(I met J in a library in Ramallah in the West Bank)

J.    I am 12 years old, and in the sixth class in school. I have two sisters, one brother and I would like to be a doctor.  I would like to talk to you about going to see my father in prison.  This is what it is like.

There are many soldiers around the prison.  We go there in a car and the soldiers make the car stop.  Everyone has to get out and stand to one side. The soldiers look in the car, all over.  They look in the trunk, they look in the engine, they look in the seats.  I don't know why they look so much.  I'm not going to ask.  We aren't taking the car into the prison, but I don't ask and I don't stop them from looking.  I just stand where they tell me.

Then we get back in the car and drive a little ways then park and get out of the car.  We go inside and show our ID.  The soldiers will take it and look at it and type something and turn away and have a conversation with another soldier.  You don't know if they are talking about you - they talk in Hebrew - and you don't know when it will end.  You wait.  You just wait.  What can I do?  I want to see my father.

Then we are searched.  They search us all over.  They search my mother, too.  They search our clothes, our bodies.  They search my hair.  They have a want that they swab through my hair, they look through it and I have to let them.

When I finally see m father he is behind glass.  I can't hug him.  I can't take his hand.  I can't cry because I want him to think I am strong and can take care of things.  I want to cry but I think I can hide it.  I can see by his face that he wants to cry sometimes, too, but he hides it, so we are both hiding and looking strong.

One time the soldier left my Dad alone and the door behind him was open.  I told my father, "Look, the cell is open, just go, no one is watching, go through the door and come out!"  But he didn't and then it was too late.  The soldier came back and the door closed.

A lot of kids I know have fathers or uncles or brothers in Israeli prisons.  It's common.  The Israelis put people in prison for - I don't know.  My father never hurt anyone.  He never stole anything.  So I don't know why he is in prison.

It is very hard.  We miss our parents' kindness.  We miss - everything! Your father is supposed to be in your house.  He is supposed to tell you to do your homework and do your chores and take you to the mosque.  He is supposed to be with you.

I don't like to talk about it, so I won't say much more.

I like very much to come to the library.  With books, we can learn from our mistakes, because people wrote down what they did in the past and we can see now if what they did was the right thing or the wrong thing, and then we can maybe do better.  It also helps us create new things in our minds.

My family is originally from Hebron.  Many families who come to this library used to live there.  The violence is bad there.  The settlers and the soldiers make life difficult.  So we left.

I like a lot of things.  I like the singer named Adele.  I like Palestinian folk songs.  I like studying the Koran and celebrating the holidays.