Palestinian youngsters make music in former prison

Mon Jul 6, 2009 11:10am EDT
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By Erika Solomon

NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Ramzi Abu Redwan says he remembers waiting in the halls of Al-Fara'a prison as a boy, holding his grandfather's hand and staring up at the walls as he waited to see his father, jailed by Israel.

Now, those same walls echo, not with the footsteps of Palestinian prisoners, but with music and children's laughter.

The prison, just outside the West Bank city of Nablus, was used in turn by the British, Jordanians and Israelis.

It was made into a youth sports center in the 1990s, after limited Palestinian self-rule began in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in a 1967 war.

Now, each summer, Abu Redwan turns the facility into a music camp for Palestinian youth from poor families and refugee camps.

Abu Redwan is not the only one whose past meets the present in the halls of Al-Fara'a. The parents of some 20 youngsters who have attended the camp have been imprisoned there, and one teacher is a former prisoner.

Palestinians jailed by Israel for anti-Israeli activity or violence are widely seen by their brethren as heroes of what Palestinians describe as resistance against occupation.

"We're trying to liberate people. We're giving our children a kind of internal freedom," Abu Redwan said. "Maybe (my generation) didn't have the means of expressing ourselves, but our children will have a different means of resisting occupation that is better, and stronger."   Continued...