Guest contribution by Wedad Yassin
“My home. Not here, the one over there.” Ameer, 8, and twenty other children at the Jalazone Refugee Camp just north of Ramallah were asked to draw their favorite places in the world — places they would like to visit. Most of the kids drew houses or the Dome of the Rock, two places they have never had the opportunity to visit.
More than 16.5% of Palestinians living in the West Bank are unemployed. As a result, selling antiques, metal fragments, and used furniture has become an increasingly popular sources of income for many families. In this picture, a small shop displays small metal trinkets, mostly keys to homes from which Palestinian families were evicted.
To enter the Ibrahimi Mosque in the old city of Al-Khalil, Palestinians must cross through this Israeli-run checkpoint. The checkpoint was created after the Ibrahimi Mosque Massacre on 25 February 1994 when Baruch Goldstein, a terrorist claiming to operate under the Jewish faith, entered the mosque, murdered 29 worshipers, and injured hundreds more.
Zeitoun Ahmad Al-Badawi, or Ahmad the Bedouin’s olive tree, is a 5,000 year old olive tree growing in Al-Walaja, a few miles northwest of Bethlehem. The town of Al-Walaja has been the site of many recent Israeli military raids against unarmed and nonviolent protesters and this native olive tree —- a symbol of Palestinian identity, culture, and resiliency —- faces possible uprooting by Israeli military and municipal services.
The Israeli military deploys a flying checkpoint and closes off a street in Al-Khalil to allow settlers to tour through the West Bank city. Besides shutting down streets to Palestinian civilians, Israeli soldiers have also broken into Palestinian-owned cars to “reassure safety on the streets”.
Getting to Friday Prayer at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is tremendously challenging with all the checkpoints and spot checks the men and women of the West Bank have to endure. Given the opportunity, they spend their whole day praying in the courtyard of the mosque.
Khalid, 24, from the Jalazone Refugee Camp wears the key to his family’s home in Beit Nabala. On May 15, he joined the masses commemorating the Nakba, demanding an end to the occupation, and calling for their Right of Return.
Wedad Yassin is a 21-year-old Palestinian-American who studies Middle Eastern Studies at Benedictine University. She currently holds an executive board position with her University’s Muslim Student Association. She just recently returned to the United States from a study abroad program at Birzeit University where she also taught English at the Jalazone Refugee Camp. Wedad is an aspiring professor and an ambitious photographer.