Podcast From the Mouths of Babes – Bethlehem Youth Radio


Conditions in the camps are cramped and under-serviced


The Israeli settlement of Gilo (far left) sits on the other side of the Barrier, in close proximity to the Palestinian towns of Beit Jala and al Walaja. The settlement was built inside the West Bank, in contravention of international law.

From the mouths of babes…Radio Lajee is made by Palestinian youth refugees aged 11-22yrs, at the Aida refugee camp.

Aida Refugee Camp, established in 1950, near the West Bank gives voice to the kids and youth of the refugee population. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics reports that the camp held a population of approximately 3,260 refugees just in 2006, the UNRWA, state the population was approximately 5,498 refugees at the end of 2014. Unlike the situation at the Jenin refugee camp, the Aida refugees reportedly practice non-violent opposition to the Israeli occupation. In October 2015, at dusk, a video filmed on his iPhone by a resident of the Aida Refugee Camp, Yazan Ikhlayel, captured a megaphone address made from an Israeli military vehicle during a raid into the camp. The speech warned residents that, if they did not desist from stone throwing they would be gassed to death -children, youths and the aged. Referring apparently to the arrest of Qassan Abu Aker, the speaker added that one of the arrested would be killed as the residents looked on if the throwing did not stop. Defense for Children International (DCI), Palestine Branch, has reported that Israeli soldiers have killed 41 children in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, since the current uprising began in Palestine, in October, 2015.

Pope Benedict XVI visited the refugee camp during his Middle East pilgrimage visit to Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories in May 2009. He said that the refugees lived in “precarious and difficult conditions” and that “It is tragic to see walls still being erected”

The camp was in the news as the kids made a hole in the Barrier to access a green space on the other side, the army came to the camp with weapons to fix the wall.

As presented by the UNRWA: “This is Aida camp, near the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Established in 1950 by refugees from the Jerusalem and Hebron areas, Aida today hosts over 4,700 people. The camp has not grown along with the refugee population, and is severely overcrowded.
The Israeli-built West Bank Barrier, completed in the Bethlehem region in recent years, sealed the area off from neighbouring Jerusalem. The Barrier abuts Aida camp, and is clearly visible from the playground of the UNRWA boys’ school. Girls attend the UNRWA school in the neighbouring town of Beit Jala.
Photo by Dana Jones, copyright 2013.

A boy greeted a pilgrimage group to the Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, Palestine. Photo by Dana Jones, copyright 2013.

In the school library, the boys are creating a storyboard. Later, they will act the story out in drama class. “The idea is to get them out of their normal routine,” says headmaster Fathi Samour. “I want to give them some space to be creative.” As the camp is severely crowded, the UNRWA school playground gives young people some much-needed space to play, but Aida school was severely damaged during the second intifada, when the camp experienced particular hardship. Twenty-nine homes were destroyed by Israeli military incursions.

The camp is fully linked to municipal electricity and water grids, but the sewage and water networks are poor. At 43 per cent, unemployment is a problem in Aida. Many residents of the camp used to work in Israel, and have been badly affected by restrictions on access to the Israeli labour market.

 Nearly surrounded by the Israeli Barrier, this small refugee community is finding it increasingly difficult to support itself, physically and economically. The effect is increased hardship and uncertainty for the people of Aida.