Refugee voices: Dheisheh camp in the West Bank
Jehad was born and raised in Dheisheh refugee camp (near Bethlehem) in the West Bank. He spoke with RI on April 14, the 12th day of total curfew on the camp. Sounding much older than his twenty years, he described the situation. "People are scared and afraid," he said with the audible rumble of tanks in the background. "We are not able to walk in the street and those who live near the main street cannot even look out of their windows. There is not enough food."
According to Jehad, Israeli tanks usually stay on the main street outside Dheisheh camp. Sometimes, though, they go inside, shooting at water tanks, electricity wires, houses, or people. Residents stay inside, keeping abreast of the news as best they can with sporadic access to electricity. There was no electricity during the first week, but someone was able to repair it when the curfew was lifted for a few hours. Two of the local TV stations have been closed, and the third operates only on an occasional basis. Because a water tank nearby was damaged, three of his neighbors don't have water. Sometimes they come to Jehad's window to request a little. Very few people have telephone access unless they carry a mobile phone.
When Jehad meets the young people he works with, there are no words exchanged, only tears. Crying is very unusual in this society, he says.
Three days ago, the curfew was lifted for two hours, allowing people to move on the streets where trash is rapidly piling up. Many people went to buy food, particularly fruit, but there was little. A few days ago, Jehad reported, one relief truck came into the camp, but the contents of one truck were not enough for the 11,000 residents, some of whom do not have enough flour to make bread.
The medical situation is also difficult. The camp usually has one operational clinic and one doctor. Jehad described a situation reflecting concern about access to medical care. One man, suffering from cancer, needed weekly treatment. Unable to obtain care, he died. His relatives were not allowed to bury him.
Jehad tells RI "every one has a story." "For me," he said, "on the day of the attack, my mother died from an illness. My family could not receive our relatives in the traditional manner for mourning. We had to rush to bury our mother."
"We promised our grandparents we will go back," he says. "We want to be free and have our own country, like Germany and the U.S."
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