JERASH — After visiting the Gaza Refugee Camp in Jerash on Tuesday, pro-Palestine activists who were denied entry to the West Bank on Sunday said Israel “has not succeeded in hindering their mission” to support the Palestinian people.
“Here, we saw another Palestine as well. The living conditions are very difficult and we can say our mission has not failed,” Walid Atallah, an activist from the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign, told The Jordan Times.
During the visit, the activists handed out pencils, notebooks, toys and games to children at the Gaza camp, 50 kilometres north of Amman.
Originally, the activists had planned to deliver these donations to Palestinian children in Bethlehem, but Israel denied them entry to the West Bank on Sunday: their third attempt to enter the occupied territories after being turned down by Israel in April 2012 and July 2011.
Atallah told The Jordan Times that campaigners had chosen the Gaza camp in particular, because they had heard it had the “worst living conditions” of all Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan.
“We visited the camp last week and we saw they have administrative and financial problems. We visited a women’s centre and a centre for people with disabilities and learned that most people do not hold citizenship, which makes it difficult for them to obtain jobs and education.”
According to the activists, the school supplies were bought through fundraising events and personal contributions by members of the Welcome to Palestine campaign.
Nine-year-old Haneen Khader said she was happy to receive a gift just before schools reopened.
“I have a nice bag with beautiful pens, pencils, toys and other things. It is very nice. We are starting school soon.”
Mohammad Saleh from the Gaza Hashem Club, which coordinated the activists’ visit, said that poverty prevented camp residents from receiving a good education.
“So many people in the camp are poor. Most people do not hold citizenship, which means they cannot have public sector jobs. They can only work in agriculture and crafts. Families cannot afford to send their children to universities, and the cycle goes on.”
Other camp residents complained of limited educational facilities.
“Students can study until the tenth grade at UNRWA’s schools, which are normally overcrowded. You are talking about 40 to 50 students per classroom,” said a resident of the camp who did not give his name.
“Then, they move to public schools. The girls have one here in the camp, but the boys have to take a bus to Jerash, which most families cannot afford. Many people drop out of school.”
According to the UNRWA website, the Gaza camp, also known as Souf camp, is home to 20,000 Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA’s most recent statistics describe the camp’s major problems as “overcrowding”, “increased divorce” and a “lack of income-generating projects”.
Welcome to Palestine activists told journalists on Monday that they were planning to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in Egypt sometime this year.
The activists also said they were planning a protest outside the Israeli embassy to demonstrate against Israel’s decision not to let them enter Palestine.
They are also planning to picket the French embassy on the same day to denounce France’s “silence” against Israel’s decision, as many members of the campaign are French citizens, activists said.