Children in Gaza Strip Camps
and their Dreams of Return to their Villages that They Have Never Seen
Children under the age of 15 are talking about what their leadership failed to achieve for them. They are creating in their little minds a strategy in order to be free, to get their lost right of return to their original homeland, and to live a good life. Mohammed Zaqout, a child less than 10 years old, accompanied hundreds of his fellow camp children on the 15th of May in fighting in front of Netzarim settlement. He said, "I am a refugee from Asdod, and because of this, I am here to share in the fight against the Jews in the memory of the Nakba. I believe in my right to return one day to Asdod, which I only know about through somethings my grandmother, who is dying told me." Mohammed moaned when he said, "The geography teacher gave me full marks. He’s satisfied with me because I can draw maps of all the world, especially Egypt. Also I know all the places of the Egyptian cities, what they are famous for, and about the people who live in them.

But I am not good at drawing the map of Palestine. When I tried, it was crooked and not very nice. I don't even know where Asdod is on the map." "In the lesson about our land," he added, "we always asked the teacher to teach us everything about Palestine, not only Gaza and the West Bank." One of the children interrupted, looking at his friends who was  athering stones from both sides of the street of Netzarim settlement in the north of Nuseirat Camp. He came to share in the  ight saying,

"I know why they don't teach us Palestinian geography and history. If we know what happened to our families 52 years ago and how they were kicked out, this will make us more aware of our situation and give us true information about our rights. Then we will ask the world about our natural right to return to our villages." Ibrahim Abu Shamala from Beit Daras village continued, "My father is a teacher. He taught me where our village Beit Daras is and how my grandfather, who I never met, was evicted from his own land. I think that is not enough. The Palestinian Authority has to teach us the Palestinian perspective about the Palestinian Nakba and about Jaffa, Haifa, and Acre, not just about Gaza and Ramallah.

About the life in Nuseirat Camp, the Shaer Ne'matallah said, "I love the camp because all my family and friends are there, but the camp is not my country. I know that I am from Al-Majdal, although I have never been there. I remember how happy my grandmother was when my father brought some oranges from our orange grove, and how she cried later for my grandfather's land. At that time, my grandmother told me about their home, their neighbors, and the Haganah gang who evicted the people of Al-Majdal." After a moment of silence, Saja revealed her wish. As she looked at the tiles of her room, which was built in 1952 by UNRWA, she said, "I always dream about returning to Al-Majdal, especially since my teacher called me 'Majdalawiya'.

I am proud of that. Also, I want to live a good life in Nuseirat Camp." "When I went to Gaza on a school trip," she added, "I saw the traffic lights. I wish there were some like them in the camp. Then I remembered that the Authority is not interested in camps, and, as they say, the camp is to remain as it is." Hind Baroud, a girl of about 11 years old, said, "I hate the white and blue colors. Also I hate the uniform of the school which makes me always remember that I am a refugee and that I do not have a homeland. I hope to get out of that uniform soon and to have my own home as all the children do all over the world."

When asked about the peace with Israel and the possibility of returning to their villages, Sa'eed looked, raised his right brow, and said, "Israel shoots at us the children. Is this the kind of a country that wants peace with Palestinians and agrees to let us return to our lands? Israel will not allow us to return. Barak said in the news this morning that he will not let us the refugees return." Sa'eed asked about the possibility of return to Beersheba, saying, "Hizbollah made Israel withdraw from Lebanon. This is our only way to be like Hizbollah and not leave our weapons, because the negotiations with Israel are ridiculous. Israel speaks to us from behind the rifle, so we have to use the rifle in order to return to our lands and villages."

Children of the Gaza camps, Al-Bureij, Nuseirat, Al-Maghazi, Jabalya, Deir Al-Balah, insist in their right to return to their villages and in their right to live in the camps in better, healthier ways. One of the students asked that the streets be paved and suitable schools be built. When we, the adults listen to the dreams and demands of those little children, nothing remains to be said. We can only demand a leadership that will act on behalf of the dreams of their generation and work to  achieve their wishes and hopes.
Fatima Massalha