Palestinian Youth Put Down Backpacks in Protest



March 08, 2016 23:40 EDT

Palestinians do not want to keep fighting for the rest of their lives. They want an end to the Israeli occupation today.

Back in November, as I passed a road that is usually used for driving lessons provided for the people of Ramallah and al-Bireh, I noticed a line of parked cars. The further I drove, the more vehicles I counted—new and old, trucks and vans.

Parked vehicles on a naturally empty road could mean one of three things in Palestine: a wedding, a funeral or an accident. However, in this case, it was none of the above.

I began to drive slowly and watched as men, seemingly older than 25, stepped out of their cars and stood near the edge of the road looking ahead. It appeared as if everyone was watching a football game or waiting for an outdoor movie night in a parking lot. I stopped driving and peered out to where everyone was gazing. It wasn’t a game or a movie, but clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers near Bet El settlement, north of the city of al-Bireh.

Backpacks Down

Since September 2015, clashes have been taking place between the Palestinian people and Israeli soldiers near illegal Israeli settlements, and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has escalated. Whether politicians call it a third intifada (uprising) or not, surely all sectors of Palestinian society—men and women, young and old alike—have been going down to the streets in protest against the illegal occupation that has been protested against since 1948.

“These kids should go back home to their mothers. Look! Look! They walk out of school and come to throw rocks. They could get killed! And keeping their mothers worried like that,” my mom says on the phone to my grandmother as, through the kitchen window, we watch the school children and teenagers chant and head toward Psagot settlement on the other side of al-Bireh city.

As teargas canisters and live bullets are shot, the youth throw their backpacks to the side of the roads and put on their kuffiyehs, a traditional Middle Eastern cloth. With stones and Molotov cocktails in hand, they clash back. Their mothers are most likely worried no matter how strong Palestinian mothers are painted by the media to be, and homework is probably the last thing on their minds.

For my colleague, homework and projects are on her mind. On our way home from university, she shakes her head and says: “I don’t think [they] should just put classes on hold. Those who want to go from campus to the point of clashes are fighting, but so are those that want to stay behind and study. We’re getting an education so we can better our society, and that is a form of resistance as well.”

Since September 2015, clashes have been taking place between the Palestinian people and Israeli soldiers near illegal Israeli settlements, and violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has escalated.

Watching the protesters from a street away, through a window or broadcast news, or seeing them hop onto a bus from universities to areas such as Bet El settlement, one cannot miss the fact that most demonstrators are children and young adults who attend schools and universities. Too often, it is heard that a child or young adult has been injured, shot or imprisoned, so why are they on the streets instead of going home and studying, we ask?

The youth are flooding the streets to relay a message to the global community that stands on the sidelines, as are the people parking their cars watching from a few roads up from where the clashes take place. The youth are trying to express their discontent when it comes to the attempts of the powerholders to end the occupation. They are trying to tell their mothers that they do not want to keep fighting for the rest of their lives, but want a better today. They are telling those who choose to remain behind and take classes that while they are working on getting that degree, the ones on the streets protesting are working on getting them to use it.

“Education is the key to success” is a message that is taught throughout school classrooms and on college campuses. For Palestinians, the right to education is one of the many rights violated. If education is one of the most vital resources to obtain a career, how can Palestinian youth reach this goal if Israel not only takes away the right to education, but also infringes upon other basic human rights?

Brighter Tomorrow

The clashes since have ceased near Bet El settlement, but not so much near Psagot settlement where the majority of the Palestinians arriving at their “post” for the protest are high school students, if not younger.

The parked cars drove away from the scene of the clashes. The children and youth picked up their backpacks and headed home. The mothers in the neighborhood swept up the stones and broken glass that fell in front of their homes—knowing that the children and the soldiers will come back the next day, the next week or the next month.

Palestinian youth are not running toward death. They are creating a brighter future with peace at the center of it, where the next generation would not have to fight another intifada like our grandparents, our parents and we had to.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: Jean-François Gornet

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