The courage of Kalandia Children is reality peace

Why can't we make up legends on our lost keys or on the keys that got all rusty in our door locks, waiting for their house's owners to come back?
Some people thought they would be able to come back within a few days, but days have gone by, months, and then years, and they still haven't come back. Sheikh Abbas noticed the keys left inside the door locks and gathered them one by one. He would always carry them on himself, and they would kind of dance on his side; and they did so for more than 20 years, until they fell down on the ground one day beside his body, which got devoured by a nasty bear. Nobody has picked them up ever since, because we have lost hope.

Anas Wahadan, 12 years old, Kalandja refugee camp – Palestine
(From “Lettere al di là del muro” (Letters beyond the wall) by S. Apuzzo, S. Baldini, B. Archetti – Ecoalfabeto, I Libri di Gaia)

The courage of Kalandia Children is reality peace
Every-time we talk about the Israeli-Palestinian question we risk repeating ourselves. In the various meetings, conferences and initiatives supporting peace in the Middle East, any observation and discussion on this subject always focuses upon the very core of the problem, its cause and effect at one and the same time: war. Therefore, those who try to find alternative solutions in order to pass on more innovative peace messages, have great courage. Paradoxically, these solutions don not pass through the approvals and meetings of great Heads of State, but thanks to channels and means of which cultural life is rich, in all its forms, modernity and educational avant-garde. In fact, we ought to start talking about inter-culture more often, that is, about that reciprocal exchange between different cultural experiences, whose aim it is, to create another kind of culture, which is the sum of all single cultures.
It is on this basis that the courage to talk about peace in the Middle East in a different way often comes from the children. Ahmad, Aseel, Asef, Aseel, Bara, Hedaia, Isra, Marah, Mohammad and Rawan are the Palestinian children of the Kalandja refugee camp, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, who have had this courage. They took a telecamera and started to film daily life in their camp, showing it then on web-tv Kalandja Children ( ), under the logo “Shooting cameras, no guns”.

The courage of Kalandia Children is reality peacePlaying on the double meaning of the word shooting, which in English means both shooting somebody and shooting a film, the young reporters send out the one message of peace: “Shooting with cameras, not with guns”. They experience war every day, and therefore they have no need to stress it out explicitly in words or with guns, as adults do. “You can see war is there, there's no need to stress this out if you can see, watching the video, where I was born and where I live. Yes, I live in my country, but in a refugee camp, occupied by soldiers from another country, which claim this is also their country. Both my people and the other people want this same land, that's why it is so hard to live together. And yet they all call it Holy Land, and it should be a land of peace. Only, we as Palestinian people have to live imprisoned behind walls, without being able to come out of there except with a “blue card”. But, as I am so very young, maybe I'm also a little bit wiser than the grown-ups, and, even though I am an innocent victim of their games, I can show them I can describe the tragic situation of this land in a deeper way, but at the same time I can also depict the beauty of this land. Although I must live in a refugee camp, I make myself into a courageous witness of my time, my country, my cause, my people and my history. And I do this through the universal language that only children speak, because I believe that in every other part of the world any other child in my place would talk about it the same way I do. My identity, my culture, my usages, my values, that find little space to express themselves in this camp, have a history behind them, like in any other culture, and history should not be trampled on, but should be lived out and continued in order to create a better life for everyone, and therefore, for me, too, first of all, because I am living it at present, and I am also the future”.

The dreams of these 10 chief characters come out of the drawer without making too much noise, and give those who look at this film many a reflection hint. Interviews and reportages, presented and filmed in a professional way, talk about another kind of reality-life, which is no reality-show: games, friends, one's favorite food, like maklube, yabra, or pizza, but also the grandmother who has lost her son, who become a martyr, the ill father sleeping on the sofa, and nearby Jerusalem, which one has never seen. Children aged between 8 and 11, in a simple way, smiling a lot, take on the responsibility of reporting all this in real time. They remain inside the camp, but, thanks to the means of a web TV, they try and go beyond the walls, which they can't do in their everyday lives, in the hope that somewhere in the rest of the wider world somebody might listen more carefully to their story.

The most interesting aspect of the Kalandia Children web TV experiment is that, although it represents an opportunity for social and cultural liberation for the children of one of the most well known refugee camp in Palestine, it has in fact originated as an inter-cultural exchange experience between Palestinian Children and children from Sardinia (Italy). This is a unique kind of experiment, and it is part of the “Child's Play Project”, carried out by the Milan based NGO “Vento di Terra” in cooperation with the educational center of the same camp, the Kalandia Child Center, and financed by the network of Sardinian city councils Segariu, Villanovafranca, Lunamatrona (VS) and by the consortium Sa Corona Arrubia.

“The general idea of the project is to have children from Palestine and Italy work together at a distance on the themes of traditional play and other artistic expressions (music and dance in particular)”, maintains Serena Baldini, who follows up the project on account of Vento di Terra. “Because of this - so goes on Ms Baldini – the idea of a web TV was that Sardinian children would be able to get to know their Palestinian friends' daily lives before they met up in Sardinia in the past few days, in order to share their experiences. The other objective was to give the children center of Kalandia a new resource to be used as an educational instrument. As a matter of fact, the children have learned to shoot films, whereas the educators have become able to carry out the editing and management of the TV website, which is now operating independently and it will do until the center's staff will want it to.” At the moment there are only two telecameras, but, if free donations come from the international community, the project could go on developing for the good of these little heroes.

The refugee camp of Kalandia is situated between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and is close to the Israeli check-point which separates Jerusalem from the North of the West-Bank. The camp was founded in 1949. The Israeli authorities see the area on which the camp is situated as part of the so-called “Great Jerusalem”, even though it is actually cut off from the city by means of the the wall, and it is within the influence area of Ramallah. After the 1995 Oslo Agreement, the Kalandia camp's has been included in the “C” area, under complete military and administrative control of Israel. The official number of refugees is 10.024, to which another 10.000 must be added, people who are “unofficially there” having moved there because that camp is so close to Jerusalem. About half of the population is under 18 years old. The majority of the camp inhabitants cannot go to Jerusalem, because they are not authorized to cross the Kalandia check-point. Those who can reach Jerusalem, because they have the blue card, which guarantees them permanent Jerusalem resident status, must spend hours and hours queuing at the check-point in order to go to work. The courage of Kalandia Children is reality peace
The camp's biggest problems are: the high number of unemployed people, the families' very low economic standard of living, the overpopulation, and the lack or inadequacy of services like schools, health service, garbage collection, and obsolete water and sewage systems. On top of all this there are the problems connected to the employment situation, like, for instance, the difficulties in moving around within the West-Bank itself and the building up of tension after the latest war in Gaza, with its arbitrary arrests, and its injuring and killing of people during clashes.

Silvia Rizzello
Traduzione dall'italiano Antonella Santini

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