Arab Ramadin al Janubi is a Bedouin village of about 300 people that sits in the “seam zone”. This means that the village is on the Palestinian side of internationally recognized green line, but on the Israeli side of the separation barrier that cuts deeply into the West Bank. Palestinians living in the seam zone are quite vulnerable because they are cut off from the amenities and services of the West Bank by the seperation barrier, while holding no residency or citizenship rights in Israel. Building permits are virtually impossible to get in the seam zone which leads to frequent demolitions and a lack of basic infrastructure like roads, electricity or running water. UNOCHA estimates that about 11,000 Palestinians live in the seam zone.
While in Jayyus, our group would frequently accompany the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) with their mobile clinic as it visited villages in the seam zone, including Arab Ramadin al Janubi. For the last few weeks, the Palestinian PMRS staff have not been able to provide medical support for the villages because their permits to cross into the seam zone have not yet been renewed by the Israeli authorities.
On Christmas Eve, some of my team mates and I visited the primary school in Arab Ramadin al Janubi. Just like in Azzun Atma, we asked the students to draw pictures about their lives, to help us share some of the stories we had witnessed with our friends and family back home. The school we were visiting had been fully demolished by the military not too long ago, and subsequently rebuilt by the villagers. As I looked around the village I saw many homes pieced together from planks of wood or scrap metal. I expected the students to draw pictures of bulldozers and soldiers and military jeeps… but that’s not what we got.
The pictures we received from the students living in Arab Ramadin al Janubi were not full of suffering or dispair, but were mostly full of hope. They drew flowers, houses, trees, swing sets and the doves that flew above us as we sat in the sun. Many of the students drew pictures of their newly rebuilt school, with only one boy who drew a bulldozer. Some of the students wrote the word “Gaza” in Arabic as a sign of solidarity with their Palestinian brothers and sisters living in a far worse situation than themselves.
Kids are resilient… and they often have a knack for finding beauty in what some would call unlikely places. Amidst the occupation, the demolitions, and the discrimination. Amidst the permit rejections, military incursions, child arrests and general lack of freedom… there are a group of kids, sitting out in the sun, drawing pictures of some of the things that are beautiful about their lives.