Walls between countries are nothing new. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall about 120 years after the birth of Christ to protect the Roman province of Britain from the heathens who lived in what is now Scotland. And let’s not even talk about the Great Wall of China, the construction of which began hundreds of years before that.
But wait, a wall to separate the Palestinian refugees’ camp from the rest of the world?
This is inconceivable. However, it is happening. The Lebanese government decided to build this wall and they have started the construction process.
As if one wall in Palestine is not enough.
They did not take in consideration that there are nearly 120,000 Palestinian refugees living in this camp. In addition to the high number of Palestinian refugees from Syria who still pour in, every day, and have reached a staggering population of 12,000 inside the camp’s borders. Those people are squeezed into just 1,500 square meters (less than one-tenth of a square mile). The Lebanese government did not really take in consideration that these people will just suffer more and more.
But the question is, why? Is the camp that dangerous?
I will tell you what the camp is for me. I will tell you how I see the camp.
The Camp for me, is my friends and I running in its alleys, trying to find a small ceiling where we can wait until it stops raining. For me, it is my old school with all these blue and white buildings. I used to feel upset when I got to the school because I felt as if it was a prison. I wanted more colours in my life, more than the blue and white that coloured everything around me. The Camp for me is where I can find life. Random people saying Salam Alikum to anyone they see on their way to their small shop that sells Ambar (apples coated in different flavours) or to their small houses that are full of love and the spirit of life. In such houses you will always smell the odour of good food, even if it was some fried onions with tomatoes, you can still smell it because the person who made this food made it with a touch of love, and the whole family will enjoy this plate because they worked hard to get it, and they are absolutely aware of it is invaluable value. In such houses you will see the whole family and relatives gathered together at night sharing random conversations and enjoying a cup of tea with Shisha. You can listen to the laughter of these people although life didn’t give them any chance to laugh.
Camp for me is the spirit of EID (an Islamic festival) where we start our day with prayers from the mosques and then a visit to the cemetery to honour the dead. EID is mostly about children dressed in new clothes knocking on the doors of their relatives asking for EIDIE (a small amount of money given as a gift). The smile you see on the kid’s faces during EID is inconceivable. Walking in the streets on one of the EID days, you can see the horses ready to be ridden for a fee, small tables scattered all over the place selling Balela (Boiled chickpea with lemon and salt) Tormos (Lupini beans) foul (fava beans with lemon, Cummin and salt).
Camp for me are the conversations I used to have with the taxi driver. Such unexpected conversations that somehow made your day. On other occasions these conversations left you with a lot of questions to think about. Sometimes it just made me feel sad due to the harsh reality that those people are facing. Camp for me is the ball that we used to create from papers. We had to be creative when we had no other choice. Camp for me is spending nights and nights without any electricity. It is trying to study using a candle. Camp for me, is the coffee shop near my house where we used to play PlayStation, check our emails and enjoy a game of counter strike. It is the blueberry tree in my neighbour’s garden where my friend and I used to take a nap under its shadow and enjoy some fresh blueberries.
Yes, I do come from there and I do have memories there, and I belong there. However, this doesn’t cover the black side of the camp. It doesn’t silence the sound of the bullets, and it doesn’t stop the armed militants from doing stupid shit. It doesn’t stop the violence. It doesn’t save people from facing the death destiny. It won’t stop the clashes between the Palestinians and the Lebanese army at the checkpoints. I still remember the electric wires that are dangling all over the camp along with water tubes. I still remember the people who died from this mess. This doesn’t mean that I can ignore the high amount of illiteracy. It doesn’t mean that I can forget about all the illegal guns that were the reason behind the death of many people. I grew up there and I want to go back there, but this doesn’t mean that it is a safe place to live in. This doesn’t mean that I want my children to grow up there. It is just, in a very strange way, when you live with your families and people that you love, life becomes strangely comfortable.
By Mohammed Akel