Posted on 6 September 2016
 as part of 

YMCA psychosocial project targets most vulnerable children in H2

Main route into the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2), January 2016.© Photo by UNICEF
Main route into the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron City (H2), January 2016.© Photo by UNICEF

Since 1997, Israel has exercised full control over 20 per cent of Hebron city, known as H2. The population of H2 includes approximately 40,000 Palestinians living alongside several hundred Israeli settlers, who reside in four separate settlements. Access restrictions imposed by the Israeli authorities in H2, compounded by systematic harassment by Israeli settlers and, occasionally, by Israeli forces, have resulted in the displacement of thousands of Palestinians and a deterioration in the living conditions of those who remain.

Hebron has been one of the areas most affected by the escalation of violence which began in October 2015. R.A. is a 12-year-old boy who lives in the H2 area of Hebron in very close proximity to checkpoint 160. The boy is the eldest of six siblings who have witnessed violent incidents.

R.A. attends the UNRWA Boys’ School in H2 and has to pass through the checkpoint twice a day. During the most recent peak of violence, the family was exposed to tear gas fired at children who were throwing stones at the nearby checkpoint.

The continuous restrictions on access and movement in H2 have had a negative impact on the family and created an atmosphere of anxiety and fear. R.A.’s mother is afraid to send her children to school and has kept them at home on many occasions. The academic performance of R.A. and his younger brother, aged eight, has deteriorated significantly due to continuous skipping of classes, lack of concentration and stress.

In Hebron, the YMCA runs a project to provide rapid psychosocial support to conflict-affected children and adults. The project is targeting R.A. among its activities for the most traumatized children. Nominated by his school counsellor, R.A. has participated in debriefing sessions on a regular basis. R.A.’s mother said that his self-confidence had clearly improved and he had become less violent. “My son surprises me with his attitude towards dealing with stress. Now he calms me down when he sees me angry.”

R.A. has made new friends and learned new games and activities that he shares with his siblings at home. He is excited to return to school and has promised his father to get better marks this year. He says, “I now know when to play and when to study. I want to be an architect when I grow up; I want to build houses for families.”