For children around the world the beginning of a new school year marks a new level of learning in a child’s education. For Palestinian children in the Old City al-Khalil/Hebron beginning a new school year means that education is accompanied by disruption, intimidation, humiliation, and trauma.
Children with backpacks walking with their friends and offering friendly smiles and exchanging morning greetings with CPTers, could be a mirror of normal children going to school anywhere else. Yet beyond the façade of normality is a stark reality of education under occupation. There is nothing normal about going to school in this al-Khalil neighborhood, despite the occupation’s way of normalizing the oppression of children.
The first weeks of this school year have been a daily ordeal for children who must pass through a checkpoint at the mercy of soldiers and security systems to get to their schools. Locked turnstile gates cause frequent delays for children on the way to school. Even more traumatic for children is navigating sound bombs and tear gas thrown by groups of soldiers who are on the streets between checkpoints and schools.
On a recent school morning two boys, 10 and 12 years old, were violently arrested when soldiers caught them throwing stones against the fortified checkpoint. They were thrown to the ground and carried away and held for over an hour at the checkpoint, then taken to the nearby occupation police station.
Another morning, 19 tear gas canisters and 5 sound bombs were launched towards children and schools. A yellow school bus brought kindergarten children to their school and let them off. The children had just entered the school when a cloud of tear gas enveloped the school bus. The driver quickly backed up the street to get out of the tear gas.
At a nearby school, a soldier hit a teacher with his gun, injuring the teacher’s arm. The soldiers were trying to force their way into the schoolyard but were blocked by teachers. Later, after lobbing more sound bombs and tear gas along the street in front of the school, the soldiers detained the principal and took him to the checkpoint up the hill. They detained him there for a half hour before releasing him. Another morning at the same checkpoint, a soldier kicked and hit a small boy who had just come through the checkpoint.
One morning settler colonizers roamed around near the girl’s school and a checkpoint, intimidating the children on their walk to school. A group of settler adults and children intentionally walked past kindergarten children leaving school and walked through a Palestinian neighborhood rather than taking the usual street up the hill.
What do children learn when their education is regularly disrupted? What are the daily and long-term effects of trauma for children subjected to terrifying sound bombs and tear gas on the way to or home from school? What are the effects on children who see their teachers accosted by soldiers threatening to enter schools and intimidate students?
This is everyday life for Palestinian children seeking an education under occupation.

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© 2015 With love from Hebron.
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