In the midst of August about 85 Palestinian children and their parents celebrated the freedom and endless vista of sea and sky. Instead of their daily travel to one of the Jerusalem hospitals for dialysis, chemotherapy or radiation, they crossed the checkpoint and got on a bus that took them to the Tel Baruch beach in Tel Aviv, where they were welcomed by an enthusiastic group of Humans Without Borders volunteers.
The breaking out of regulations, controls, and an exhausting routine, transformed our people – for a few hours – into happy relaxed individuals. Right off the buses, children rushed into the water, some in bathing suits and some fully clothed, all bubbling with excitement. Most cannot swim, as they have never had the opportunity to learn. They
don’t know just how dangerous the sea can be in these regions, so the volunteers formed a human barrier along the rope that the life guards had strung out and kept a careful eye on the young crowd. Other volunteers took kids that are unable to stand in their arms and rocked them in the water endlessly, to the joy of everyone.
The parents meanwhile settled themselves in lounge chairs next to the water or under big umbrellas. They enjoyed the breeze, the sound of the crash of waves, the delicious food prepared by Alya from Jaffa, the company of each other and of the volunteers – the lack of language is easily overcome by good intentions – to make this day a perfect day. There is absolutely no substitute for these interpersonal encounters. The ingrained, internalized images, which everyone seems to hold, simply wither into a nothingness.
This was the fourth trip to the sea that Humans Without Borders has organized and the third supported by Children of Peace. Until Palestinian families will be able to travel freely to the sea by themselves, we will continue this minor effort toward a bit of normalcy.
It is not always obvious just how important it is for these families – with children decimated by life-threatening diseases – to be able to cut themselves off from the dreary and oppressed lives they live, even for half a day.
Humans Without Borders was represented by a core of our regular volunteers and a few of their almost-adult children, and by young people from the Hand-in-Hand school, the only institute in Jerusalem where Palestinian and Israeli children learn together. Two of them, who graduated this spring and have been with HWB in the past, declared they will be at every event, no matter what!