Children’s festival: We swear to return to Palestine [Archives:2008/1138/Culture]

March 17 2008
Children depicting a scene from the trial of Ahlam Al-Tamimi where she was sentenced to 16 life imprisonment terms, throughout the ordeal she never stopped smiling.
Children depicting a scene from the trial of Ahlam Al-Tamimi where she was sentenced to 16 life imprisonment terms, throughout the ordeal she never stopped smiling.
Ahlam Al-Tamimi
Ahlam Al-Tamimi
Nisreen Shadad
For Yemen Times

Under the slogan, “We swear to return to Palestine,” the Palestinian Women's Union in Yemen held its eighth festival for Palestinian children on March 13 under the auspices of Sheikh Sadiq Abdullah Bin Hussein Al-Ahmar.

At the festival, Palestinian children sang zealous songs conveying a message to the world that they will continue their struggle generation after generation. Their words and their tunes worked together to declare that Israel will never succeed in obtaining from them an admission regarding Israel. “We'll fight with bombs, daggers, stones and even our nails,” as one singer expressed.

According to Um Abdulrahman Moneer, head of the Palestinian Women's Union, “We must plant the idea of a return culture, meaning Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland, in the hearts and minds of our generation.” For that reason, the union held the festival with the slogan, “We swear to return.”

“However, Israel has declared that returning Palestinians to their homeland means the end of its dream; therefore, they struggle persistently to make our land without a nation and a nation without a land,” Moneer added. She continued, “Further, they aim to not allow refugees to return, but Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their land and no one has the right to bargain with that right, which can't be bought or sold.”

“Through Israel's separation barrier and international collusion, millions of Palestinian refugees have been prevented from returning to their homes, yet the five million still in Palestine will struggle until their last breath,” Moneer declared.

She went on, “The greatness of a nation that is disarmed and deprived of food, water and shelter emerges in its strong will to survive and defend its rights. They sought to burn and annihilate us, but they have been surprised because this nation instead has emerged stronger and greater in order to protect its land. This is a nation that has nothing except its faith in Allah and in the right to return to its extorted land. “This right is an issue in the nation's belief and future and no one has the right to dominate it,” Moneer added.

While honored guest Jamilah Al-Shamti was unable to attend the festival due to the siege of Gaza, she did participate by phone. Via mobile, she said, “I'm speaking today from Gaza, which is being bombarded by air, sea and land. They may strip us of our homes and cut off our electricity and water, but they can't cut off our faith and our will to survive!”

Continuing her remarks, she said, “Our faith and our will broke the siege and we burned them before they burned us. With bombs made with our own hands, we reached Dimona [meaning the Negev Nuclear Research Center located in the Negev Desert, approximately 8.5 miles from the town of the same name and some 25 miles from the Jordanian border]. When a Palestinian woman's son kills, she requests his gun to continue his fight and continue on the path that her son adopted.” Al-Shamti added, “I've felt the pulses of Yemeni hearts beating in my heart and, as you know, we'll be strong and never give up!”

As one of the most vital members in Hamas and Harakat Al-Muqawama Al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Resistance Movement, Al-Shamti is in charge of women's affairs and activities in Hamas. With a bachelor's degree in English language and a master's in educational foundations, she also has been a professor at Gaza's Islamic University.

Deputy Culture Minister Najeeba Hadad stated that while Palestinians have endured 60 years of torture, killing and abuse, they still stand tall against such struggles. She added, “Palestinian women represent a great example for Yemeni women because they live in an entirely different world than ours; not a life of fashion and makeup, but a world of heroes and challenges.”

According to Um Ayman, a Palestinian refugee living in Yemen, “Yemenis feel more strongly about the Palestinian cause than other nations. I've visited numerous countries such as Egypt and Jordan, but I've never found people like Yemenis, who share with us both their finances and their sympathies. In other countries, you may find people who are affected and who will give money, but rarely do they shed tears or share our feelings.”

Ramzya Al-Eryani, head of the Yemeni Women's Union, questioned the activities of human rights NGOs when Israel is using everything it has in a genocide against Palestinians.

As Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ahmar stated, “May 15, 1948 was a catastrophic day for Islamic nations and the beginning of the Palestinian struggle.

“Palestinian children teach us that no matter who is he or what he does, the oppressor and occupier will be humiliated before the stone because behind such a stone is a strong will and a great faith.” He went on, “We all are responsible for Palestine. Words and slogans are important, but they still are nothing. Money to support them is necessary, but that is done out of a sense of duty. True support is to feel that the Palestinian cause is ours. The day of its freedom must be the primary issue we're working toward. The Palestinian cause should deprive us of sleep. If we do this, I promise you that Palestine will be free.

“Salahadin Al-Ayyoubi, who united the Arab forces to recapture Jerusalem from the Christian crusaders in the 12th century, refused to smile until he took it back – and he did,” Al-Ahmar noted. “If Palestinian children have given us the best example and taken up the role of defending their land, we must support them in continuing,” he added, “Therefore, I ask the Palestinian union to choose a preparatory committee for a new project regarding child custodians of Palestine.”

The return camp

In a play entitled, “I Swear to Return,” child participants in the festival portrayed Palestinian refugees living in a camp called the return, highlighting the dire circumstances in which such refugees live. They long to live in their homes following 60 years of displacement.

At the end of the play, the children declared that they won't just dream, but they'll follow in the steps of martyrs like Ahmed Yassin, Hassan Al-Banna, Abdulqader Al-Husseini and Izzadeen Al-Masri. They vowed that they will continue struggling until they reach their aim of taking back their land. further promising that Israel will never again raise its flag in their homeland.

As 9-year-old Palestinian actor Abdulrahman Al-Sayyid stated, “This festival isn't a game or some form of entertainment. Because I can't return to Palestine today, I joined this festival so that my word would go out to all Palestinians. I want to tell them that we are with them; be patient and continue fighting because you may succeed.”

With smiles full of confidence and self-esteem, the Palestinian children dream about their future, but that future is linked to the freedom of Palestine. “I dream of becoming a computer specialist and dying for the sake of Allah,” 8-year-old Palestinian actor Ahmed Faiz remarked.

In response, Al-Sayyid piped up, “I hope to become an engineer and then use my knowledge to help the mujahideen in Palestine.”

Ahlam Al-Tamimi

In the play, one actor played Ahlam Al-Tamimi, the first member of Izzadeen Al-Qassam Brigade, the armed wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, to inspire Palestinian refugees to continue their struggle.

Born in Jordan, Al-Tamimi returned to her homeland after completing high school to study journalism in an attempt to use the media to convey the pitiful conditions of Palestinians. Due to her distinctive personality, she was chosen to join Izzadeen Al-Qassam Brigade.

Her most significant act was carried out on Aug. 9, 2001, when she asked Izzadeen Al-Masri to carry a booby-trapped guitar into Jerusalem, after which she returned to Ramallah. Sixteen Jews died and hundreds were injured.

A month later, she was caught and subjected to various forms of torture, after which a court sentenced her to 16 life imprisonment terms, or 1,584 years. The young actor said, “I see you angry in this court, the same anger I and other Palestinians carry in my heart, but our anger is much more than yours.”

Facing her sentence with a smile, Al-Tamimi stated, “I neither acknowledge the legality of this court, nor its existence. I won't address myself, my age or my dream; rather, I'll address it through my actions, which are well known to you.” After several months, Al-Tamimi announced her engagement to her cousin, who also was imprisoned, thereby proving that the one who stole her homeland couldn't steal her smile.