Summer camp in West Bank village more than just fun and games

31 July 2011

31 July 2011
West Bank

Residents of the Bedouin village of Wadi Abu Hindi gathered on Wednesday outside the school to watch performances by local kids on the last day of a summer camp run by UNRWA.

UNRWA, the UN agency that provides services for 5 million Palestinian refugees, put on the camp in the village near Jericho to give the kids an opportunity to play and to assert their protective presence in the area. An UNRWA representative explained that the village, like other Bedouin communities in the area, is threatened by Israeli settlement expansion.

The village children showed off songs and plays they had practiced during the ten-day camp as well as costumes and crafts they had made themselves.

Perfect summer camp

The village leader, Sheikh Abu Yousef, told PNN that the summer camp was perfect. "The children gained a lot ... they were educated, they got new ideas and the most important thing is that it gathered everybody here," he said.

Wadi Abu Hindi is one of many Bedouin villages scattered across the West Bank and that live under the shadow of demolition orders from the Israeli government.

Located in the valley just below the Quedar settlement, the school and houses that make up the village face the threat of demolition because of the planned route of the West Bank Barrier. If this happens the community may well end up displaced and scattered.

Fighting to stay

The village was partially demolished in the 1990s but was rebuilt with the help of UNRWA. Now, with the help of Israeli human rights lawyer Shlomo Lecker and many international partners, the village is fighting for its right to stay on the land.

Some of the camp‘s activities took place in the newly renovated school house. Italian NGO Vento Di Terra recently insulated the school house with bamboo slats to help keep it warm during the cold desert winters and built new kitchens and toilets in the village.

After the renovations, said Lecker: "The [Israeli] state immediately issued demolition orders to all of them, because they viewed it as a threat to the status quo and a declaration of intention to fight any attempt to move [the community] out."

Rising demolition numbers

According to official UNRWA figures, the number of people affected and displaced by demolition in the first half of 2011 was 1,600, with half of that number being children. This is higher than the total for the whole of 2010.

The camp is part of UNRWA’s protection programme. Funded by the European Union’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO), the programme assists some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank. It focuses on those communities under threat of forced displacement which may be caused by “demolition of property, loss of livelihoods and access to basic services”, according to UNRWA.

The minister of education for Palestinian Jerusalem spoke at the event. "Even the school has a demolition order. We‘re trying our best to continue teaching," he said, "that is the least we can do."

A version of this article originally appeared on the PNN website. Photos courtesy of PNN.

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