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Jenin, A Garden in Tent City

by Marylin Robinson

I spent the day going into the Jenin Refugee Camp, first to Tent City, I call it, tagging along to watch the children and the adults talk of their horrific experiences during the days of the Israeli invasion. In describing Tent City, the UN offering of 64 pitched tents of which only 6 are in use as of the present time is disgraceful and inhumane.

Yes, it was a great idea to at least provide tents but, in doing so, they created a community. This in my estimation creates a responsibility for the UN. This community however, lacks a few basic needs such as: toilet areas, areas to go bathe, wash and dry clothes, wash dishes and utensils; areas to eat, and food (remember these are people not only displaced from their homes which have been either bombed, bulldozed or demolished by gunfire or set ablaze, they also do not have work/jobs, sources of income).

They received some clothing at first, some food, some money but basic needs such as those described above are not provided. The UN has a center in the camp where people go requesting help and services, fill out forms, then, are told the UN personnel will see what they can do. That is why only 6 tents are occupied at the camp; simply said, human beings cannot live in this condition and stay healthy. Many of the people are living with relatives in conditions already cramped before their arrival. The 6 families remaining in Tent City have no relatives to stay with or the relatives have no where to fit them in.

In the middle of the second row of tents is a neatly placed, small, circular stone rimmed garden area with the UN flag planted in the middle with flowers blooming in several colors. They took the time to create this area to let everyone know the UN was there.

Today, I also went to the government hospital and met with a group of men who described the scene in the parking lot where 40 bodies were found lying under a heap of dirt bulldozed over them since the hospital morgue was full. Discovery of the bodies was due to the exposure of a hand found reaching out from the dirt pile.

I also went to Ground Zero again in the center of the camp, taking pictures and meeting with adults but mainly children who freely talked with me about their feelings and experiences during the invasion. They would hold my hand while they talked.

Afterwards, I asked each one their names and ages, feebly repeating their names in Arabic. I told them I would adopt them and become their second mamma if they agreed. A resounding yes, and it was official. I adopted a few more beautiful faces with warm, loving eyes. As I touched each ones head and caressed their faces, they would say, I love you, Marilyn.

In my feeble Arabic, I said ana bahebik back to them. It is supposed to be I love you in Arabic. I meant it. I will never forget them. They are etched on my soul.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment (they don’t know about yet) with the UN in the camp. I want to find out why a garden area was provided but, a place to even bathe or go to the toilet was not. I expect miracles.

Marilyn Robinson is one of four members of the Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace who have joined internationals in solidarity with Palestinians nonviolently resisting Israel’s illegal military occupation. More on their trip at:

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