Children in Crisis in a World in Crisis! Report: IBBY Palestine (October 2019 March 2020)

Tuesday 23 February 2021 by Rania

When your hope seems out of sight
Keep the candle burning
All it takes is one steady heart in a world that’s turning
Shine a light and pierce the dark
Keep the candle burning
Keep the candle burning *

Source: LyricFind

Smile, be optimistic!

Introduction/ Current Situation

We will not talk today about children in crisis in Gaza and in Occupied Palestine and few other places. Unfortunately with the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, all the people of the world are in this acute crisis or nightmarish turmoil.

Humanity has now to face this calamity with resilience, cooperation and compassion.
The message of solidarity by IBBY is inspirational and positive. As IBBY members, we will continue our pledge to always bring books and children together overcoming the sad loss, closures and socio economic difficulties.

What is practical and what IBBY suggested as the best available means is to make use of the projects that manage storytelling online or via mobile phones.
Unfortunately this is impossible for our children in Gaza as they do not have computers or smart phones and even little of electricity.

However, the good news that the librarian of Ramallah Municipality children library (Hama) who is also a member of IBBY Palestine wrote to me in response to IBBY’s Solidarity letter I circulated to all members and supporters. Hama wrote saying: Thanks for sharing this with us! We’re as Ramallah Municipality have started an initiative for storytelling, and we are encouraging writers to record some of their writings for children so as to share it on our page.

This was positive as a prominent story teller responded saying that she already has some recorded stories that she will send to her to be posted. Also many web pages of free books to download were shared.

Enclosed is a short video between the father and his child. The child is shocked to hear about the similarity between the Corona situation and the siege of his Gaza; the father agrees but laments the world’s disregard of their seen and obvious sufferings.


Any prospect of COVID-19 spreading in the Gaza Strip is horrific. This is 2020 year, which the United Nations and other international agencies predicted that Gaza would become “uninhabitable.” If Israel’s 13-year blockade and isolation of the strip continued, Gaza’s most basic services and its capacity to sustain itself would collapse. As So Gaza will suffer a double Corona!

Already the number of confirmed Coronavirus cases in the Gaza is nine while dozens of samples are so far under laboratory testing.

All the Occupied Territory is threatened as it has limited means to face COVID-19 pandemic though the authority is trying to take the necessary measures. Palestinians are enduring lockdown, closures and social distancing since the city of Bethlehem was placed in lockdown after the first Palestinian cases of the Coronavirus were discovered (caused by tourists who were treated with others), beginning of March. The authorities announced a state of emergency. However there is a real danger now from the Palestinian laborers working in Israel. Few days ago a woman, south of Ramallah, died as she contracted the disease from her sons who works in Israel, who expelled him refusing to give him any treatment, as is the case with many others. Today 115 cases of Coronavirus are confirmed in Palestine.

The most horrific threat is facing Palestinian prisoners in Israel who sent a humanitarian appeal to the world saying: Save us from Coronavirus before prisons turn into cemeteries. There are more than 5500 Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli jails in very difficult conditions and in a sharp violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Israel is holding 41 Palestinian women prisoners in very difficult conditions, particularly with the heightened concern of the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus disease among prisoners. Now there are more than 183 Palestinian children as security detainees and prisoners in the Israeli military detention. Children are exposed to ill-treatment which is “widespread, systematic, and institutionalized throughout the process,” according to a one report of UNICEF.

Now we need a solid and a loud cry to pressure the Israeli authorities to take immediate action to release all Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons mostly with the rapid global spread of the Coronavirus.

I hope that IBBY, in harmony with its ideals and as one of the defenders of the Children Rights Convention will join the calls to release all Palestinian children detainees amid COVID-19 pandemic.


IBBY Libraries Today

Now the two IBBY libraries are closed in harmony of the closure of schools in the Palestinian Occupied Territory. The children were very upset because the library is their only entertainment and psycho - social relief. It was not clear how useful is the closure as the houses are very crowded and the children are most of the time playing outside mostly in al Shawka area which is a rural village. We encouraged the librarian to facilitate the borrowing and returning of books. Things have to be assessed accordingly.

Activities and News

Various creative activities were implemented almost daily. As described in previous reports. One main activity was an exhibition prepared by the children.

The exhibition included a number of handicraft shapes and personifying the story characters as well as a number of stories enlarged by drawings by the children and a number of the children’s drawings. The corner of getting to know the Palestinian cities, through some information about each city. Children attended the exhibition with their mothers and they expressed their love of the presentation of what they made; they thanked the IBBY for the continuous support, thanking all who is contributing to bring a smile to the faces of their children.

There was a creative writing training in Al Shawka library at the beginning of January 2020. It was implemented by the writer Hani el Salimi. It took place for ten sessions. Attended by children was between 17 children who were between (12-15) years old. The training was very successful and interactive.

Meetings with Writers & Experts

This period was not a very active period. However, there was a very interesting joint meeting organized by Tamer Institute and IBBY Palestine at the end of 2019 meeting and listening to Jim Hojberg and his wife Britta Bitsch.

Jim Hojberg is a Danish librarian and children writer for ages (7–9) who has written 90 stories so far; his first story was published in1981. His stories are beautifully illustrated. Jim spoke about two stories Vitello and Soren Score.

Soren Score was about a boy called Kaj who had dyslexia and fell in love with a girl; but he couldn’t write to her letters, so his best friend wrote them for him. This little boy worked hard on improving himself and became a famous writer for children books. He added that this story reflected his real story.

Brittany who is a librarian, a counselor and a member of IBBY Denmark; moreover; a board member of The International Festival for Children Literature. She spoke about the festivals she attended.

The meeting was a successful, interactive and very interesting.

Some of the difficulties the problem of getting books to reach Gaza. Only part if the books bought could reach Gaza from Ramallah.

Unfortunately there was a bad storm in Gaza and all the sports net and some of children outdoor toys in the playground were damaged.

Samaar Yahia Mohammad (Very talented child)

Extracts from few writings of the children in the Creative writing training, they express their dreams and simple wishes, when asked what they want Santa Clause to bring to them…

The Copybook of Memories

All I want from Santa Clause is a strange copybook of memories …I will write in it everything that happens with me like fear and sadness, the planes that hide in the sky of Al Shawka, the voice of the border dogs, I will write in it about my love for the flower of peas planted behind our house…
Safa’ Barbakh


What I want from Santa Clause is to eradicate the voice of the planes from the sky of Shawka area, we are all scared of the planes because they make a scary sound, and it throws at us things of iron with fire…I like to go every day to the library, but the border soldiers prevent us by firing bullets and gas bombs…
I want from Santa Clause to end this fear from our area so that we can move freely and with love and to visit each other and go to the library every day to read books and stories.
Sahar Abdel Aal

To travel and feel that the World is Ours

I do not want gifts or anything from Santa Clause…
All I want is to travel on his cart to the whole world, to see all the parks of the world and the trees, to travel wherever I want.

We are besieged in the Gaza strip and forbidden to travel and the borders and passages are closed… I want from Santa Clause to lift the siege on Gaza, and to allow us to travel and to feel that the world is ours and we can reach it easily.

Khitam Al Hissi

Written by Jehan Helou
30 March 2020

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