I honestly feel like a one state solution is inevitable, just seeing how much land has been annexed into Israel proper.  Many Palestinians feel that they need to amend their relationship and live side by side.

15 thoughts

  1. Wow Salam, amazing post. Thank you so much.

    Unfortunately, I’m not very familiar with the Arab-Israeli conflict, so I don’t know what kind of solution I would propose. I think that Palestinians should have access to their land, too. Obviously there are some very serious problems going on, and no one should ever be subjected to the kinds of living conditions you documented. We have homeless camps here in the US that look better than that (I’m outraged)… The issue of “security” keeping Palestinians out of Israel makes me think of TSA lines in the US, targeting certain ethnicities after 9/11.
    I wonder if the Palestinians’ outlook is influenced by the fact that they don’t have mass media outlets hyping certain ideas, like we do here? That’s remarkable that their anger is directed at the right people; I think that’s a pretty strong reflection of the different worldviews one occurs in different cultures.
    Your post has definitely motivated me to learn more about the history of this conflict! I know it’s a very complicated issue.

    My question for you is regarding the lack of transportation you mentioned. Is this because of the poverty of most people who can’t afford to pay? Or is there a lack of vehicles, no buses, no roads, things like that creating the problem? Or I guess it could be both…

    I’m not sure when you return to the States, but please don’t stop posting just because of the end of our semester! I love reading your posts, this one really blew my mind and opened me up to a whole world I didn’t know about. Hope your time remaining over there is fantastic and that you have a safe trip home.

    -Joelle Mestemacher

  2. I was not aware of all of the conflicts that you discussed in your post. It is amazing how unfortunate these people are and how they have no opportunity to better their lives. The lack of education is very sad due to the fact just because there are no opportunities for jobs or anything. That is even more sad that if someone does get there education and there degree that is basically does not matter . That is very unfair and people should be able to have some opportunity in life. The pictures that you posted really made my eyes open because when you explain it it is harder to imagine but when I see all of the pictures it really makes me realize what these people are living like. The ladies house that you went to made me want to cry because I could never imagine living like that. It looked like she could barely even relax in her own home because it was so dirty and small. The streets of that town were very sad how many things were every where really made me notice how thank full I am for the things that I have in my life.

  3. Hi Salam,

    Wow! Thank you for all the pictures. I had known about the difficulties, to say the least, that the Palestinians faced, but your pictures conveyed the message much more clearly. I have visited many parts of the Latin America and these living conditions are by far the worst I have seen. The limited space, the feeling of imprisonment, and the constant fear is really unhealthy and inhumane lifestyle. It almost made me cry to realize how oblivious to such an issue, especially since the United States government has been heavily involved in this issue. I wonder why this side of the story is often ignored by the US media and the people. I am not well informed in this issue, and I realize that the United State is in alliance with Israel. Why is the United States alliance with Israel that we fail to see the inhumane living conditions many Palestinians are forced to live?

    Thanks for all the great post,

    Kayley Garcia

  4. Hi Salam,
    This is my favorite blog so far! I am Palestinian, my grand parents were refugees and were kicked out of their lands and homes to Jordan, with NO right to return so the Zionists can make space for their settlements! Honestly this issue makes me very upset, especially here in the U.S because all the media and sources of information only show the Zionist’s fabricated side of the story! The American government’s policy blindly supports Israel although the creation of this state was based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since 1948 until today! Palestine was taken from us by force, by genocide, by injustice and the world is watching and all they can do is pass stupid UN reports and ridiculous “peace” agreements that benefit Israel mostly! Our land was invaded and raped and it enrages me that the Palestinian resistance including Hamas are called “Terrorists” by the West, when all they’re doing is trying to get what was stolen from us back by responding to the endless missiles and killings committed by the IDF!! It’s called fighting for you honor, dignity, existence and land! The Jews were living with Muslims and Christians in Palestine in peace, until the European Zionists started the mass migrations and hidden plans to invade Palestine because of their belief that “it is their right to return”..return to what?!!
    Their main goal is to form a Jewish state and they did.. they violated every international law and committed every possible war crime but they are never questioned or punished because the U.S supports them! I am from Jerusalem and I was never able to go back and see where I come from.. A two state solution is not possible or fair because the zionists already took over the whole of Palestine and left us with barely nothing..I do not and will never recognize israel as a me it is an occupant force and I will always wait for the day when Palestine is freed and refugees return. My rage is towards the Zionists not the Jews and peace is only possible if Palestine was given back to its’ Arab indigineous people to live side by side with the jews (not the zionists) in peace like it was before 1948.

  5. Thanks Salam, this was my favorite post. I have been studying the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a lot lately. I completely agree with your sentiments. I feel really saddened by the current situation of the Palestinians. My heart goes out to all Palestinians who have lost their homes, loved ones, and their future due to the irresponsibility of the Israeli government. I, too, believe in a one state solution. I pray for a change of heart, for open eyes, and for all of the people of Israel to be moved in compassion for their fellow neighbors.

  6. I am somewhat familiar with the conflict. I think that with a little more education people in the West will be able to recognize that speaking up against Israel does not make a person anti-Semitic. It troubles me to think that we can’t do much to help solve this problem.

