Maybe it’s not futile

I actually heard part one of this story when it aired.  This part:

Mohammed Taha is pushed to school by his brother Amjad

You can see Mohammed and Amjad’s school from their front door, about 200 yards away, just down the alley.

When I was there last week the school’s windows were catching the morning sun as Mohammed, eight, teetered in the entrance of his home, holding on to the doorframe.

He has cerebral palsy, so his big brother Amjad, 12, parks his wheelchair, puts on the brake and lifts him in.

He’s been doing it since Mohammed started school two years ago.

They wave goodbye to their mother and set off.

Concrete barrier

But they don’t turn down the alley to get to school, which should be only two minutes away, even for a boy in a wheelchair.

About the time that Mohammed was born, the Israeli army blocked the alley with a high concrete barrier.

Last week Mrs Taha told the BBC that the Israelis had ignored requests to open it to make it easier for him to get to school.

The barrier was put there by the army, to make life easier and safer for the Jewish settlers who sometimes use the street on the other side.

A small community of Israelis lives in the centre of Hebron, in defiance of international laws that forbid an occupying power to settle its own people on the territory it has captured.

A strong force of Israeli combat troops protects the settlers, and has imposed years of restrictions on the Palestinians who live near them.

Anger and hatred simmer on both sides. Both sides recall massacres: of Jews in 1929, of Palestinians in 1994.

So we filmed the boys going to school. Instead of the direct route, Amjad had push him up into the tangle of alleys to take him the long way round.

Hebron is a city of steep hills. Luckily Amjad is a strong boy, and judging by his shoulders, the workout he had been getting every school day for two years was making him stronger all the time.

It’s your standard Holy Land fiasco, right?  Another day, another couple of lives turned upside-down. We’ve been hearing variations on this story all our lives.  Nobody wins, and it’s all a big mess.  The very worst of humanity, played out in the cradle of civilization.  So it was mostly out of curiosity to see the boys that I clicked this small link on the BBC.

About here, things got less depressing.

The morning after the pictures of the two boys were broadcast by the BBC, Palestinian workers employed by the Israeli civil administration turned up at Mohammed Taha’s alley and demolished the wall.

They went back to depressing after that, of course — it’s still the same place, with the same problems.  But that little story on the BBC did something!  It actually shamed a nation into action.  Given the atrocities that occur every day under their noses, I would have laid money on these “leaders” having no sense of accountability or compassion left (and for that matter, I fear their actions here had little to do with either, and much more to do with PR).  But whatever their motives, the result is that two little boys can get to school without hiking all over the city.

It’s not often we see the direct consequences of our actions (unless it’s in a bad way, like setting down a glass too close to the table edge).  One reporter and his crew, covering a story that, while unique in its own way, is but one in a nationwide mosaic of suffering, aired without any more fanfare than any other piece, actually made a difference.  And he got to report on that difference — how rewarding is that?  In the midst of the massive clusterf**k that is everything associated with the Palestinian-Israeli relationship, we just got proof that what we say matters.  The governments may appear to be wrapped up in their own little feuds, but they’re conscious of world opinion, and — apparently — they care about it.

And that means that hope isn’t lost.

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1 Comment

  1. freundlyfolk said,

    November 13, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    hope has never been entirely lost…it’s just been blocked out by giant walls of fear, ignorance and apathy. maybe it’s about time more people started knocking down walls…


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