by Francis Mead
In the midst of violent conflict, one of the hardest things is to be a parent. At the best of times, in the most peaceful places, teenagers and young people can get into trouble. But in the middle of the Arab-Israeli conflict, getting into trouble can mean being killed, maimed or jailed. That’s the fear of Sameeha Jibriyn, whose son Murad, now 24, has been jailed four times since the age of eighteen.
The conflict over land and security affects millions of Israelis and Palestinians, which anyone reporting from there needs to acknowledge – and this is just one family’s story. I travelled with cameraman Antonio Tibaldi to the small West Bank town of Tqoa. One curiosity we noticed quickly – sheep and goats in almost every basement. The families here are of Bedouin origin – this is one way they maintain their roots – buying and selling sheep and goats.
Murad’s arrests are all linked to his protests. He says that Israeli settlers have grabbed his family’s land. Many settlers say they have a right to land based on history and religion. Now Murad is not allowed to enter the disputed area – about 17 acres of land, mostly with olive trees, just outside the village – without permission from the Israeli authorities. But he persists in entering. The most recent incident came in May 2012 when he went onto the land with Israeli and international activists who made their own video (which can be seen in the full forthcoming piece).
There is an upside to this story – a youth project which has encouraged young people like Murad to stand for elections to youth councils. Murad was duly elected – and now he and his fellow youth councillors are committed to improving the village. Antonio filmed them painting a school wall – in an atmosphere of amiable chaos.
Kids across the West Bank are doing things like clothes distribution, creating new civic gardens, running road safety campaigns. It’s a small start – but it’s a significant start. The project is the brainchild of Ismail Njoum, the head of the Almawrid Teachers Development Center. For him it’s all about having a chance to experience a measure of control over your own life, to contribute, to engage.
The project is assisted by the United Nations Democracy Fund.