Deheisheh Refugee Camp
What would you expect to find in a refugee camp? Bloated bellies? Filth on the street? Nice white ladies in a center giving out loafs of bread with canned soup?
Try children dressed in Aeropostale attire, balcony gardens and tons of laughter.
The first thing I saw upon entering Deheisheh Refugee Camp was kids concrete sledding using a cafeteria tray and a crushed milk gallon bottle. There was a large net above a soccer field to prevent tear gas canisters from hurting children while playing.
Folks living in the camp came from different parts of occupied Palestine and are waiting for their right to return to their homes. Israel uses collective punishment to teach all Palestinians a lesson, so attacks a whole camp for one Palestinian throwing a stone at a soldier in another part of the territory. People are thrown in jail for facebook posts. In jail to mess with people’s heads, dinner is served for breakfast and there is no way for them to keep track of time. Most Palestinians who are not 100% compliant with the Israeli government’s brutality get thrown in jail.
Within the camp, we met with a grassroots community center, Laylac, which works with youth in the community. Growing up in occupation it’s hard for youth to maintain their Palestinian pride when there are messages of inferiority all around them.
The international community gets told Palestinians need humanitarian aid, framing the occupation as a ‘natural disaster,’ but to the folks living here, it’s clear the occupation is not the same as a tsunami or a forest fire. Youth need to know about their people, their culture, language, strengths, from their own perspective, not from the external, condescending perspective. Laylac programs often work intergenerationally to provide programmatic, creative and material resources for young Palestinians to thrive.
It’s amazing how smiley everyone is who we met there. In fact, while we were getting a tour a woman living in an apartment sent her son down to give us freshly fried bread. No one goes hungry in the camp despite occupational violence because people share.