Sixteen kilometers north of Jerusalem is the city of Ramallah, the capital city of the West Bank. The first people who lived there were the Hadadeens, an Arab tribe with ties to Yemenite Christians. Its nickname is God's Hill.
D. is a fifteen year old woman I met in Ramallah. These are her words:
We come to this community center to express our energy. We act, volunteer, help the elderly. We visit a prison for juvenile prisoners and help the kids there feel like they have value. Some of us are in the writing program here and some of us are in the acting program. But we all work together.
The play we are working on now is about hypocrites. It's a comedy, but it is about how one person can get everyone all upset if they are not careful.
The prison we visit is for young people who break the law. Not political prisoners, although there are a lot of them in Israeli jails. This prison is for kids who break regular laws. It's more gentle than an adult prison. From volunteering there I have learned that there is no difference between them and us. We are all teenagers. This prison is surrounded by high walls. The kids are not locked in cells but they cannot go outside the walls. There are two floors. One is the space they use for meetings and activities. The second floor is where they sleep. There is a bit of a garden, too, so they can go outside.
We also volunteer with old people. I like doing that because we can hear lots of old stories, like what it was like for their parents and for them during the Nakba, the catastrophe in l948 when Israel was created. So they have these really difficult stories and they also have stories that are just fun to hear, like what their wedding days were like, funny things that happened to them in their lives, trying to raise their kids and earn a living and deal with the Israelis.
When I hear their stories of what they went through, I think, If they can do it, I can, too. It makes me stronger.
I live with my parents and four sisters - three younger and one older. I want to be an archeologist and a philosopher. I like acting because you can live in different characters. Humans were created with imaginations so that we can see beyond where we are so that we can create a better world.
We want to live a life that is ours. The occupation makes us challenge ourselves, show the Israelis that this is our land, and whatever they do, they can't rise to our challenge.
The soldiers don't come here anymore, not really. It used to be quite bad, with soldiers and tanks all over, but now it is quieter. This area is Palestinian territory, and mostly the Israelis stay out.
I once went to a youth conference and there was an Israeli girl there. I asked her why she doesn't come to Ramallah. She said that she would be afraid to. I said, "You treat us well and we will treat you well." She said she might try. But I don't think she'll come.
We have been 67 years under occupation, so as it continues we'll have more pressure. It is an honour to be a Palestinian. When Israel bombs us, it is said they are defending themselves. When Palestinians fight, we are said to be terrorists.
Other civilizations have moved through this area, leaving their mark. The Turks, the British. I like to think of Israel as just another phase that will pass, leaving its mark and then moving on or fading away History always battles with itself. May we not have too many more generations before this phase moves away.
The Hunger Games reminds me of what is happening in the world today. Countries that are satisfied with the president and the rulers are treated well, and countries that are not supportive of the president - their lives are hell.
The internet is a great connection because we meet people from all over and talk about our lives and our positions.