Promoting dignity for children growing up in East Jerusalem

US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – and to move the US embassy to the city – was met with international opposition and condemnation. Little, however, has been done by the international community to address the many significant challenges to the rights, health and dignity of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, which was illegally annexed by Israel in 1980.

Israeli settlements in and around East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank are all illegal under international law. But they continue to expand apace, bringing with them yet more settlers and accompanying Israeli security forces and harming Palestinian well-being. Palestinian hospitals have been raided with impunity, homes are frequently demolished, and the policies of the Israeli municipal authorities continue to negatively impact the “residency status, access to education and health services, and their ability to plan and develop their communities” of some 300,000 Palestinian residents, according to the UN.

For Palestinian children, this is a tense and unstable context in which to grow up. Through our partnership with the Al Saraya Centre, in the Old City of East Jerusalem, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is helping to support the psychological wellbeing and dignity of Palestinian children in this challenging environment. At the centre, children aged 6 to 17 can develop life skills, safely discuss the daily challenges they face, and learn about Palestinian culture and heritage in a safe and welcoming environment.

This month, Al Saraya has been running a summer camp at the Aytam Secondary School for more than 150 children. The summer school’s activities include baking, horse-riding, pizza-making, scientific experiments, storytelling, team-building challenges, dabke [traditional Palestinian dance], and day trips to the Old City. These activities encourage children to develop a sense of confidence and pride as individuals, respect and support for each other, and belonging as members of the Palestinian community.

It is clear that the children have enjoyed themselves, too. Thirteen-year-old Layla* told staff at the centre that it had given her an opportunity to try new activities and learn about the importance of promoting an equal and accessible society for all, stating “I learnt new things and had a chance to share activities with people with special needs. This was something new for me, we’re now great friends.”

12-year-old Mohammad* also spoke enthusiastically about the summer camp: “I learnt a lot about the places we visited and how to deal with difficult issues”.

This work is only possible with the support of people like you. Please consider making a donation today to help MAP to continue supporting the mental health and psychological wellbeing of young Palestinian children living in East Jerusalem.

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*Names changed to protect identity

 

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