“Be careful where you step”: for a Palestinian child

I lived as best I could, and then I died.

Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

M.Burch, “Epitaph for a Palestinian Child”


They opened the door with a ram.
They took us from the house
and fired shots at my family.

They killed my mother and four sisters,

my father and my brother’s son .
Then all my brothers were found and shot.

I stood still. I could not move.
My whole family was dead.

They lay there under rubble for sixteen days

Who will teach me now?

Where can I go?


Author’s name withheld, age 13

From Child Poets of Gaza, M. Burch, Editor,


“The most important message you get from your superiors in the Israeli military is that every Palestinian needs to feel Israel is at the back of their neck. So, quickly, you adapt to the environment; you don’t see the Palestinian in front of you as human. They are reduced to being an object.”

Yehuda Shaul


Before Palestine became a Muslim region in the year 636, numerous peoples competed for  control of its strategic location, including Nazerine Christians and Caananites.  Between around 1382 and  1615, Palestine was universally revered by Arab and Muslim scholars and other writers of the time as the “blessed land of the prophets and Islam’s revered leaders”.  Pilgrims flocked to Palestine from throughout the Arab world in a kind of renaissance, as ancient Muslim sanctuaries were rediscovered.  In 1496, Mujir al-Din al-‘Ulaymi wrote his history of Palestine known as The Glorious History of Jerusalem and Hebron.


The Mamluk Sultanate was indirectly created in Egypt as a result of the Seventh Crusade. The Mongol Empire reached Palestine for the first time in 1260, beginning with the Mongol raids into Palestine under Nestorian Christian general Kitbuqa and reaching an apex at the pivotal Battle of Ain Jalut. In 1486, hostilities broke out between the Mamluks and the Ottoman Turks in a battle for control over western Asia and the Ottomans captured Palestine in 1516


“The way we passed those night patrols was to bang on random houses, no reason and we’d go in, wake everyone up, men in one room, women in another, mess everything up, onto the next house.  One night we wanted to watch a soccer match so we went looking for a house that had a satellite dish. We found one, went in and locked the family in the basement while we watched the match. Why wouldn’t we? That’s what we do in the occupied territories.”

Yehuda Shaul


La Madre de los  Árboles

De Alice Walker 

 Si yo fuera

la madre del Viento

soplaría todo el miedo

lejos de ti.

The Mother of Trees
©2014 by Alice Walker 

If I could be

the mother of Wind

I would blow all fear

away from you.

 If I could be

the mother of Water

I would wash out the path

that frightens you.

 If I were the mother

of Trees

I would plant

my tallest children

around your feet
that you might

climb beyond all danger.


But alas,

I am only

a mother of humans

whose magic powers

have  vanished

since we allow

our littlest ones

to face injustice

& the unholiest

of terrors


Translated by Cuban poet Mañuel Verdecia

Alice Walker’s note about this poem:

For weeks I did nothing but think about this child and all the Palestinian children taken from their schools and  homes, their beds, often in the middle of the night



Rank: First Sergeant.
Hebron, 2012
New York Times, March 23, 20007
His name was Daoud. We stopped our vehicle, ran out, he was in total shock. We took him to Gross Post, to the Jewish side, and he began to cry, scream, he was just streaming sweat and tears. We had nothing to do with him, suddenly you end up with a crying kid. A second ago he was throwing roof tiles at the army post, and you’re dying to beat him to a pulp, and you’re alerted out there in that heat. You want to kill him but he’s crying. We didn’t know what to do, so we put him under watch. Once someone who was with him went wild, did something to him and left.

At some point when I was with him I tried to calm him down because he was tied, blindfolded, and crying, tears and sweat streaming out all over. I began to shake him, then the deputy company commander tried. He grabbed him and began to shake him: “Shut up, shut up, enough, cut it out!” Then we took him to the police station at Givat Ha’avot and he continued to cry because the policemen didn’t take him in for interrogation. He was so annoying, this was insane. In all that mess, while he was crawling on the floor, the communications man took out his Motorola, his two-way radio and boom! – banged him on the head. Not meaning to be cruel, just hearing that unbearable crying for over two hours.

This happened at the police station?



OTTOMAN  TURKS (Muslims). Palestine, like the rest of the MidEast, was part of the hugh     Ialamic Ottoman Empire for 400  years  before being occupied and    divided up like a pack of cards.

