Fatima is one of three girls we spoke to in late 2017 who had moved to Burin school from Madama Girls School (in the neighbouring village) in order to follow the Science stream. They all study Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Maths – a useful basis for Fatima, 18 years old and one of a family of six, who aims to become a dentist.
“I love reading and listening to music in Arabic and English on Youtube. I also help my grandmother in her house. But I feel frustrated by our situation. The last attack here from the settlers was about one month ago. There can be 2 or 3 attacks a month. The size of the attacks used to be much larger than it is now. Once, about 4 years ago, there were about 50 settlers right at the school.”
Since speaking to her, several more frightening attacks have taken place.
This is what 17-year old Ahmed told us; “I feel it is dangerous living in the village (Burin) and sometimes it feels unsafe. I am scared for my parents because of the settlers, they are very dangerous. When the soldiers come into the school it ruins our education, they do not come in for any reason.
This is my last year in school, then I would like to go to An-Najah University in Nablus to study English and become a translator. When I finish university I would like to go to the United States. My uncle has lived there for eight years, he works in a supermarket. I hope for the future that Palestine can be free, but we can only achieve this by sticking together.”
Hassan, a pupil at Burin Community School, was 15 when we spoke to him in October 2018. “I live near the school, about 5 minutes’ walk away. I have three brothers and one sister – she has finished university but cannot find work. My older brother is a carpenter in Burin. Our dad is a doctor working in Kuwait – but he only comes back for one month in the year so we don’t see him often.
I don’t want to work. I like English and American films and watch them on TV. I haven’t had any problems with settlers yet.”
A very articulate fellow pupil, Aya Khalifa, 17, told us a rather different story (she didn’t want her photo online, which we respect).
“My family have lived in Burin for many generations. I like living in the village but because of the settlements I might leave to live somewhere else when I am older. I would like to study medicine at university because this is the best way I can help the people here. My favourite subject is physics and I find the science classes very interesting.
I want to be the first person in my family to study abroad, maybe in Europe or the United States, but I will come back to Palestine to work as a doctor to help my friends and all of the community if they are in need.
School can be very difficult because the settlers have attacked it many times. This is very scary. They have come during the exam times and thrown rocks at the windows and smashed them. This can ruin our exams and stop us getting a good education. We will still work hard though and get the best education we can.
I like watching American films and television shows. I watch them online and learn English through them. My favourite film is Scream, which is very scary!”
Here are the words of Saif, interviewed in October 2018 when he was 15 – another expressive student at Burin Community School suffering from the Occupation.
“My name means sword. I love living in Burin but I also have fear living here. My house is very close to the outpost and we have been attacked several times. Last Thursday settlers came to the house and smashed windows. My younger sister was at home at the time and she was very scared. There was no reason for them to come.
In school I like maths, it is my favourite subject. I would like to study nursing when I finish school because I want to help people.
I love England and would like help from the people in England in ending the occupation. I want the checkpoints to have stopped by the time I go to university because they are scary and I do not want to face them.”
These impish young boys are cousins Sader, 14 and Ahmed, 13, pictured while helping with the harvest – hence their grubby T-shirts! They get pocket-money for their work which involves collecting stray olives from the ground, stretching out tarpaulins and filling sacks. They started this the previous year during free time from school – either Fridays or after lessons. Sader says defiantly, “When we are picking olives, we are working to defend our land”.
Both of them attend Burin Community School and live nearby. As cousins, they share the same house with 30 other members of their family – it is small, so conditions are cramped.
Their favourite subjects at school are English (Sader) and Maths (Ahmed), while their hopes for the future are typically ambitious: Sader wants to be an engineer, and Ahmed a rally-driver.
Meanwhile they manage to enjoy themselves by going to the village in the evening to play pool and in summer to the swimming-pool in Huwwara, a larger village nearby. Unfortunately at certain times, settler attacks and high tension in Burin mean they cannot go to the village at night.
Hafez, a pupil at Madama Boys School was 13 when we spoke to him in 2017. His favourite subject is Arabic because “All the life is in Arabic and it’s a really special, poetic language.” Like many other students, he is ambitious; “I want to be a doctor, I’m not sure which kind yet. I want to study at Al Najar University (Nablus).”
Discussing settlers, he says, “Our family’s olive trees are on the outskirts of the village. When our family goes to pick olives, we try to avoid picking on a Saturday as this is the day the settlers are not working and more likely to come and make trouble on our land. I feel sad when I see the settlers.”
One of his fellow-students, Omar, whose ambition is to be an English teacher, added “Once during Land Day (the annual commemoration of 30 March 1976 when Arabs in Israel made their first major protest) the army came to our land and forced us away. Last year we lost 80 of our family’s trees on land near the Bracha settlement. The trees were burnt by the settlers. This has happened three times now to our family. It makes me feel very angry when these things happen. The situation has calmed down a bit since then and there are fewer incidents. But we still hear the army during training practice at night outside the village and firing their guns. This is really disturbing and it affects our concentration and makes it hard to study. “