Displaced but not downbeat

Displaced and dispossessed they may be but for tens of thousands of refugees the road to Jerusalem is more than just a dream.

Every Palestinian dreams of the day when Jerusalem will be liberated
Every Palestinian dreams of the day when Jerusalem will be liberated

It is certainly one that has given mother-of-12 Umm Maher the strength to carry on in adversity.

“God will grant us the will to defeat the enemies and return to our land,” said 78-year-old Umm Maher outside her temporary home in Amman’s Baqa refugee camp.

As the Palestinian people mark the third anniversary of the Al-AqsaIntifada, Umm Maher, just like any Palestinian, hopes and prays that “the Intifada continues” and “Palestine becomes free from Israeli occupation.”

She did not need encouragement to speak as she pointed to several children playing.

“It is true that my 12 kids were born here at this camp in Jordan but for them Palestine is their homeland, their playground and their life,” she stated.

A refugee at a Hamas rally in one of the many Palestinian camps 

A refugee at a Hamas rally in one
 of the many Palestinian camps 

All evils

“The only thing in their heart is Palestine”.

Her husband chipped in: “America is behind all evils, how can we trust America?”

“Resistance is the key, I was born in Palestine and I should be buried there,” he added, taking a long sip of his tea.

“They are killing our kids without mercy, they are attacking them with machineguns and tanks while the only weapon we have is stones.”

Around 3497 people have been killed – 80% of them Palestinians – since the Intifada began in September 2000.

Serious violence erupted on September 29 of that year with bloody clashes at al-Aqsa Mosque compound after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon, had paid a provocative visit there previous day.

Free Palestine

Hundreds of miles away from the conflict zone, the mood of defiance runs across all generations in the refugee camps dotting Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

“The Intifada seeks to free Palestine, which was taken from us by Israelis, and now we are unable to take it back,” said 12-year-old Hassan Abd Allah as he killed time outside a grocery store.

“My mother explained to me that there is a war and I did not learn that at school. I see many people being killed on TV all the time.”

Residents of the refugee camp largely depend on assistance coming from UNRWA, which provides education, health and relief and social services through 22 installations operated by 608 Agency staff in the camp.

“We lost Palestine because of Arab and foreign conspiracies” 

 ex-teacher Majed al-Bedo

Located 22 kilometers away from the capital Amman, Baqaa is the largest of the 13 camps created in Jordan, housing some 120,000 inhabitants.

Tough winter

It was one of six “emergency” camps set up in 1968 to accommodate Palestine refugees and displaced persons who left the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The camp was set up with 5000 tents to accommodate 26,000 refugees on an area of about 1.4 square kilometres. Later due to the tough winter weather UNRWA replaced the tents with 8048 ready-made shelters between 1969-1971.

Since then, concrete houses replaced the ready-made shelters giving the camps a sense of permanency but the Intifada has given its residents a renewed sense of hope.

“We lost Palestine because of Arab and foreign conspiracies,” said ex-teacher Majed Al Bedo inviting me to his house.

‘‘Do you really want to know what is happening in Palestine?” he asked.

Throw stones

Inside a room filled with pictures of President Yasir Arafat, his brother, Abu Issa, who arrived two days ago from the West Bank spoke up.

“We cannot find work to feed our families and since our life is not secure, we can’t plan for the future. We live as prisoners inside our own home because of the roadblocks set up by the Israelis.”

Our kids don’t tell us that they are going to throw stones on soldiers and tanks, they know they have a duty and we support them all the way,” the farmer said with tears filling his eyes.

“We offer our sons to be martyrs to guarantee a safer and better life for the next generation, The martyr is the symbol of our cause”

Majed al-Bedo

“I am old and cannot fight but our kids fight on behalf of their families and their land,” he added.

“We offer our sons to be martyrs to guarantee a safer and better life for the next generation, The martyr is the symbol of our cause,” he said as he lit up his cigarette, took a deep breath and answered my question concerning President Arafat.

“He is the symbol of our resistance, he did so much for his people and we will never abandon him.” straight answer that took me to my last question.

Refugee died

“The future is clear, our land should be free, Jerusalem is ours and we shall return.”

Known for their strong stance against Zionists, Baqa’s residents have led a number of demonstrations in the wake of the second Intifada and clashed with Jordanian anti-riot police on a number of occasions.

Last April a Palestinian refugee died in a protest march against the Israeli raid on Jenin. Although many of the refugees were granted Jordanian nationality, the loyalty of most remains with the Palestinian cause.

Victory to the Intifada: Arafat isrevered by many Palestinians

Victory to the Intifada: Arafat is
revered by many Palestinians

The mood today is more sedate but talk of the gun is never far away.

Abu Mohammad holds his cane and peacefully contemplates his future. For the 66-year-old displaced grandfather from Hebron, the solution to Palestinian strife is armed struggle.

Right of return

“What was taken by force will be only returned by force,” he says, pointing out that he had to leave his home following the confiscation of the West Bank in 1967.

The father of five and a retired military guard, expressed pessimism about the current US-sponsored “road map” for peace.

“It is simply nonsense. It ignores the right of return,” he explained. “If they (the Israelis) really mean it they would have pulled out their forces and destroyed settlements built on Palestinian land.

Source : Al Jazeera

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