On Wednesday morning, August 5, “Humans without Borders” with the support of the British charity “Children of Peace” arranged for a trip of two busloads of our friends – one from the Bethlehem checkpoint and one from Qalandiya. In all we took 57 children from the Palestinian Authority – undergoing treatment in Israeli hospitals – their sisters and brothers, and about 30 parents to the Tel Baruch beach in north Tel Aviv. The excitement was in the air already on the buses – music, singing and applause and even a little dancing. On the beach we arranged for huge umbrellas, comfortable chairs, mats, inflatable tubes, balls, pails and shovels to play in the sand, and other toys to entertain the kids on the beach.
The children were in the water within minutes. Some of them swam straight away to the rope that marked the perimeter of the permitted swimming area. Others were more hesitant, but quickly joined the cheers and laughter, jumping about and prancing in the water. The last to join the festivities were the parents. For many of them this was their first time in their lives that they had seen the sea and it seemed that, before stepping into the water, they felt the need to stop for a few moments to contend with the experience.
The children under treatment and their families were accompanied by volunteers from “Humans without Borders”. Some arrived early to the beach and some came on the buses. As was the case in previous events, we were assisted by youth from the bilingual Jerusalem school “Hand in Hand”. This time, we were also joined by young volunteers from Abu Ghosh and Ein Rafa who are part of the “Salametkom” organization. These teenage volunteers immediately connected with the kids, played with them and ensued that no difficulties or discomforts were encountered. These young people all speak Arabic and this helped create warm and direct contact with children. There was also a feeling of real intimacy between our volunteers and the parents.
Between swimming in the sea and playing in the sand, everyone enjoyed sweet pastries and cold drinks. A delicious Palestinian-style lunch was prepared by a very pleasant woman from Jaffa, and, as is always the case, we did not forget watermelon and popsicles. We did overlook coffee, but some of the parents brought thermoses with traditional Arab coffee.
After showers and attempts to wash off the sand (as is always the case, it was only partially successful), in the afternoon we returned to the checkpoints. Parents and children did not stop thanking us and telling us how much enjoyed the day. I wish we could go to the beach more than once in the summer, and I wish they would not need us in order to see the sea.