By Monica Awad
DKAIKA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 29 September 2011 - Located just 70 metres away from the Green Line - the 1949 Armistice Line – in Israeli-controlled Area ‘C’, the villagers of Dkaika are forced to suffer under the daily risk of home demolition and harassment.
What makes life even more difficult in this very poor, Bedouin community is its close proximity to Maon and Carmel - two Israeli settlements – where the children of Dkaika live in constant fear of settler harassment and attacks.
In a village with no basic infrastructure, the good news is that Dkaika has one elementary school, which serves 45 students. As the Israeli Civil Administration rarely provides Palestinians living in Area ‘C’ with education, health or electricity, this in and of itself is a small victory. However, like many schools in Area ‘C,’ Dkaika school could be partly demolished any day, since it is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain a building permit from the Israeli Civil Administration in Area “C.”
State of shock
To protect its school, the community sought legal aid from the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights, which advocates for the rights of marginalised members of society in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. According to the school’s principal, the rabbis’ efforts succeeded in freezing the demolition order on the school last October. Despite these efforts, a newly added classroom was knocked down a few months later, right before the eyes of 15 students who were forcibly moved out just minutes before the walls caved in.
Rana Najadeh, 12, recalled her horror as she bore witness to the destruction. “I got very scared when the soldiers came to demolish our class,” she said. “I rushed out to check on my six year old brother Suleiman, who was crying.”
The demolition did not end there, however, as nine other residential structures were also destroyed that day, leaving 30 children and their families homeless.
With his classroom razed, and the students in a state of shock, the school principal was determined to keep the school running. “I held outdoor classes for students, in front of their demolished classroom,” he said. ”It was very difficult, but we insisted in continuing classes.”
‘The heart of equity’
Thankfully, UNICEF and Islamic Relief Worldwide took action to address the tragic situation, by rehabilitating the school and providing a better environment for the students. In addition, UNICEF partnered with both the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO), to help the traumatized children find relief from their fear and anger by providing psychosocial sessions through dance, drama, arts and play.
“Sometimes for children it is simply the opportunity to play and have fun – be a child – in a safe environment,” said UNICEF Deputy Special Representative, Douglas G. Higgins. “In the end, the psychosocial project is important for children to have a sense of stability, normality and opportunity to reach their potential.”
Dkaika children are not the first ones to receive help however, as UNICEF has worked with ECHO since 2003 to help Palestinian children and their families cope with the conflict and violence that affects their daily lives. The activities focus on children who live in areas exposed to frequent home and school demolitions, as well as young Bedouins and children with disabilities.
“We must not fail Dkaika children,” said the Deputy Special Representative. ”Education is the cornerstone for peace and security and is at the heart of equity.”