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Children of Deheishe and Shatila meet at Lebanese Border
Amidst the hundreds of Palestinian families who embraced each other over the fence on the Lebanese- Israeli borders this week, there was a unique meeting of teenagers from Palestine and Lebanon.
The youths, who had previously known each other via an E-mail pen-pal project organized between Shatila and Dheisheh refugee camps, were rejoicedin their first face-to-face encounter filled with
songs, dances, hugs and solidarity over the barbed wires.
The meeting, which took place in the village of Arab Al-Aramshe on June 2nd, was organized between Ibdaa Cultural Center of Dheisheh camp near Bethlehem and Mayssoun Sukarieh, the coordinator of a children's project in Shatila camp in Beirut. Both groups, though coming from different directions, underwent the same obstacles of obtaining travel permits, being held up at check-points and concealing their identity before reaching the meeting

The youths of Shatila, who had arrived first, erupted injoy when they spotted the group from Dheisheh making their way through approximately 300 people who gathered around the bor- derfence. "Who is Keyan?!" "Which one is Karmel?!" - the names were matched with the faces with outburst of excitement and laughter. Handshakes and kisses were exchanged over the barbed wires. Then started the rounds of songs and dances, as the two groups took turn to present their favorite tunes and dabke steps. They sang andclapped in unison affirming that the two exile communities shared the same cultural tradition and national aspiration of Palestine, despite the distance between Beirut and Bethlehem.

Postcard from Lebanon
Despite all the mixed feelings we were all very excited about the potential trip Attempts in Beirut to get permission from the army failed but we were told about the possibility of using the N road which is not used by the military. Another option was to join the Hezbollah convoy if we could get permission from Hezbollah. We were still waiting for permission when there was an  nnouncement from the Mosque in the camp saying, "the Hezbollah trip to the border on Sunday is cancelled."

On the Hezbollah news channel we heard the Israelis had erected another fence 3 metres from the previous 2 fences already 3 metres apart. There was concern that the people would get out of control and in frustration destroy
the fence. Also the Israelis had classified the area as a military zone. We also heard one Palestinian had been shot though we were not sure where or on which side.

People in the camp feel the Israeli's did this to stop the international community seeing the human side of this catastrophe. Even some of the Israeli soldiers were being affected emotionally seeing the refugee families meet for the first time. People in the camp report that, to their surprise, some soldiers even assisted them at the fence to pass letters to their relatives on the other side.

It is a sad Sunday as we all sit and wait yet again for the day Palestinians can return to their homeland.
Cecily Michaels (APHEDA) and Olfat Mahmoud (Women's Humanitarian Organisation) Beirut Sunday, 4 June 2000 PREA (Palestinian Refugee and Exile Awareness Association

"I'm a man, but I wept like a baby," said Ahmad Kuleib, 19, who was born in this camp ['Ain el Hilwe], as was his father before him. "I never understood how deprived I was until that day, when I patheti- cally waved a Palestinian flag behind a fence at the Israeli border." The Kuleib family squeezes 15 members into a three-room house whose pink facade lights up the alley.

Mohammed Kuleib and his son Ahmad spoke in theroom where they were both born, under a tapestry depicting Mecca. Sitting on a bed in a floral housecoat, Mohammed's mother, Bahiya, 80, said she still closes her eyes and smells the sweet air of her village, fragrant with oranges and lemons in 1948.

"I used to spend my life outside, but since we left, I've pretty much been in this room," she said, hugging her youngest grandchild. "I once had orange trees, fig trees, olive trees. Now I have but these bare walls."

“Painful Glimpse of Home for Palestinians”New York Times (30 May 2000) Deborah Sontag"I came to smell the perfume of Palestine. It smells so nice. I am here but my heart is on the other side," said Mahmoud Abu Sheba, who was born and still lives in the refugee camp of Rashidiyeh, near the port city of Tyre. Abu Sheba's parents were originally from Safad, in northern Israel. "Since Wednesday, it is the third time that I come here. I can't get enough of it," he said.

[A woman] standing on the other side was introducing her husband, a Palestinian from Israel, to her mother and her sister on the Lebanese side. "I married him 25 years ago and I never had the occasion to introduce him to them," she said.

"It is terrible to live in a country like a refugee, without real rights, and to be here, separated from one's country by this little piece of iron which we can't cross over," said Tarek Abd, age 28. Khawla Maqsoud, 30, can't stop crying. She came from the Burj al-Shamali camp near Tyre to discover the country that she had long heard of. She remains ecstatic, vowing that the Palestinians will do the same as the Lebanese and would surely return to Palestine. But then, she starts crying again and throws a stone on the other side…at nobody, just in a painful sign of helplessness.

Up a steep cliff along the border fence, Miriam Mousa, 65, stood on a narrow gravel strip Tuesday and came agonizingly close to her sister, Dania, and other family members torn from her after she fled her Palestinian village at the age of 13 during the 1948 war. She ended up in Lebanon, but the rest of her family remained in the former Palestine, most of which became the state of Israel.

"I was alone here for all this time. All my family was in Palestine. Look. Look at them. This is my sister, this is my brother," she said, wiping away tears. "My God, I have been praying to see them for so long." "I am Itaf, the daughter of Rigan," an elderly woman yelled from the Israeli side. "Who are you? Do you know me?" Immediately, there came a scream from the other side. It was a cousin whom she had not seen since they were children.  "How did this happen to us?" the elderly woman cried out. She turned away, crying and repeating the phrase: "How did this happen to us?"