by Jake, Jayyus team
Although children do not choose to participate in conflicts, from an early age they are often caught in the crossfires of hostility, violence, or war. Their loss of innocence and a carefree childhood is an especially tragic part of conflict.
Last Sunday, I was traveling to Nablus with another member of the Jayyus EAPPI team. As we approached the road where we expected to catch a taxi, we noticed the Israeli army detaining two young Palestinian boys across the road from us. The boys leaned against the guardrail with their backpacks at their feet as a soldier kept guard over them. The difference in size between them and the soldier was a striking illustration of the imbalance of power between the boys and the soldiers.
When one of the fathers asked questions of the soldier, he answered very few questions. Eventually, the soldiers led the boys to the back of an army jeep and drove off with them. When the rest of the families arrived shortly afterwards, they wondered where their children were being taken and what would happen to them.
Palestinians who witnessed the scene told us that the boys were picking leftover olives – as many boys do at this time of year for some extra pocket change – in an olive grove that runs alongside the road when they were detained. The Israeli army claimed that the boys were detained because they were in fact throwing stones at Israelis on the road.
That evening, I couldn’t forget what I had seen that afternoon. I don’t know whether they had thrown stones or not, but the reality was that these boys were now in the hands of people whose treatment of Palestinian youth is often dubious. I wondered helplessly what they were going through at that moment and how scared they were.
A few days later, another member of the Jayyus team and I visited the two boys who were detained. Thankfully, they were released the same night. As we sat in their living rooms and drank coffee with their families, they recounted their experiences to us.
They told us about how they were handcuffed and brought to a police station in a settlement. About how they were left to sit out in the cold for two hours. About how they witnessed an Israeli soldier beat another boy being beaten. About how the soldiers knew they did not throw the stones, but kept them for eight hours anyway.
The events of the detention traumatized one of the boys especially. We could tell he was still frightened and in shock. For that reason, his mother did not sent him to school that week.
As I sat there, I could not think of any appropriate questions to ask him or his family. What I really wanted to know could not be answered in that moment. What I wanted to know about this boy and about the Palestinian youth was the toll of occupation. Do these kinds of traumatic events leave imprints that lasts a lifetime? Does living in constant fear of unjustified arrests, detainments, and having the army knock down your door in the middle of the night ever become normal? How can children and their families possibly cope with this fear?
Maybe I cannot answer these questions fully, but they in themselves point to the effects of the Israeli occupation; it is ruthless and relentless and children are suffering because of it. Of that, I’m convinced.