(D. is ten years old. She is a member of the tiny community of Domari who have lived for centuries along an alley of the Old City of Jerusalem. Most have struggled with generations of poverty and marginalization. It has been rare for Domari kids to finish high school, due to the need for them to work to contribute to the household, and discrimination against them. The Domari Society set up a community center to provide tutoring for children, literacy training for adults and programs to keep the Domari culture and language alive. These are D's words:)
D. I go to a school for girls in Wadi Al Joze, in East Jerusalem. It's a Palestinian school, but I am not Palestinian. I am Dom. I used to go to another school, but I was not happy there. The teacher was mean. She called me bad names, names that mean 'dirty Gypsy'. She would not help me when I didn't understand something. So I am now in a different school, and it is good there. The teachers are kind, and I am learning, although arithmetic is still hard. I like to study now. I want to be a doctor.
My father works as a cleaner. My mother stays at home. I live in a small house in the Old City, by the Lions Gate. My father tried to make the house bigger by adding another room, but the government said he should not have done that, so they destroyed it. I watched them tear it down. I didn't like seeing it, but I couldn't do anything about it.
There's a path along the top of the wall of the Old City that tourists like to walk on. The walk right by my house, because my house is right beside the wall. Tourists always come to my neighborhood because it's very old and very famous. The prophet Jesus was told he would be crucified here, and if you walk a little way up the road you can see his prison.
If you look through the gate to the other way you can see the Mount of Olives, but there are roads to cross. You can't just leave the gate and go up the hill. There's a big Jewish cemetery on the side of the hill. Right outside the Lion's Gate is a big Muslim cemetery. Sometimes I see funerals walk through here on the way to the cemetery. Men carry the box with the body inside.
I like living here because the Dom have always lived here, well, for a long time, anyway. I'm proud to be Dom even though a lot of people don't like us. We are good people. We have good food and good music and good families.
In the old days, Dom lived in tents in the same place where I live, by the Lion's Gate. They would earn money by dancing for people and by playing music. Some of them had horses that they trained to do tricks. I don't know if I would like to live in a tent now. I don't know if I would feel safe. Sometimes the people would have no job and no money, so they would have to ask strangers to give them money. I would not like to do that.
It used to be that Dom girls didn't go to school, and that they didn't meet their new husband until their wedding. The family decided everything. Now I can decide my life, so I'm really glad to be in a school where the teacher is not mean to me. I know that Dom girls can be nurses and businesswomen and go to university and do all kinds of jobs. So I think I will have a good job as a doctor when I am older.