On Saturday 22 May 2021, Sydney held its second rally supporting Palestine and the Palestinians who have been ruthlessly attacked by Israeli forces in Sheikh Jarrah, East of Jerusalem. To many of us who are unfamiliar with Palestine, it is important to understand why Sheikh Jarrah holds a significant place in the hearts of many Palestinians.
Amongst the diaspora of Palestinians living within and outside of Palestine, Sheikh Jarrah is an important city that has been at the centre of contention since 1967. During the six-day war of 1967, Israel captured all of East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah. Now 73 years later, Sheikh Jarrah has once again become the centre of property contention in Palestine whereby Israel has continued with its illegal settlements while pretending to subdue Hamas in order to continue dispossessing Palestinians out of their own homes.
Israeli nationalists have been working hard to replace the Palestinian population in almost every single city of Palestine. Over a period of five decades, a number of Israeli settlements have been built in and adjacent to Sheikh Jarrah displacing many Palestinians. According to UNICEF’s report on Palestine, the recent attacks in Sheikh Jarrah has seen the death toll from the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank increase to 236 martyrs and more than 6,300 wounded. Out of 236 martyrs, 55 were children.
The rally on Saturday represented the many lives lost in Palestine as a result of Israel’s illegal occupation and political agenda to wipe out an entire nation of their basic human rights. I attended the same rally seven years ago and at the time I was pregnant with my daughter. But this year, I took my daughter to the rally so she can also see how children as young as her were murdered for crimes that they did not commit. This year, she participated in the role play.
As I was watching the speakers use their voices to speak so eloquently about their homeland, it moved my heart. As another person who has seen her country in ruins for the last 40 years, I felt the pain in their voices. As they were chanting my eyes moved towards my daughter who was sitting down for the play chanting away: “Free Free Palestine, Free Free Gaza, in our millions in our thousands we are all Palestinians” in her big girl voice.
As a Psychologist, I have seen tremendous amount of pain in young girls who lose their voices and are no longer in positions to fight for their rights let alone fight for a cause that they believe in. But as a mother, I always encourage my daughter to use her big girl voice when something doesn’t fit well with her so she understands the importance of standing up for what’s right and what’s wrong.
As they role played the scenes that would have unfolded in Gaza in the last 11 days and the names of each child was being read, I was moved because those young children who were murdered by the Israeli forces would have been the same age as my daughter. My daughter only participated in the play and I was torn so I can’t even begin to comprehend what mothers or fathers would have gone through in Palestine when they lost their children.
I am a big believer that if we teach our children from a young age to stand against injustices that occur against innocent people than we are raising a generation that is woke. We should be raising our children to speak up against injustices, inequality, and unfair treatment. We should be teaching them the value of using their voices for good. When we teach them to only stand for certain causes than we are not raising compassionate human beings who understands the plight of innocent people.
As adults who have experienced some kind of history, we should be teaching them history. We should refrain from educating them on the historical manifestations of only one culture because every country has a rich culture and history that needs to be taught. Teach them the value and importance of empathy. When we lack empathy, we lack a deeper understanding of how another person feels. Empathy gives children the ability to feel and understand the suffering of another person, and without this, children won’t know how to process their feelings when it comes to someone else’s pain.
At the end of the day, we shouldn’t be raising our children to become complacent in the face of adversity otherwise they will become complicit.