The Friends of Deir Ibzi’a is made up of a group of activists who traveled to Palestine as volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement. All were involved in the creation of a children’s summer camp which took place in the village of Deir Ibzi’a in July-August of 2002. (A number of the volunteers have since returned to Deir Ibzi’a in summer of 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007.) The camp itself was the vision of Deeb Kamal, a member of the local community acutely aware of a need to both lift the children’s spirits and create a lifeline of hope via an investment in learning and education.
Within a three week period, over 300 children were able to participate in a program dedicated to making art, studying English, drama and environmental science, playing games and sports and singing songs. This took place against the backdrop of a just previous, 120-day Israeli army invasion of Deir Ibzi’a and 32 nearby villages. This state of siege and curfew ended just two days prior to the summer camp’s inception. The camp’s organizers requested the presence of internationals as it was not known in advance that the Israeli Occupying Forces planned to depart the village and it was almost certain that the IOF would have tried to prevent the summer camp from taking place had the military stayed. It has repeatedly been case that the presence of internationals has served to lessen the risk to Palestinians as Palestinians attempt normal activities that are deemed illegal — from breaking curfew to hold a peaceful protest, crossing a checkpoint to seek medical care or hosting a children’s summer camp.
In high contrast to tanks, troops and weaponry, the arrival of colorful volunteers from the US, England, Sweden and Denmark, a large array of art supplies, and Deeb’s multitude of inspired ideas all served to vastly uplift the children’s spirits. The camp was an incredible success from which came the idea of creating an ongoing set of educational programs for the children of the village. The Friends of Deir Ibzi’a formed as a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting this Palestinian led project. Friends of Deir Ibzi’a exists under the sponsorship of the Middle East Children’s Alliance.www.mecaforpeace.org
To those of us who live lives of relative safety and prosperity, it was profoundly eye opening to witness that which the Palestinian people experience on a day-to-day basis. The brutality of collective punishment routinely touches every one of the nearly four million people living in the Occupied Territories. Extreme strictures, violence and humiliation are omnipresent elements of their lives. To say that they live, to one degree or another, under military rule implies that with rule comes some level of order, however severe. Perhaps one has to see for themselves to be able to believe how very random and capricious are the acts of cruelty and harm meted out against nonviolent civilians. Yet those of us who came as volunteers and visitors were greeted by our Palestinian hosts with an incredible level of warmth, welcome and hospitality which utterly belied the intensity of the conditions under which the people live.
This web site hosts wonderful photos, artwork and children’s writings from the Summer-2002 trip along with an explanation of the educational programs which have been created and the ways in which these programs can be supported.