Remember if you can your childhood.
Remember being a child during the holidays.
Remember the feeling of being free of school for a week.
Remember the feeling of anticipation; the presents, the food, your favourite aunt or uncle.
Remember the decorations, the days of preparations.
Remember the meal, the family together around a single table.
Remember the presents, the sweets, your favourite dish.
Remember the weather, the songs sung, the music played, the family games.
Feel the memory, the fondness, the emotion it stirs in you.
As you’re sitting around that nostalgic table of food, presents and fun, I want you to imagine a loud banging nose coming from outside.
Imagine a man dressed in a green uniform, wearing a backpack, a large gun in his hands, a helmet on his head. His face, young but stern. There’s one, then another, then another, you hear more of them outside. These young soldiers start shouting in a language you don’t understand. They push you, your father, your mother, your aunt and uncle, brothers and sisters into a small room, they lock the door.
As you sit cramped together in this room, you hear sounds from outside, you hear unrecognisable shouting, you hear loud bangs, crashes and the familiar sound of smashing glass.
Your father is holding you, comforting you, telling you everything will be ok.
Time passes, the noise from outside rises, then falls. Eventually after maybe three hours or so, the locked door opens. Two of these young armed soldiers step into the room. They take your father by the arm and lead him outside, then they come back, look around, then take you by the arm as well. You start to struggle, to kick, trying to be free of the soldiers’ grasp. One of them hits you in the face. Your hear your father, he’s calling to you, trying to calm you. You give in, you allow yourself to be taken.
As you are escorted through the home, you see the damage the soldiers have caused. Wardrobe doors are hanging off their hinges, your clothes over the floor, your bed is on its side, mattress ripped, the stuffing protruding. Tables are upside down, the feast trodden into the floor, mixed with smashed glass and maybe your favourite childhood toy, broken, in pieces. As you and your father are dragged away, into the street, into the night, surrounded by armed men, what would go through your mind?
These are not the memories of your youth. These are a far stretch away from the childhood memories that I hope you are blessed with. But these are the memories of many Palestinian boys.
These will be the memories of fourteen year old Majd Al Haddad from Aziria, visiting family in Hebron on the first day of Eid Al Adha, an important Islamic holiday, where family’s gather, feast, exchange gifts and sweats. Majd had earlier been seen in the street with a toy gun, a common present for boys on the Eid. Majd’s family had been told by the soldiers that they where looking for this “weapon”. After his arrest he was been taken to a police station within the settlements and finally released hours later; the authorities brought no charges against him.
This is the reality of Palestinian boys, seen through the military lens of suspicion and fear. A teenager could be a terrorist, a child could be a killer. All are suspected and treated accordingly. High days and holidays are the same as any other to the military, but for the family, another happy holy day has been ruined.