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On 16 October Ma’an sent a reporter and cameraman to the village, accompanying the governor of Qalqiliya and heads of security departments in the district. The delegation was there to investigate the harsh circumstances they face as Palestinians in a Bedouin camp annexed to the west side of the separation wall.
The Bedouin community sent their senior leaders to meet the delegation. Visits from West Bank dignitaries, or even West Bank Palestinians are rare, since they mean crossing several checkpoints, having permits in order, and explaining numerous times the purpose for their visit.
The Ar-Ramadeen area is made up of 2,000 people, who are part of five interconnected campsites.
The delegation sat to listen to the Bedouin elders who expressed their growing concerns about life in the area. A group of five children sat close to the adults, and their ears perked up at the mention of a kindergarten or elementary school being set up in the area.
Currently the children of the Bedouin community have to travel almost two hours to get to school in the morning, between accessing public transport, crossing the separation wall and arriving in the Qalqiliya district schools that they attend.
The children, who inched closer to the group as talk of establishing schools continued, were all in school, between the third and the eighth grades. They found a responsive ear in Ma’an’s reporter and told him about life in a Palestinian Bedouin camp that by chance of geography happened to be on Israel’s side of the separation wall.
Ala, in the eighth grade, did most of the talking, though his friends would chime in if he missed any details.
He explained first how every morning the kids in the area left their homes with their backpacks and headed towards the Israeli controlled gate, which has been installed by the Israeli army, in addition to the separation wall that keeps the community out of the West Bank.
Once lined up at the gate Israeli soldiers search the children’s bags, check their id cards if they are old enough to have one, and one-by-one send them through the gate towards the buses. On the way home the same process occurs; children line up, bags are checked and they are ushered back through the gate.
Ala’s least favorite part is how solders “look at them as if they are guilty or they came from another world.”
On weekends the children are not allowed to leave the valley where the camps are located unless they have a special permit and accompany their parents. “We can’t even participate in extra-curricular activities,” he added, since the bus leaves at a scheduled time. Even if they arranged to all stay late, the after-work traffic gets thicker and checkpoints take longer in the evenings.
Asked what the kids do after school, Ala explained that they played among the tents and huts of the camp sites, or help their parents with chores. “There is TV some evenings, when the electricity works, and sometimes we go to the Qalqiliya zoo.”
“But that is only once a year,” added Bilal, who is in the seventh grade.
If they could decide what the delegation were to provide for the camp, the kids decided they would want a school in which to study, a small playground and a park.
One of the children even said he wanted to go to university so he could be a teacher in the school that would be built in their camp area.