USC Students for Justice in Palestine

history, analysis, news, and event updates on the struggle for justice in palestine

UNRWA: Reflections on the West Bank

Posted by uscsjp on March 3, 2016

On Friday, I visited an UNRWA school at Aida camp in the West Bank town of Bethlehem to meet with leaders of the student council. I was welcomed by a kind man who immediately offered me coffee, the standard warm hospitality of the Middle East that makes any visitor automatically feel like family.What I learned at this school will forever stay with me. The boys in the student council told me the story of their classmate, 13-year-old Abed. Last October, Abed walked out of his UNRWA school and was instantly shot and killed by the IDF. No reason. No warning.

His classmates were so composed as they told me what a bright soul Abed was. They were so strong as they told me how they still save his empty seat in the classroom every day, decorating it in the hopes that Abed will see this and know that they will never forget him.

What I learned later is that Abed’s father was the man who offered me the coffee. He took a job at the school after Abed’s death because he wanted to be close to Abed’s memory. Perhaps he also hoped to help and protect other students, no longer able to help and protect his own son.

As I was saying my goodbyes to the students, one of the boys left me with the haunting question, “what would you do if you had to live like us?” I had no answer.

Since October 2015, UNRWA has seen an alarming increase in protection violations in the West Bank, including the killing, injuring, and unlawful detainment of children, collective punishment in the form of tear gas, sound bombs, and disproportionate use of “rubber” bullets, and the return of punitive home demolitions.

UNRWA documents all violations, provides legal referrals and monetary support to families affected, and provides supplementary educational support to children detained for extended amounts of times and psychosocial support activities to children and adults in need.

But with the biggest increase in violence against Palestinians since the second Intifada, we can’t do this alone. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to UNRWA’s 2016 Emergency Appeal. Your support will be life-changing for families like Abed’s.

Donate to UNRWA USA

This email concludes UNRWA USA’s time in the field. My biggest takeaway has been that the situation for Palestine refugees, whether in Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, or Gaza, is quite bleak, but it is not without hope. I hope you’ll continue to stand with UNRWA as we work to bring hope to refugees in need.

As always, thank you so much for your continued compassion and generosity.

In solidarity,
Abby Smardon
Executive Director

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