National Geographic : 1992 Jun
We're frustrated," says Khalil Mahshi, a Pal estinian who serves as principal of a Quaker boys school in Ramallah, a city of 24,000 in the West Bank. "We want to go back to normal life, which means we want to get rid of the occupation. There's a whole generation of young people without a future." Ramallah, which used to be predominantly Christian and claims to have the best educated citizens in the Palestinian world, now sees many of its brightest citizens emi grating, many of them to the United States. Those remaining seem depressed about the future, as I learn during a visit with a middle class family in a traditional Arab neighbor hood in East Jerusalem. I sense a growing rift between the father, who seems moderate and somewhat optimistic, and his son, who is will ing to take risks in confronting the Israelis. The father is a soft-spoken man in his 50s whose clan has lived in the same neighborhood through four generations, not far from where King David established his capital in the tenth century B.C. after battling the Philistines, among the forefathers of the Palestinians, for lands to the south. A bit wistfully, the father recalls how Jews and Arabs once coexisted easily, doing busi ness with one another, helping out as neigh bors do from time to time. "Now we don't visit each other or even say hello," he says, point ing to the Jewish side of the street. The man, a clerk who wishes to keep his identity secret, wants no trouble from Palestinian extremists, who often harass those expressing sympathy for Israelis. When I ask for his view of the intifada, the older man turns to a slender 16-year-old sitting quietly beside us on the enclosed porch. "Ask my son," the father says. "He can answer." The youth, whom I will call Samir, is articu late and well educated, having attended pri vate school in Jerusalem. But his smile vanishes when I ask about his future plans. "I have no future here," he tells me. "I can't go to any university. My education is going lower and lower because of the situation in the schools, where classes have been can celed or interrupted because of strikes and civil disturbances. And you can't find jobs. We feel lonely all the time because we have nothing to do or see. I need to go to another country." Samir believes the intifada is working, wearing down the resolve of the Israeli mili tary and pushing them to talk peace. "We Torching tires and trash, Palestinians in the West Bank town of Ramallah try to provoke a confron tation with Israeli soldiers. Since December 1987 such show downs as well as work stoppages have been the Palestinians' primary tactics in a In the streets ofthe occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, stone-throwing youths have battled well-armed Israeli soldiers-sometimes with fatal results. While border policemen in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City keep an eye outfor grass-roots upris- trouble (below), ing known as the many Palestinians intifada-Arabic for believe the troubles "shakingoff." began with the troops.