OTTOMAN TURKS:  Palestine, like the rest of the MidEast, was part of the huge, Islamic, Ottoman Empire for 400 years before being occupied and divided up like a pack of cards by Western forces after World War One.

Palestine’s 230 year “Golden Age” ended in 1615, when the imperial forces of the Ottoman Empire arrived to deliver an invitation the region could not afford to refuse. In fact, though, the Turks were expected and fairly well-known by most of the  peoples they conquered.

The Ottoman Empire had by 1615 been the world’s leading Islamic state for at least two centuries. This was true in not only geopolitical, but in cultural and ideological terms as well.  While the Turks  certainly made sure they were in charge, the ideological and cultural values they shared with, in this case, the Palestinians, were genuine and meaningful. The Turks were famous for their religious tolerance, protecting Christian and Jewish minorities from harassment by fellow Muslims at the point of a sword. In fact, throughout much of their empire, the  Ottomans achieved a level of tolerance remarkable enough to may well have been singular.  Non-Muslims were also empowered to enforce their own  religious-based laws through such institutionally regulated systems as they saw fit. Turks didn’t objectify, denigrate and disrupt Palestinian culture – more than anything, they shared it.

The partitioning of the Ottoman Empire led to the rise in the “Middle East” of Western powers, such as Britain and France after World War I. The huge conglomeration of territories and peoples that formerly comprised the Ottoman Empire was divided into several new states. The partitioning brought the creation of the modern Arab world and the Republic of Turkey.

The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia (later Iraq,) and Palestine, (later divided into Palestine and Transjordan). The Ottoman Empire’s possessions on the Arabian Peninsula became the Kingdom of Hejaz and the Sultanate of Nejd (today Saudi Arabia), the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen, and the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.

Resistance to the influence of these powers came from the Turkish national movement and became more widespread in the post-Ottoman states after World War II.


Casi no existen las palabras cuando la Guerra es contra los niños e.

There are almost no words when the war is against children.

Alice Walker


 Future – it’s a big word for me and I had a lot of dreams…two years ago I decided to be a journalist because I like to write and take photos and things like that – but I forgot that I live in Gaza and those things are impossible for us.
I can’t travel at any time or write anything here. No one writes anything except about war and enemies (Israel) so my dream started to vanish.
Now I don’t know what I want to be and have no dream.

Boy, age 12. Name withheld, Child Poets of Gaza, Ibid.


I just want to ask the people who are living outside of Gaza…

Imagine your life with no electricity or basic things? Destroyed home, a lot of children who don’t have parents, the sounds just like the roll of thunder…BOOM…all the time. Imagine your children tell you through their eyes and cries, “We are afraid, we can’t take it anymore and we can’t even sleep!”

Imagine yourself with no one beside you, to take care of you or even to look after you…and the people around you are strangers…How long could you stand it?

If the world stood with us we will not stand it any longer or anymore. But unfortunately there is no ”doings” just other people who are trying to help us by saying words, not more. They don’t do for us any good things.

We are now better than before, at least we can go to school everyday instead of seeing others dying.

I hope Gaza will change and be as the other countries…we just have to pray all the time!

We just want PEACE.


Girl, age 14, name withheld, The Child Poets of Gaza, Ibid.


All text is excerpts, except Alice Walker poem. Historical references from Wikipedia. Photos from Google Images.

15 thoughts on ““Be careful where you step”: for a Palestinian child

    1. I appreciate your words, Derrick. I know you must have felt the legacy of the war keenly. However, if you were way out in the country, prehaps you didn’t see all the rubble until you were older. Scary, though, the violence right across the Channel. My cousin is in France, been thinking of him. But also of all the terrified refugees…peace to you my friend.



  1. wow Claire you really knocked this one out of the park- pardon the jargon please but it’s just amazing and great- hard to find the right words, because what you describe is so far beyond inhuman, but at the same time it’s such great reporting. so thank you for Palestine and for those kids and for truth and justice


    1. Thank-YOU Paul. I really just used other people’s voices. It seems that the children’s voices are, as is always the case, just the most heartbreakingly powerful of all.

      Truth and justice…aw,shit, now I’m gonna cry…


    1. I know what you mean, Bert….it’s so HARD.. Sometimes I think we need to feel helpless and empty in order to propel ourselves into real action…it’s a way of identifying at last with the desperation of the victims who are asking the world “Are our lives of any worth?”


  2. a wonderful (and horrendous) compilation, thank you. (I accidentally left this comment on your previous post, but intended it to apply to this one. NP


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