(I met J. in Jerusalem, twenty minutes walk from the Old City.  He lives in East Jerusalem.)

J. 14

I live in Wadi Joz.  I've lived there for ten years.  I live there with my mother.  She and my father are divorced.  He lives with his new wife.  They have four children.  My mother has just me and my younger brother.  My mother's mother died when she was just five years old, and her father died before I was born.  Her ancestors are from Iraq.  My father's family is from Hebron, way back, but he lives near Ramallah now.  Many Palestinians who had to leave Hebron went to Ramallah.

My favorite part of Jerusalem is probably the movie theatre.  My favorite movie is Suckerpunch.

My father has a car repair shop just on the Israel side of the barrier.  He has lots of Jewish customers.  There is a big sign that says it is illegal for Israeli citizens to give their cars over to Palestinian mechanics, but lots of Israelis ignore it because the work is good and the prices are good.  I don't know really why the sign is there.  All I can think is that the Israeli government things that Palestinian mechanics will turn Israeli cars into bombs.  Luckily for my father, a lot of Israelis don't buy that way of thinking.  They just want to get their cars repaired.

My mother is a teacher.  She teaches kids with learning disabilities.

My parents have Jewish friends.  I have Jewish friends.  It's not a big deal to me to have friends that are Arab and that are Jewish.  I play sports, so I meet all kinds of kids through that.  Some kids are friendly, some are not nice, some are good players, some try hard but you know they will never be professional athletes.  In sports what your religion is or your background is, it doesn't matter.  Can you kick the ball?  That matters.

Ramallah is a great city.  It's a city that never sleeps, a very busy place.  And they have great shwarma there.  The checkpoints are crazy, though.  The Israeli soldiers think all Arabs are bad.  They check ids, they ask crazy questions, they make you open the trunk of your car and go through every single thing.

The Israelis also demolish homes if they want to.  They say, 'Oh, your house is nowin a military zone, so get out because we're going to knock it down.'  And the family has to take what they can and get out  before the giant bulldozers come.

Sometimes the Israelis act like Americans, all confident and like they can do and get whatever they want.  Israelis take over people's homes, too, to live in, if they want to.  Where I live, the Israelis decided to take over the house of this family, and they put all the family's belongings into the yard - couches, mattresses, everything.  The family decided that they were not going to go anywhere, so they just stayed in the yard with their belongings!  The Israeli family had to walk by them every time they went into the house.  They stayed there for a long time, but of course eventually they had to go somewhere else because it was winter and they were not getting any justice.

The fact that my parents are divorced is something I find very hard.  I am always having to sleep in different places.  My mother is in Jerusalem and my father is in Ramallah.  I am usually with my mother.  She is happy now because she loves a good man and he loves her back.  I like to see her happy.

I spent the Christmas holidays in Jordan with my family.  It was great. We stayed at my sister's house - there are a lot of Palestinians in Jordan.  Christmas is very special there.  We went out on Christmas Eve and there was a big Christmas tree outside - we stood around it and sang songs.

I love singing.  People say I have a good voice. In the future I'd like to be an international singer, an actor and a doctor.  Music means a lot to both me and my mother.  We sing around the house all the time.  Music is different from talking, more honest, I think, because it goes to the truth of the emotion.  I love singing this song by Adele.  She writes about feelings she was going through, feelings that were just too big to just be spoken.  When I sing it I can have the same feelings.

I consider myself to be religious, but I don't look at people in a way that has to do with religion.  If someone is kind to me, I'll be kind to them.  At the bottom of it, we are all human beings.  Whatever you think of God, if you believe in a god or however you see it, we're all here and we have to make the best of it.  Religion can sometimes help us to do that, if we don't use it against each other.  We have brains, so we should be able to figure out how to do that.


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