(Bethlehem is known through the Christian world as the little town where Jesus was born. Today it is a city in Palestine. The Separation Barrier here is a very high wall. The wall cuts Bethlehem off from an Israeli settlement called Gilo. The wall here is twice the height of the Berlin wall, with cameras everywhere and with soldiers keeping watch from watch towers. The wall on the Palestinian side is full of art - some of it graffiti, some of it political, some of it just art to try to bring a bit of beauty to a very ugly structure. One part of the wall has been painted white, into a large movie screen. Films are shown there and people come out together to watch.
Bethlehem is also home to Palestinian refugee camps. During the War of Independence in l948, many Palestinians fled Israeli territory to avoid the fighting. When the war ended, they found themselves on the Jordanian side of the border, unable to return to their homes in Israel. Refugee camps were set up for these people, managed by the United Nations.
S. is a 12 year old boy who lives in one of these camps. The original inhabitants of this camp came from 17 different villages in West Jerusalem and West Hebron. Less than one square kilometer in size, it is home to 4700 people. There is one school. It is for girls. They attend in shifts. Boys leave the camp to attend school in the nearby town of Beit Jala.)
S. I'm in the sixth grade. Today there is no school so I'm helping my father clean rubble off the roof. He fills up the wheelbarrow, I bring it out here to the wall and dump it on the ground. I was born in this place. My family has always been here. We had another house in another village but we can't go there any more because the Israelis took it over. This was a long time ago - I have never seen it. That's the same for all the families here. Everyone has keys to their house but they have no house. When you walk into this camp you see a big key over the gate. The gate is a giant keyhole and there is a big key on top.
I've never met Israeli children. They don't come here. I've seen the soldiers a lot but I don't talk to them. They don't talk. They yell. They shoot. They don't talk. They go through the alleys at night, break into homes and make people stand outside in the cold.
I see the soldiers a lot. They're around the gate and they come over there, too. One of my uncles was killed by them. Another uncle is in their prison.
There is an Israeli military base by the cemetery. The soldiers come into the camp most nights. Last night they came in and shot tear gas. When you look at houses in the camp you can see bullet holes. Most houses have bullet holes. Even the school has bullet holes in the walls. Three kids were shot there. People get shot here all the time. A boy got shot last night. He was fourteen or fifteen.
There is a big gate at the wall that is always closed except at Christmas and Easter. They open it then to let the religious parades through.
I hate the wall. It is like my enemy. I wish it would go away. Some people draw on it. I just want to make it disappear. I would like to have a park to play in but there is no park. Mostly I don't lay. I have to work. The thing I like best to do is throw stones at the soldiers. I want my freedom but I don't think I will ever get it.