Palestinian children are always in danger – Joop

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“Sometimes soldiers pass by the window during classes to signal the students, so children don’t feel safe even inside the school.”

On Friday, Bethlehem witnessed a general strike. Rajan Suleiman of Tekoa, seven, had died suddenly the day before, shortly after Israeli soldiers knocked on the door of his home in Tekoa, southeast of Bethlehem.

My Palestinian family knows the village of Tekoa, birthplace of the Old Testament prophet Amos, from desert trips to nearby Wadi Khreitoun with its ancient caves and archaeological remains. Recently, Mary, daughter Jara, and I passed through the village on our way to a bumpy jeep ride through the desert that ended in a panoramic view of the Dead Sea, where our group could enjoy a sunset picnic.

But now no desert silence, but instead the deadly impact of occupation. Rajan’s father testified to reporters and activists that when Israeli soldiers chased stone throwers, they thought they were Rajan’s older brothers, aged 8 and 10. After the frightening presence of the soldiers at the house, Rayan was found in the yard of the house with his face on the ground and his arms stretched forward.

IN Haaretz became a local pediatric specialist, Dr. Mohamed Ismail, quoted as saying that Rajan was healthy and had no previous medical conditions. “The most likely scenario of what happened is that under stress he had excessive adrenaline secretion, which increased his heart rate,” Ismail said. “He went into cardiac arrest.”

Context is everything. From a detailed reading of various stories about what happened, it becomes clear that the Palestinian children in Tekoa are used to army raids in their homes and the presence of soldiers on the streets and near the school. IN Times of Israel an aunt is quoted as saying, “The children are always in danger, from the settlers or the army, on their way back from school.” The aunt, Umm Ali, noted that soldiers sometimes patrol a nature trail that takes children home from school.

IN Haaretz also quotes a technology teacher, Nida, from the village school Rajan and his brothers: “Every day there is a feeling that something can happen. The fear for the children is a daily reality,” she says. The school is next to the main road that connects several illegal settlements. Nida says the presence of soldiers and vehicles close to the school is very common: “The army is there day and night.”

She says that the teachers take turns checking that all the children go home at the end of the day. Some follow the children part of the way because of their fear of the soldiers. “Sometimes soldiers pass by the window during classes to signal the students, so children don’t feel safe even inside the school.”

Nida herself has a child at that school. She says Rajan’s death has affected him a lot. “He doesn’t want to go to school anymore, he hasn’t eaten since. He tells me that if he goes to school, he will die.” Sunday (yesterday) is the first day since his death that students, including Rajan’s two brothers, go back to school. “It will be a difficult day when many students already say they don’t want to come,” says Nida.

In the Bethlehem area, schools near settler roads and checkpoints and in refugee camps are familiar with what is happening in Tekoa. I remember once going to a school in the village of Al-Khader, southwest of Bethlehem, where half the graduating class was in prison. There, too, it was common for soldiers or Israeli guards to pass by the school and look through the classroom windows.

Anxiety, not only among the students and teachers, but also among the parents, is also related to the length and conditions of the prison sentence. Israel considers stone throwing a crime punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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