Flying kites before the tear gas

Linah Alsaafin

The Electronic Intifada  .   30 June 2011

Nabi Saleh children are robbed of a normal childhood. Photo: Oren Ziv/Activestills.

Lara is called by her pet name Lulu. She’s two and a half years old and her hair is twirled into pigtails. She doesn’t talk and stares either at the ground or past your shoulder. Last year her mother threw her out of the window from the second floor of the house. The Israelis were firing tear gas inside the house and everyone inside was suffocating. Lulu and everyone else who managed to escape outside had to flatten themselves on the ground as the tear gas whistled and exploded over their heads. The incident certainly left its psychological scars; for a while Lulu hated her mother, thinking that she threw her out of the window on purpose.

Jana spent a few months in the US, so she understands and speaks some English. Ask her where she lived in America, she replies, “West Palm-en Beach.” Ask her what goes on every Friday, she replies, “We go out to the maseera [protest].” Ask her to elaborate, she says, “The soldiers fire tear gas and live ammunition, and the shabab [youths] throw rocks. I’m not scared of the soldiers.” Is it not criminal, I wonder, for “live ammunition” to be part of a five-year-old’s vocabulary?

Samer, my special little Spiderman, climbs on my knees, makes himself comfortable and starts talking. He can’t pronounce the “r” sound and substitutes it with a “y.” “The army comes every Friday. When they leave I throw rocks on their jeeps. I’m not scared of them then.”

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