Children of Qalandiya: Sharif’s Future Foretold

By Tamar Fleishman – The West Bank

Since September has past and with it the trepidation about a ‘political tsunami’, and the horrifying scripts or bleak prophesies about thousands of people from throughout the West Bank marching towards Qalandiya checkpoint had been disproved, the place is once more governed by that same mundane routine and depressing grayness.

The blockages on the way leading to and from Ramallah had been diverted to the side of the road and traffic was once again free (if jams that stretch on for hundreds of meters are a depiction of "free traffic"). The white camera balloon that hovered above during the entire month has disappeared. It has probably been stored somewhere.

Once again trash is piling up on the side of the road, children peddlers stock the passersby and the air is once again polluted by dust and gas fumes without the stinging-sweet smell of gas grenades. 

Hopelessness, poverty and sorrow are permanent residents of the checkpoint, the refugee camp and the street corners; they are apparent on the faces of the children and adults and afflict us as well.

Qalandiya checkpoint is a magnet attracting all the wretched residents of the West Bank. Over there, at that site to where thousands of people a day are obligated flock towards, these paupers hope to find some sort of a living, a few shekels a day or as they put it: "To bring home bread". Many among them do not live in Qalandiya, but in cities and remote villages, places so far away that they cannot return there when evening falls. They hire an inadequate room or a bed in some stranger’s house at the refugee camps or at the close by town Ar-Ram. One of these foreigners was Sharif’s father who told us with his soft and sad voice:

"I pulled Sharif out of school… I need an additional person to help me provide for the family, they are ten at home… My eldest daughter is at the university, you know, she was really done for this year because she didn’t have a computer. Today, even in the young ones’ classes they need a computer. But how am I going to get one? Perhaps, Inshallah, next year I’ll send Shraif back to school… but it’s always the same, every year, it gets harder and there’s less money. And everything is so expensive… perhaps in Israel you also have unfortunate people, but over here, for the Palestinians, everything is much harder… Since morning and up until now we’ve (he and his son Sharif) made only twenty Shekels. How can anyone live like this?… "

Sharif is Fifteen years old, a line of sadness is drawn on his face. His eyes convey earnestness and sensibility. When he smiles only the contours of his face smile.

Sharif knows, as his father knows and as is clear to us as well, that Sharif will not return to school. That pulling a child out of schools is an act that cannot be undone, that the phrase "Inshallah" is used to cover up reality, a mask, that it is said out of habit and cultural reference, wishing that perhaps the impossible would overcome the foretold and reality. For Sharif’s future had been foretold like that of so many other teenagers, for his path presents him with no choice, during the years of his adolescence he will experience on his body and soul the rough laws of survival and their toll, until the yoke of having to provide for the family will have enslaved and consumed his body and soul. 

Pain and sorrow were evident in the father’s voice. He is a good man, a good father who has concerns for his children. He used to work in Israel, he was a hard worker and managed to provide for his family. Since the installment of checkpoints his road to breadwinning had been blocked and the slope became more slippery than ever, until the final crash when he was forced to pull his son out of school, a determining act for Sharif’s future. 

(Translated by Ruth Fleishman)

– As a member of Machsomwatch, once a week Tamar Fleishman heads out to document the checkpoints between Jerusalem and Ramallah. This documentation (reports, photos and videos) can be found on the organization’s site: www.machsomwatch.org. She is also a member of the Coalition of Women for Peace and volunteer in Breaking the Silence. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

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