Madaa Creative Center holds successful activity for children in Baten el-Hawa, despite interruptions from Israeli soldiers
October 13, 2010

The crew of the Madaa Creative Center, in cooperation with the Palestinian national  theater, set up an activity for children yesterday in the Baten el-Hawa  neighborhood of Silwan. The activity included various games for children, which the crew transported by bus through the narrow alleys of Baten el-Hawa, the most tense and densely populated neighborhood in Silwan. In Baten el-Hawa, dozens of children of all ages eagerly awaited the crew's arrival. "The children were so happy," said Athar Sabbah, coordinator of  cultural activities for the Madaa Creative Center. "We knew that children in Baten el-Hawa were in dire need of these sort of entertainment activities, but the huge crowd that greeted and welcomed our bus only doubled our belief in the importance and necessity of our work in Silwan, and in Baten el-Hawa in particular." The activity took place in the Rajaby alley, a few meters from the settlement outposts in Baten el-Hawa, and lasted for two hours, with crew and parents working hard to ensure the event functioned safely and successfully. However, tensions here high due to the presence of members of the Israeli military, who drew the attention of the children and were widely considered a provocation. Parents and members of the crew tried to talk to the soldiers and demanded that they leave the area in order to prevent any clashes between the children and soldiers that the parents could not control. Israeli soldiers remained at the site for a few minutes watching the activity and then left the area, allowing the children to continue playing. After a short time, however, the soldiers returned, causing tensions to rise once again. According to onlookers, one of the soldiers then raised a tear-gas launcher and aimed it in the direction of the children, but staff and parents quickly intervened and prevented the problem. "It seemed very clear how happy the children were and how much they enjoyed the activity," said Muna Hasan of the Silwan Information Center, "but at the same time it was very difficult for those supervising to ensure the continued safety of the children, given the unnecessary presence of the Israeli soldiers who guard the settlement outposts." She added that "although these activities are being attended by parents and children in front of their own homes, finding an area in Baten el-Hawa that is safe for children remains extremely difficult, due to the presence of settlement outposts in the heart of this crowded Palestinian neighborhood." Describing the nature of their work in Baten el-Hawa, Athar Sabbah explained that "the Madaa Creative Center develops rehabilitation programs for the children of Silwan, particularly in those areas that are the most tense because of the security situation. The Center's primary goal is provide a safe space for children away from the street, where they can express themselves in ways that are nonviolent and suited to their needs and identities." She continued, "We started in Wadi Hilweh, but today we focus our work in many areas of Silwan, and we plan to organize more activities in Baten el-Hawa. It is often difficult for the children of Baten el-Hawa, for example, to access the Center's building in Wadi Hilweh, so we decided we would bring our activities to their neighborhood." Visit Madaa Silwan Creative Center website: http://www.madaasilwan.org [slideshow]