Reimagining Childhood in the West Bank

By Izzeddin Hawamda

Today, I will drive from Nablus to Haifa. I will get a rental car and plan out my road trip with precision. I will have a good idea of when I will be arriving in Haifa. I can do that now because the checkpoints are removed from the West Bank. I won’t be stopped at five different checkpoints, only to get to the sixth one only to be told to go back because I don’t have the proper permits to enter Israel.

Today, I am going to go for a bike ride, I will be using the alternative mountain highway. Until now, Palestinians have not been allowed to use theses designated ‘settlers highways’. But today, I will bike up and down the hilly roads. I will greet every tree, have tea with every cloud, and touch the face of the soil.

Today, I will take a long walk up to my grandparents’ land that we haven’t seen since ’67. There used to be a settlement on our land but with the removal of the barriers, I am free to visit. Today, I will plant a lemon tree and an olive tree. I will sing the song of sage!

Today, I will visit Jerusalem, I will start with the west side of the city. For over 40 years Arabs have not been allowed to enter this quarter of the city. But today, Jerusalem is just Jerusalem. I will have a meal, preferably shakshuka, with a Westerner, a Jew and a grandmother.

Today, I will swim in the Dead Sea and I won’t notice any flags or signs indicating where the Arab or the Jewish beaches are. I will swim freely, anywhere the current takes me. I will write my name on the face of the sand and share a secret with the sun.

Today, I will go to a Hebrew class at a local Palestinian university. Until now, Hebrew wasn’t allowed to be taught in Palestinian schools, despite the similarities between Arabic and Hebrew. I will learn to write a memoir about the face of this land. I will write it in Arabic and Hebrew so the world can see how the damask rose blossoms into a bridge between our worlds.

Today, I will travel freely from my city to another, I won’t need to carry my green Palestinian ID with me as I have before. I will travel freely. I will greet the mountain side and write poems on the shadows of the tall pines. I will look for an old brick home and open its window, inviting the sun to enter, warming up the old walls of the house. I will ignite my feelings in a broken rose so the word ‘Salam’ can be served from its leaves, so a bird can come and transfer pieces of my story all around the world.

Today, I will spend time at the wall. Oh, the wall! It has stood as the barrier between me and the sun! Today, I will open a thousand windows in the wall. I will paint each window with a different colour: green for the tall grass, yellow for the saffron, and red for blood as it flows through my veins. I will feel my heart merge with the Mediterranean Sea, solidifying that we are the ‘Ramush Aleayan’, the protectors of Palestine. That we are one.


Izzeddin Hawamda was born and raised in a rural village just outside of the city of Nablus in the West Bank, Palestine. He has lived in Canada for over 15 years and currently works as a high school teacher. He is passionate about respecting the agency of locals in the peace-building process and about examining the role of education in the development of conflict transformation strategies. He is currently working toward a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba. Over the past year, Izzeddin has been engaged in working locally in Winnipeg to open doors to broaden awareness of the conflict in Israel and Palestine through a focus on narrative, dialogue, and Compassionate Listening. Izzeddin and a Jewish-Canadian colleague have been speaking publicly about the power of dialogue and the importance of sharing, listening, and respecting diverse perspectives and narratives.