The Center for Freedom’s 3rd Annual Summer Camp Begins
On Monday June 25th, the Center for Freedom and Justice began its third annual summer camp for Palestinian youth from the Arroub refugee camp and the neighboring village of Beit Ommar. The camp, which will run for 21 days and serves 150 Palestinian children ages 7-15, was created in response to the problems faced by Palestinian children: During the summers, most of the children in Beit Ommar have nothing to do and end up spending the majority of their time on the streets without supervision or engaging activities. At the same time, they continue to suffer from the effects of the Israeli occupation- such as night raids and demolitions of their homes- without having a healthy way to deal with their anger, fear, and frustration.
To address this situation, the Center started a summer camp in 2009 to provide Palestinian children with a positive environment in which they could have fun whilst engaging with the ways that the violence of the Occupation has disrupted their lives. Last year’s summer camp, named the “Freedom Flotilla Summer Camp” by the camp counselors, had over 100 participants. The camp offered an array of educational, recreational and cultural activities, including sports, English lessons, and dance. Counselors also ran discussions on a series of topics, such as settlement expansion, Israel’s “separation barrier,” international law, conflict resolution and human rights.
This year’s camp, named “Solidarity Summer Camp” in support of Palestinian political prisoners and the nonviolent resistance movement, offers an even wider range of activities, including arts and crafts, drama, traditional Palestinian dance classes, music, sports, and gardening programs. Campers will also participate in workshops and training on non-violent conflict resolution, the meaning of democracy and their role in it, personal and national identity, and the role of civil society.
Many of these activities will help the campers explore their experiences and identities as Palestinians living under occupation, while giving them an outlet to express their emotions. At the same time, the camp will educate youth about equality, democracy, and non-violence so that they can spread these messages throughout Palestinian society and continue the non-violent struggle for freedom.
In addition to helping with the personal development of Beit Ommar youth, the camp also encourages connections between them and Palestinian children throughout the West Bank. Campers go on weekly field trips throughout the West Bank, and visit with other day camps twice a week in order to make new friends and build relationships between the residents of different areas in the West Bank.
Most importantly, through its program of enriching experiences and educational opportunities, the Center for Freedom’s summer camp gives Palestinian youth a chance to enjoy what the Israeli occupation has systematically denied them: the chance just to be children.