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December 29, 1989 - Image 22

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

NEWS)



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CANCER
gi 'AMEMAN

SOCIETY

Teens Spend Disturbing
Day In A Refugee Camp

MICHAL SELA

Special to The Jewish News

F

our high-school pupils
recently went where
no Israeli schoolchild
has gone for at least the past
two years. They spent a day
as guests of the Balata refu-
gee camp near Nablus.
"At first it was frighten-
ing," said Assaf Diamond,
17, from Hod Hasharon, nor-
th of Tel Aviv. "After all you
hear and read in the media,
about the stones and so on.
As soon as the taxi passed
the first road-block, I felt as
though I was in another
country. No Hebrew,
nothing that suggested that
we were in Israel." Li'at
Forman, 15, also was afraid.
"But once I was in the camp,
I felt the people were aware
of the difference between me
and the soldiers."
Influenced by their
parents, members of the
Rabbinic Human Rights
Watch, the four decided to
see for themselves whether
there were human rights
violations in the territories.
By the end of the visit, they
had come to the conclusion
that there were.
"Balata is like a
ma'abarah," said Assaf, us-
ing the Hebrew word for the
temporary camps for new
immigrants in the 1950s.
"I felt as though I was
watching '60 Minutes,"' said
Ya'acov Ringler, 16, from
Jerusalem. "They always
show miserable children in
the streets, but this time it
was real. It was hard to
believe — the crowding, the
lack of heating, the barefoot
children and the mud in the
unpaved streets."
Inside one home, they
talked to Balata children
with the help of Bassam Eid,
a staff member of the
B'Tselem Information
Center for Human Rights in
the Occupied Territories.
The Palestinian children
would not give their names,
"because they were afraid
they would have trouble
with the soldiers later," said
Tamar Forman, 16, from
Jerusalem. "They told us
that three boys from their
families were in prison and
that one had been killed by
soldiers before the intifada."
Assaf Diamond told his
hosts that within a year he
would be going into the
army, and that meeting
them would help him to
understand both sides.

"They asked why I was
joining the army at all. So I
said that otherwise I would
go to jail. They said that,
from their point of view, go-
ing to prison makes you a
hero.
The four Israelis also
visited Ali al-Masri and his
family, who have been living
in a tent with their nine
children for the last six mon-
ths. Their home was
destroyed when the army
demolished the house of a
neighbor.
"They said soldiers
threatened them with a
beating if they submitted a
complaint," said Ya'acov,
who is writing a letter to
Defense Minister Yitzhak
Rabin with details about al-
Masri and accounts of other
episodes. "It's shameful," he
said, "that we Israelis are
doing things like that."
Asked whether they
believed everything they
had been told, Tamar
responded: "I don't think
that they would make up
such stories."
In a farewell gesture, the
Balata youths paraded
through the camp, keffiyehs
masking their faces and
knives and axes in their
hands.
Li'at took fright at the kef-
fiyehs and the pictures of
Yassir Arafat. "I felt I didn't
belong there. I don't respect
Arafat's picture. If ever they
have a state, I shan't stand
to attention when they fly
their flag. It's like being in
church. They are entitled to
do it, but I don't have to be
there to see it."
Her older sister, Tamar,
disagreed. "They don't have
an army like us, so they use
the tool kit; even so we can
respect them. I'm not sure I
want them to have guns, but
they reminded me of the
stories about [the pre-State
undergrounds] IZL and
Lehi."
The four said friends at
home thought they were
crazy to have gone. "They
said I should also have gone
to see the soldier who was
hit by a stone," Tamar said.
She hesitated whether to
speak for the record:
"My friends thought I
went because I'm a left-
winger. They don't under-
stand that my point is the
violation of human rights.
For them, the Palestinians
are terrorists, and anyone
who talks to them is a left-
winger." II

Jerusalem Post Foreign Service

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