(A. is a young teen man who lives in a youth village in Bethlehem.)

A.  16 years old.

I came to the youth village in 2006, when I was ten, because my parents were not able to properly care for me.  My family comes from Hebron.  My three brothers and my one sister are also with this youth village.  My favorite movies are Egyptian comic movies.  My favorite subject is math, and I hope to study accounting in university.

I generally go back to Hebron to see my family every Thursday and Friday.  There are no settlers around where my family is, so we don't have a problem with them, but I do have to go through two checkpoints to get there from Bethlehem.  They always give us a hard time at the checkpoints.  They check everything.  It's hard, every week.

Until I was thirteen I lived at this center, in one of the houses.  The homes have children of all ages in them, boys and girls, like a regular family, and there are no children with the same name.  You wouldn't have two brothers with the same name, so the homes are like that, too.  There is a house mother who lives with us.  She's always there, like a mother would be.  the homes are named from stories, like Ali Baba.

When I turned thirteen, I went to a youth house.  This is all boys.  The girls live in another youth house.  Two youth leaders live with us.  The houses are in different neighborhoods in Bethlehem, away from the youth village, so that we become part of the city.  We are in a higher level of education, so there is less time for fun, and we are learning responsibility and self-reliance.  I'm enjoying it, and surviving!

I'm a member of the Youth Parliament.  I love it.  I love to be a leader, to exchange knowledge with others.  I give what I know and take away what I don't know.  A call was put out for youth leaders to stand for election, and I was one who did, and I was lucky to be one of the people elected.

The first action we decided to do was to send some of us to visit children with cancer at Beit Jala hospital.  It was a really good day.  Before going, we met with the Basma Smile organization, which supports the children, to learn more about the children we would be meeting and what we could do.  Seven youth and two of our leaders went to the hospital.  We chose to do this action because they are children and we are children.  Most of the children in the hospital are not from Bethlehem, so their parents are not with them.  We wanted them to know someone is thinking of them.

We have a lot of workshops to increase our knowledge.  We've had workshops on leadership, on how to make goals, on the dangers of drugs and smoking, how to communicate with others, good nutrition.

There is a youth village like this in Israel, too.  I have never met those children, but I imagine that they are the same as us.  They are in the village for reasons that have nothing to do with them.  They are there because of their parents, just like we are.  So we are the same.

For all of us, I hope there will be peace in the future.  We want a peaceful land without checkpoints.  Now that Palestine has a seat at the United Nations, we can maybe take a big step forward.