Thursday, January 1, 2009

Al Arroub Refugee Camp - a 'temporary' city...

Al Arroub is a refugee camp just outside of Hebron (one of the 19 refugee camps in the West Bank). It was established in 1948 when its inhabitants were expelled from what is now Israel. These refugees come from 37 locations (among them Haifa and Ber Sheba), meaning that they are of different customs and traditions.

Photo: a graphitti with names of the 37 villages of origin of the Al Arroub camp's refugees.

Photo: Refugee houses dating to 1948

As the camp is restricted to one square km it is overpopulated. For over 9000 people (including 3000 children) that live in the camp, there is only:
  • 1 UN clinic (with 1 doctor and 2 nurses)
  • 2 schools run by UNRWA (1 for boys and 1 for girls) and 2 governmental schools
  • 1 social worker
  • There is no sewage network

Photo: One of the schools run by the United Nations

Children are especially vulnerable in the camp because of the difficult economic situation of families and daily violence they witness. As the camp is located in Area C (Israeli control) there are frequent clashes with the Israeli soldiers and children, as they spend most time in the streets, take part. To their stone throwing the Israeli army responds with tear gas and sound bombs, which is according to Nidal, one of the camp's inhabitants, clearly disproportional. As a result many children suffer from anxiety, depression, spelling problems, problems with adolescence.

In order to
keep the children out of the streets a youth center was established. There is also a women's center in the camp with a library, a gym, kindergarten, workshops of health awareness and women rights. There is also an ngo for the handicapped (many we shot by the army or settlers). But still, it is a drop in the ocean of refugees' needs.

People we talked to still remember the exodus of 1948 which is referred to by Palestinians as Nakba: the Catastrophe. Although camps have now transformed into cities, mentally refugees' presence there is temporary. They live by hope that they would go back to their homes. They wish to die and be buried there. For some reason they still believe this dream would come true, even though they have been waiting for this to happen for over 60 years now.

The camp's steets are full of powerful wall paintings commemorating the Nakba and the refugee fate.

Handala - a symbol of Palestinian resisitance. It was drawn by Naji Al-Ali who said: “His name is Handala and he has promised the people that he will remain true to himself. I drew him as a child who is not beautiful; his hair is like the hair of a hedgehog who uses his thorns as a weapon. Handala is not a fat, happy, relaxed, or pampered child. He is barefooted like the refugee camp children, and he is an icon that protects me from making mistakes. Even though he is rough, he smells of amber. His hands are clasped behind his back as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to us the American way."

Key is the main symbol of Palestinian refugees. It represents wtheir will of going back to their homes. Some of them do still have the keys to their previous houses.


  1. i think alaroub is a very bueitiful place such as the whole Palestine.I would love to visit this camp.I love Palestine and every single area in Palestine!!!!

  2. Hi, many thanks for this helpful summary on Al-arroub refugee camp!
    We members of AFPS (France Palestine Solidarity Association) go there as often as we can to attend events in the camp and visit our great friends there. As a result pictures from the street, people, factory, movie festival etc are available on Flickr:

  3. Hey guys, thank you for this comment. It is good to know someone like you visits the camp and its wonderful people regularly.Are you based somewhere in the West Bank as well or do you travel from France? Great pictures. I also checked out your website. Please visit the website of Polish Palestine Solidarity Campaign:, you won't understand much though;) Lest's stay connected.

  4. welcome to Arroub refugee camp in any time .