The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Abdel Fattah Abu-Srour

Visitors meet no smiling faces on the gritty streets of Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. The children's eyes are dull, glazed. Older eyes follow your back as you pass walls pasted over with posters of "the martyrs," those killed by Israeli army gunfire.

Shelling from Israeli army positions in Bethlehem and the nearby Gilo settlement scar nearly every building here, including a U.N. school. Its interior walls have been sandbagged since it was fired on during school hours, camp authorities say.

The Israelis say the shelling came in response to shooting from the camp toward Gilo, a claim strongly denied by Aida authorities. Gilo, which overlooks the camp, is one of an increasing number of Jewish settlements that have been built on land promised to be returned to the Palestinian Authority by U.N. resolutions.

"We're fed up with international opinion that sees only Israeli problems," says Abdel Fattah Abu-Srour, director of Aida's cultural programs. "It's not just the buildings that are being destroyed. It's not just the physical injuries but the traumatization.

"Out of this house, seven injured; one shot dead. One, 17, hit by a tank shell, is paralyzed from the waist down. How can a family like this live with their inner injuries and still wake up in the morning and think there's hope?

"The father in this [other] house — dead, a bullet in the head while he sits by the window. When this girl says, 'Where is my father?' what shall I say? Who takes care of this family? [A Palestinian charity gives] $500 to families of martyrs. I don't know: Is that the price of a human being?

"We've learned to survive, not to live. [That] is a tragedy in itself."


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