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Palestinian Children, Hebron | by David Masters
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Palestinian Children, Hebron

Palestinian peacemaker Zoughbi Zoughbi says the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is not only physical, but psychological. Gun wielding soldiers, dividing walls, and checkpoints not only adorn the physical landscape - they adorn the emotional landscape within people's soul. Trauma is endemic.


To illustrate his point, Zoughbi tells the true story of a young Palestinian child.


Midnight is just past, winter rain patters on the windows. The child cannot sleep. He wanders through to his parents' bedroom, wakes them up.


'Mum! Dad! Where are my marbles?'


They are confused, annoyed at being woken up. The haze of sleep still lingers on their eyes.


His father speaks. 'Why do you want your marbles? It's late, dark and raining outside. You'd have nowhere to play. Go back to sleep and we'll find them in the morning.'


'I want them now,' the child replies. He is insistent. Fully awake now, and seeing that their child is distressed, the parents get up, find some marbles in corners and hidey holes around the house.


'Here,' they say. 'Your marbles.' They expect a smile, a thank you.


'Put them in the toilet?,' the child says.


Confusion again. What game is this silly child playing? He is almost in tears. 'Is everything okay?,' the mother asks.


The child confesses his fears.


Earlier that week the child had been playing on the street. His friend across the street was playing marbles. Soldiers came and accused his friend of firing the marbles at them from a slingshot. His friend's older brothers were arrested, put in jail. His parent's house was demolished by Israeli bulldozers. All because of playing marbles in the street.


'Mum, Dad,' the child says, 'I'm scared. I love you. I don't want this to happen to us.'


They calm their child down, put him to bed, assure him that it won't happen to them. In the morning, he decides to keep his marbles.


Deep down, the parents can never know. They abide by the rules of the occupation, are careful not to upset soldiers, believe they are cautious enough to have stayed off the Israeli blacklist.


Yet always the fear, the unknowing, the sense of powerlessness. And now - to their horror - it has invaded their children.

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Taken on November 17, 2008