By: Samira Hussain
Bourj el-Barajneh

The evening began with the MC walking confidently on to the stage and announcing to an audience of 200 people: Opposite to common practice, I will not ask audience members to observe one-minute of silence. This period does not require silence. The world has remained silent towards the injustices in Palestine long enough. In an effort to be part of the new intifadah, the students of Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp have formed the Mohammed Al-Durrah Group. Out of their own initiative, the students organized themselves and created this group.

Last Friday, they put on their first cultural show, where they raised almost $ 1 000 USD, which was promptly donated to the PRCS in Palestine. I am amazed at the difference in the camp.

During the summer, music blared from every home, weddings were celebrated with joy, and the birth of children did not hold an element of despair. Now, there is no music from the homes. It has been replaced by the sound of the news, announcing the latest casualties in Palestine. Weddings are not as joyful as they previously were. There is no joy at the thought of creating yet another generation of people that will reside in a refugee camp.

A few weeks ago, a women in the camp gave birth to triplets: she named them Mohammed, Aqsa and Intifadah. I have never been able to express the radical change in the mood of the camp. Sometimes I feel that the difference is so great that it is rendered unbelievable. But the literal transformation that I have seen in the last few months was highlighted during the cultural show, presented by the Mohammed Al-Durrah group.

I spent Friday afternoon translating the introductory speech written by one of the students, the contents of which shocked me: Ladies and gentlemen, we are of the same generation of Mohammed Al-Durrah and his friends. We have named our group after him so that he may act as a symbol of the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians on a routine basis. We will never forget. The enemy must realize that the more they use such vicious tactics, the more our faith in the liberation of Palestine will grow.

I was astounded by the words of courage and strength, spoken with certainty by a girl who just entered secondary school.

This summer, the children of Bourj el-Barajneh began the summer activities program knowing that they would embark on an adventure that would allow them to discover Palestine. It was explained to the Canadian volunteers that, ‘those who actually lived in Palestine are very old. Before we lose them, we must find out as much as we can about our home’.

This is a common story, one that I have heard from many organizations all over Lebanon. The difference in the summer was that the onus rested upon the students of the summer program to get out and discover all they could about Palestine, by taping into the resources in the camp. Learning debke, Palestinian songs, and other dances went hand in hand with this discovery process.

At the end of the summer, the product of their genius was presented to their parents with such pride and joy. It was a delightful experience for them to hunt for information about Palestine. But that elation was lost on Friday night. The childrens’ performances were just as beautiful but not as innocent. It is almost as if they have lost a part of the innocence they possessed during the summer. The same song that brought one girl to tears during the presentation at the end of the summer brought the entire audience to tears. The chorus of children behind her sang with all their might, tears welling and streaming down their beautiful faces. The people stood in their chairs, clapping to the rhythm of the song. What was a joyous experience in the summer has turned into a time of sadness. These students echo the views of all the Palestinians in Lebanon. They want to be part of the struggle. They want to help their brothers and sisters in Palestine. These students have the most strength and courage because they are using what they have and they are making a difference. Not only in their financial contribution to the PRCS in Palestine but they are taking the lessons that they learnt this summer and are putting it to use. They are taking what they know to make Palestine such a beautiful place, and are using it to try and save the country they have seen only in their dreams. In the minds of the Palestinians in Lebanon, all they have been able to do is watch atrocity after atrocity being committed day after day. Well, not these students. My time here is slowly coming to an end. But what I learnt here, I will never forget. I can’t. It will haunt me forever. A song that I originally appreciated for its musical simplicity now sends shivers down my spine. When Fairuz cries for Al-Quds, a part of me now cries with her. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the children cried in unison for Palestine, not even mine.

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