Jalazone Refugee Camp

Today my friend Khaled, who I met at capoeira, showed me round Jalazone Camp where he lives.  Jalazone is home to around 40,000 refugees who fled their homes after the Arab-Israeli war broke out in 1948.

Many of the refugees, including Khaled’s family, were from Beit Nabala which is now part of Israel.  The older generations of Khaled’s family own the land that Ben Gurion airport is now built on, but they had to flee it due to the war.

The land the camp is built on has been leased by UNRWA for 99 years.  At first the camp was 0.5km but it has now expanded to be around 1km.

The camp started as tents and the refugees were told this was a temporary solution until they could return!  Soon after this concrete structures started to be built.  Building began as one room for each family.  Homes are built upwards due to space restrictions and expanding families.  When a family member gets married and has children another room will be built for the new family.

I saw many children playing in the streets.  Some children here throw stones, but they don’t mean this in an aggressive way, they simply want to play but don’t know how to communicate this.

There are two community centres in the camp.  Here there is a play room for the children, library, computer room and also space for music lessons.

On the edge of the camp are the two UNRWA schools.  One boys school and one girls school.  There are around 1400 children in one school! That’s about 55 children per class with one teacher.  Children can only attend school either in the morning or afternoon due to the amount of students.

Nearby is the settlement of Bet El; the second biggest settlement in the West Bank.

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