Amahl Bishara and the children of Aida refugee camp, 'The Boy and the Wall'

IssueSeptember 2006
Review by Sarah Irving

It's rare that I cry over any book, except possibly the closing chapters of my favourite novel, Ahdaf Soueif's the Map of Love. I get angry, depressed or inspired, but only very occasionally cry. But that's what I found myself doing on reading the children's tale that is The Boy and the Wall, not because of its powerful telling of the effects of occupation on a child's life, but for the moving simplicity of this beautiful tale of a boy and his mother.

Written by Amahl Bishara and lavishly illustrated by the children of the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem, it tells the story of a young boy in the camp who leaves his home one day to find that the fields where he played have been cut off by the building of a great concrete wall - the Separation Wall being constructed by the Israeli authorities. He wonders how he will be able to play, and whether the small tortoises he is used to finding in the fields will survive in a refugee camp of their own. And then he starts to dream, along with his mother, about all the ways in which he might be able to overcome this new confinement. This book is not overly depressing or distressing for children, focusing on the beauty of a boy's dreams rather than driving home the daily terrors of Palestinian life. Its dual-language English-Arabic text could be a good way of showing children how different peoples read in different ways (and might also be a good aid for older people learning new languages?). The English is not always technically perfect, which might concern some parents whose children are just learning to read, but the moving and beautifully-written story should overcome any small editing concerns.

Information about the book is available from the Lajee Centre at Aida refugee camp: .

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