    I believe there is a solution to the problem, as far as the U.S. involvement in it I don’t know how much we can do. Israel is a sovereign nation and there is very little other countries can do to force them into giving up part of Israel to Palestinians.

    I truly hope a solution can be agreed upon soon because at the end of the day it is always the weaker people that suffer the most. Israel has a right to security, but not the right to deny people basic needs. Thank you for this blog it was eye opening. We read about Israel, but it is rare to actually see pictures of how Palestinians live on a day to day basis.

    -Mireya Tinoco

  7. The situation in Palestine is so shocking. though Israelis have been victims of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks on their soil by Palestinian persons, I believe that little children should at least have access to basic education and good food.

  8. I’ve been to numerous third world countries and I do understand what potential we have as Americans. We take so much for granted. As alot of my professors say, to truly understand world poverty you have to travel and visit these countries. In this case it appears that this wall is inhibiting the development of a place that is in dire need. Thanks Salam for shedding a little light into the everyday life of a Palestinian.

  9. Salam,
    What an emotional post! It was so hard reading and viewing the pictures as part of a blog, I can only imagine what it was like seeing it in person. I wish more Americans had the opportunity that you have had. I hope to someday study abroad as well, especially after seeing your experiences! I feel that opportunities like this are eye opening and allow for social norms and ideas of other countries to be proven wrong. When you discussed education, I thought about many protesters here, and how they are fighting for many of the same concepts (high fees, only the wealthy can afford, lack of jobs, degree meaning less, etc). Although they are at complete opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to severity, it is interesting to see such a connection! Thank you again for all your posts!

  10. Hi Salam:
    I am so ashamed of those people that dont care about another human being, the conditions you describe are so horrid. I think the people in America need to se what it going on around the world not only her in the U.S because that makes us unaware of the suffering of other people (selfish). We should appreciate our living condition and our freedom to go to school and travel. I wish that these people can be help by our government (to tell you the truth I am unaware of the foreign policies so please excuse me), I feel that a wall is just a wall, and the other people are using it as to repress the people and take advantage of them, they didnt do anything wrong to be punish like that! ….so concern!

  11. Salam,

    I cannot believe what a dump those pictures make the city look like. I feel terrible because you really dont know how people live their life in other countries until you actually experience it for yourself. These pictures explain a lot about how the people manage day by day their struggles in living a clean life. You said people wake up as early as 2 am?!?! WHAT. I could never do that!!! There is also so much conflict with Palestine and how they are constantly battling life daily. I think that we do take a lot of things for granted but I hope one day I can go over there and help out those third world countries!

  12. Wow! The content of this blog is heart-breaking and it makes me thankful for what I have here. Reading this and seeing the pictures you posted, reminds me of my visit to the Philippines, to visit my family. This was years ago, but I remember what it was like over there. It’s the same way in the Philippines, people walk. I remember walking everywhere I went, even when it was excruciatingly hot. There’s a lot of dump and dirt’s just a horrible and scary sight. Where my family lives, it has one bedroom, a living room, and a bathroom where you shower by the toilet. My family shares the bedroom and they use bunkbeds.

    Reliving this memory makes me thankful for what I have. I can’t believe we take things for granted. This post definitely woke me up.

    Thanks for sharing, Salem!

  13. Hello Salam,

    Your post really got me thinking a lot (which was probably the purpose right?). To address your question about how much I know, it is very little, and only a very general knowledge. To read about something, and then hear a personal interview of someone who has lived through it, or to see pictures, are completely different things. After reading your post I realize I know very little. As far as a solution goes, is it possible for one when this conflict has been going on as long as it has? I sure hope it is not doomed to be in conflict forever but it is an extremely difficult situation and because of the length of the feud, it makes it that much more arduous to “fix it.” But what do i know? As troublesome as life may be for them I was surprised to read that they were not vengeful or harboring ill feelings, instead it is a state of confusion. I hope that since the people want peace, it is possible for them one day. Thank you for your sharing, your blog really got all of us thinking.

    Michelle S.

  14. This blog is troubling, it is incredibly humbling to see this. And to experience this first hand must have been moving. The pictures you posted are worth a thousand words. The troubles facing these people really allows us to recognize how lucky we are. although america, and California in particular, are experiencing incredibly harsh time right now financially, there is no opportunity there, which is the most upsetting aspect of this blog. People here at least have the option to succeed, if an individual is determined enough they can get into college and have the ability to finance it through some means. Here, the opportunity doesn’t even exist for these people. And to hear about a looming wall that separates friends, families and necessary services from those in need. This blog was a lot to take in and makes me truly grateful. I am glad I saw this and truly hope for a better future for the people of the village you are in, as well as those also afflicted by the circumstances in the area, I think something truly meaningful can be taken from this blog and am glad you posted the other side that most people don’t see

    Shane Desfor

  15. I believe that an amendment is feasible and the reunification of the country is possible. And the threat they fear I do not believe comes from people like this, of course. but those who lie on the more extreme spectra. This is upsetting to see and can hopefully be changed, if reunification is not possible, hopefully something can be done about extreme conditions like the one here. If an amendment cant be made, hopefully conditions like this can at least be mended to some extent and more suitable living conditions can be reached. I believe SOME kind of compromise can be made for those non-aggressive members living so close to conflict. Thanks again Salam

    Shane Desfor

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