Human Rights Are For Children is a picture book of stories for children about children. I have the privilege to cross paths with many children and youth in the work that I do. My question is, how can I share with them some of the stories of children who have to cross a military checkpoint to get to school everyday? How can I talk about Israeli youth who don’t want to do military service even though it is obligatory for them? As I continue to do advocacy work on human rights issues and raise awareness about the situations in Israel/Palestine I notice my impatience working with adults who claim “it’s all too complicated” or “there will always be fighting and conflict over there.” I have found that a good entry point for people to understand the military occupation is to share some of the everyday realities for many Palestinian children. They live under abnormal circumstances and their testimonies can enable people to wake up to the unfairness of the occupation.
I have also learned in justice related work that it is important to be able to talk about complex topics in accessible ways. I remember one time when I was having dinner with a former colleague of mine and she asked if I would explain to her children (in middle school) what I was doing with EAPPI in the Westbank. It was a challenge. What is an age appropriate way to talk about some of these issues? Of course the most powerful narrative is a personal one – the stories of other children their same age and what they might have to go through on a typical day. It is important to point out commonalities and our shared humanity with people who might seem so far away or different from us (i.e. children in Jayyous like to play soccer too). At the same time as uplifting the human side of the story, it is important to show how abnormal the military occupation is and what it does to Palestinian and Israeli young people.
I have become increasingly passionate about the issue of children’s rights after visiting with Palestinian families whose children were arrested and detained by Israeli military without any charges laid, without accompaniment of a parent, adult or lawyer. I have started to educate myself more on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I am realizing that all children everywhere need a human rights education. For children here who I hope to share this book with, the aim will be to get them interested in human rights and to encourage them to learn and ask questions. I want them to know that they have a lot of power to speak out and act for peace and justice!
At the girl’s elementary school the students like to study lots of subjects. Here they are presenting a song. Sometimes the students get to study outside under the palm trees with their teacher.
Here some boys who are five and six years old walked to the separation barrier after school but the gate was locked. They didn’t know how to get back home. The bus driver came and took them home by driving a long way around on a different road.
These boys live in a Bedouin village called Arab ar Ramadin in the “seam zone.” The community was not allowed to build their own school. The parents did not want to send their children to the Habla school where they have to be checked by soldiers at the gate everyday. The children were scared.
The community decided to make classrooms out of tents for the children. The children love their new tent school!
This boy lives in the “seam zone” and has to go through the checkpoint everyday to go to high school. Everyday the soldiers ask to look at his permit at the checkpoint when he goes back home.
This is his high school in Azzun Atma. In the 1980s a group of Israeli settlers decided to build houses and make a neighbourhood above the high school. This is something that they are not allowed to do outside of their country. Sometimes the settlers open the sewage pipes and all the water and waste from their toilets goes down to the schoolyard. When this happens, the students aren’t allowed to go outside or play basketball.
In Israel, some school children have problems too. In a town called Sderot, the people live beside Gaza. The people of Gaza are closed inside a small area by a very tall wall and are not allowed to leave unless they have a permit. The people in Gaza want to be free and some people fight by launching rockets into Israel. Sderot is a town that is affected by these rockets. They have many bomb shelters there including one at this Kindergarten. If the children and teachers hear the siren, it means they have to go to the shelter right away so they will be safe. Some people in Sderot are working with their neighbours in Gaza for peace.
There are many young people in Israel who are working for peace. They want a good life and want Palestinian people to have a good life too. This girl came with her parents from Israel to visit her friend Naim and his family in Jayyous (Westbank). They helped during the olive harvest. Every young person in Israel has to join the military when they are finished high school. Many young Israelis don’t want to join the military.
You can view more of the book here (unfortunately the text is pretty small to be read in this format) http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=0AZOG7ho5ct2zuI
For more information please refer to: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, Defence for Children International, “Palestine Through My Eyes” exhibition of children’s photographs organized by Medecins du Monde, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, The Other Voice (Sderot), New Profile and Breaking The Silence. (photos by N.Maxson, J. Moller, K. Cargin)
The views contained herein are personal to me and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Church, my employer, EAPPI or the WCC. If you would like to publish the information contained here (including posting on a website), or distribute it further, please first contact me for permission. Thank you.