Angela Hutchinson


The Misled Youth


Violence is everywhere we look in today’s world.  These displays reach out to individuals of every age, race, and sex.  All forms of the media expose the general public to violent behaviors.  We are barely able to listen to music, open a newspaper or turn the television on without hearing or seeing some sort violent act.  Even when you look at children’s movies, there is almost always an element of evil within the plot.  In a way we are teaching everyone, but especially children, that conflict is somewhat acceptable and a part of every-day life.


The conflict in the West Bank has been  taking place for decades.  Not only has this been problematic for the adults in the community, but it has adversely affected the children.  The children in Palestine do not know any better than what they are taught, and they are taught to hate the Israelis in school, at home and by friends.  If this is what they are learning from the entire community, there is no way to break the cycle of hatred and teach them peace.


            In an article from Aljazeera.Net,  Marwa, a thirteen year old Palestinian girl, talked about how she hated the wall that is being constructed to separate Palestine and Jerusalem.  She then said, “Once there is peace, we will destroy it.”  That quote alone shows the mentality that most children are taught to have.  Their hate is so deeply embedded that at a young age, they believe there cannot be peace.


Not only do they believe there can be no reconciliation between the two groups, but they are suffering from severe emotional problems, according to Yoad Ghanadreh who oversees  psychological support programmes for the United Nations.  These kids are suffering from psychosomatic disorders, depression and have trouble concentrating because they are living in constant fear of not only what is currently happening, but what will happen in the future.  Ghanadreh also said that “Violence outside has become a reference.  It’s part of our lives and reproduced by the children at school and at home.” 


Psychological assistance has been made available in 95 schools, 30 clinics and in 150 community centres due to the conflict.  Dwalt Siam who is a social worker said “ Children use black and grey colours a lot as if that was the only thing coming out of them.  They tend to draw weaponry and armour.” 


As well as their emotional state being affected, their education is also suffering.  As a result of the controversy , the children of Palestine have missed  almost 1,500 school days in the last few years.  Rana, a thirteen year old girl at a playground stated, “Sometimes we can’t go to school because of curfews.  Sometimes, soldiers will raid Qalandiya and Ram Allah and we’ll be stuck inside the classroom.”  In addition nearly, 2,000 children in Palestine alone have been arrested and interrogated and 337 are currently in jail.  Within the last four years 670 youths have died, most of them Palestinian. 


The West Bank is a very unstable, violent area that is not suitable for children.  While I didn‘t see violence of this magnitude when growing up, I witnessed violence nonetheless.  For the majority of my childhood years I grew up in Oceanside, California, which is located in the southern portion of California, between Los Angeles and San Diego.  Southern California is laden with many different gangs.  My sister’s friend, our next-door neighbor Stevie, was part of Mesa, which was a gang made of mostly Mexican individuals.  It wasn’t that I saw many things happening on my street, but violence was everywhere I turned.  There were always homicides that normally had some sort of gang  motivation and there was one incident that I can remember clearly. 


My sister’s school, El Camino High School, experienced a riot.  Prior to the riot there was a shooting of a member of Mesa by a Crip.  The shooting took place outside of school, but due to the number of students who were in a gang or affiliated with members of the gangs in El Camino, people began to take action inside the classroom.  The Members of Mesa began writing “FUCK THE N******!” in the books because a majority of the Crips were black.  When the Crips saw this, they knew it was in retaliation to the shooting, and the riot began. 


I clearly remember how I felt when I heard the news.  Honestly, I wasn’t all that worried.  I was fairly young and didn’t completely understand what was going on at the time.  Later on when it was explained to me, I became upset because I realized that something could have happened to my sister or one of her friends during the riot.  That really opened my eyes to the type of people we were living with and around. 


I remember on New Year’s Eve, we couldn’t go outside.  We had to stay in our house, away from the windows, and preferably in a room located toward the center of the house.  At the stroke of midnight people would go outside and fire their guns, so you had to be cautious of stray bullets.  The gangs were extremely prominent, and each of them had their own colors.  You wouldn’t want to go outside if you had a bandana on or if you were wearing two colors that supported two different gangs.  They saw it as a sign of disrespect and you would be hassled for it.


Palestine and the area where I grew up are similar.  Children in both areas are taught at young ages that a life of violence is acceptable and they are urged to take the same path as the people with whom they are associated.  These children are being taught by others that this is the only lifestyle suitable for them.  When you are young, you’re very impressionable and it is easy to have an influence on a child.  Adults need to realize that they are not only reinforcing their own bad behaviors, but teaching future generations to put their energy into violent behaviors.  These are the same individuals who need to accept their responsibilities and teach the youth of today, and the coming generations, that we can live in peace despite our many differences.