Saturday, May 15, 2010

Balata Refugee Camp

Today, I visited Balata Refugee camp, which is the largest refugee camp in the West Bank, home to 25,000 refugees, some who have been there since it was created in 1953. With 75% of Balata's refugee population under 18-years-old, there are numerous programs for children and youth.

In Witness in Palestine, Anna Baltzer writes: "Balata sees more violence and incursions than most other places in Palestine, which is evident as you walk through the camp. There are bullet holes in every house, school, and store. The children are tougher than those in other Palestinian communities, and their parents are more suspicious. But the barrier is easily broken with a little Arabic and indication of solidarity" (p.47).

Their resilience is illustrated in the colorful graffitti marking the concrete walls around the camp: "Boycott Israel, Free Palestine," and "Love Palestine, Hate Racism, 1 People, 1 World!" The alleys between the UN-constructed 4-story buildings were tiny – just a few feet across, windows into dark rooms facing each other, so everything said in one house is heard in the next.

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