Salah was born, grew up and now lives with his wife and children in Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem – where we started our journey. His name is Salah Ajarma, but he is known as Salah Ajjur; as is common in many Arabic cultures, he is referred to by the place that he comes from. Salah has only been able to visit the area which gives him this name a handful of times in his life – on the occasions he has been granted permission by the Israeli authorities.
Salah now manages the Lajee Centre; an organisation based in Aida Refugee Camp which works to provide refugee youth with cultural, educational, social and development opportunities. He speaks to us about his work, his roots in Ajjur and his hopes for the future.
The voices you hear in the background of the recordings are the sounds of children playing in the 700sqm playground created by the Lajee Centre.
See below for recording transcripts
“A piece of paradise” (01.45)
(Salah talks about what Ajjur means to him)
“We don’t have any rights if we don’t have the right of return” (01.16)
“We used to have fresh milk every day” (00.46)
“We want to live in a safe place” (00.36)
“A one state solution for everyone” (01.11)
“We start to know what freedom means” (00.25)
(Salah talks about the visits to Europe which the Lajee Centre arranges for refugee children to gain an understanding of what it is like to live not under occupation)
1. “A piece of paradise”
You know, I’m not see the paradise once but what people think how paradise it will be. As my grandmother she say most of the time it’s a piece of paradise. When she told that, she told that when she smiling and also you see her face in a minute change – like she smile and she sometimes feel sad when she say that. And its really, I want to say, it’s a part of – or a piece of paradise.
Because, Ajjur, its like, you know, it’s a piece of Palestine, its an open area, it’s a nice mountain, it’s a nice area, also it’s like that’s our roots is there – it’s a lot of old people, their bodies under that mountain or that area, it’s a lot of stories, like what our grandmother or our father told us about his memories there and when he was like working the field, or when he play his games or when he take his breakfast or when he talk about the food or the fresh milk or the fresh meat, it’s a lot of memory. Ajjur it’s mean the life, it’s mean the future, it’s mean the rights, it’s mean a lot of things.
2. “We don’t have any rights if we don’t have the right of return”
The right of return it mean for me – as a Palestinian, we don’t have any right if we don’t have the right of return, so the right of return is the main right for us as refugees. We live in our area, it’s Bethlehem, it’s part of Palestine, and the land of Aida Camp, where we grow up is part of Palestine, but to live as a refugee in your country, it’s more difficult than to live as a refugee in Europe, its more difficult, so you know how much you will be strong when you see your area, your land, your home and you can’t return back so it’s really for me, the right of return, it’s not that I want to go back to take all my grandfather’s land, it’s for me, to go back, to choose, at least, as a refugee, for the right of return – first, like, let me to choose, if I want to return back or not. This is my right – to choose.
3. “We used to have fresh milk every day”
You know my grandmother, she sometimes cry, she told me we used to have like fresh milk every day, she cant remember how many cows she’s own, or how many sheeps, or how many trees and the field. And she told me, how do you think when we start to go as a group of women, just to collect water from the villages after the nakba. And, you know, most of the Palestinian refugees or most of the Palestinians, they used to be farmers, and farmers – they not care about how much money they own, they care how much land, and animals, and fields they own, and that’s when you take one and throw him in a refugee camp and you tell him, ok – start your life.
4. “We want to live in a safe place”
You know we are sitting here now, they are watching us from the towers, there are many walls around us. So when you see walls and towers these kind of colours of Israeli soldiers, so it makes your life difficult. It’s like, when you look to trees… we don’t want to live behind the sea, but we want to live in a safe place. That’s what we need as humans. We don’t want to fight Israel because they are Israel, or they are Jew, no – we fight Israel, and we have the right to fight them because they have occupied us.
5. “A one state solution for everyone”
The best solution, if you ask me about what you think about the best solution in Palestine, I’m with people for a one state solution for everyone. I don’t want to chase the Jew out of Palestine. We host them, when Europeans chase them out of Europe, we host them as a Palestinian. My grandfather or my grandmother, she has told us, we – they used to come poor and we give them homes and we give them land and we give them work, but after five, six years, when they start to be strong in Palestine, in Jaffa or in villages, so they attack us and they do for us what happened for them in Europe. So our conflict, in our area, it’s not a religion conflict, it’s a conflict for people who chased out of their home, and people stay there. So, how you imagine if you are from England and people just chase you out of your area and they told you, ok, live there in a tent and start your life.
6. “We start to know what freedom means”
I remember on our first trip with our children to England, so our children they told us it’s the first time they sleep without nightmare, they sleep without problem, we’re not thinking about soldiers coming in the night to arresting one of our family so we feel how what is mean freedom, now we try to be free.