Rajhad is looking out of the fence that protects her small school in central Hebron. The building is now built like a fortress following severe assaults by Zionist settlers in 2006, 2008 and 2009. In one instance, settlers set fire to the building while classes were taking place.
Like most children in the school, Rajhad has suffered heavy injuries from settler violence. The assailants are usually the children of nearby Zionist settlers, who throw stones at Palestinian children on their way to and from school. This usually happens under the watchful eye of Israeli soldiers, who are ready to arrest Palestinian children but allow the settlers to operate with impunity.
With bitter irony, Rajhad says: ‘I want to beat a settler, so that they can be arrested like we are when settlers beat us.’
‘In the beginning, the kids who came here were violent’, says Mohammad Abu Sbitan, director of the social centre, ‘they used bad language, were rude and restless. But now we’re beginning to see results.’ His eyes light up a little over his study office desk. ‘The children are polite and at ease with themselves. Before, they could not sit and listen to a story for more than 10 minutes. Now they will sit quietly and enjoy a story all the way through.’
Tear gas fills our eyes, as a barrage of stones bounces off the soldier’s shields. It’s the weekly protest at Bil’in, a village where the Israeli Wall has taken large sections of land from Palestinian locals, and the event has just turned violent.