Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to school

Imagine this, where you live, here in Australia: You send your kids off to school in the morning. On the way, they are stopped at an army checkpoint, questioned and maybe searched. Then, before they get to the safety of the school grounds, they are verbally abused, stoned and spat upon by immigrant children and their parents. These immigrants have arrived in the country uninvited, illegally. The police stand by and do nothing. On their way home it is the same story - your children run the same gauntlet of abuse and humiliation.

Sound far-fetched? Well, not if you're Palestinian and live in the West Bank adjacent to an Israeli colonist settlement. Every day of the school week many children leave their homes in fear of their Jewish neighbours, whose sole aim is to drive them from this land. The situation is probably worst in Hebron, where settlers have established themselves in the heart of the city. Foreign human rights workers from such groups as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ecumenical Accompaniment and the International Solidarity Movement do their best to shepherd the children to and from school, hoping to ward off the worst violence, but they themselves are open to attack.

Last week school began again for the children of Palestine after their summer holidays. It should be a positive, enjoyable experience. But for many, school days are tinged with fear.

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