Jenin Camp

Then and Now

Walking through the streets of Jenin Camp, one would hardly know that it has been a refugee camp for almost sixty years. To the outsider, it looks like a typical Palestinian village. But it doesn’t take too much digging to uncover the truth that the aesthetic appeal hides.
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View down a street of the camp

In 1953, these refugees were forced from their homes in villages near Haifa and settled on a plot of land about one square kilometer near the West Bank city of Jenin (several of these villages can be seen from rooftops of the camp). The first refugees had only tents to live in but as the years passed they gradually built more permanent structures as they saw their return becoming less and less likely. The camp is now “home” to nearly 13, 000 people.

The Occupation has devastated the Palestinian economy and the refugees have experienced this more than any other group. Poverty levels among Jenin refugees are three times higher than refugees from other West Bank districts. Refugees do not own their own land or their houses; therefore, they have paid to have the houses built, but they have no deed for the land or the structure. Furthermore, in the past the only income for some families was low paying work in Israel, but now even that is not an option.

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Kids in the streets of Jenin

The Jenin camp was dealt its greatest blow in an attack in April 2002. On 3 April Israeli forces moved into the camp and began attacking. After several days of fighting on the tiny battleground, Israeli forces were frustrated by the resistance they met. They changed their tactics and began demolishing 400 homes in the center of the camp, along with collateral damage from tanks, helicopters, jets, ground forces and combat bulldozers. In the 12 day campaign, Israeli forces killed 59—half of whom were civilians— and left 2,000 homeless and arrested many more.

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The cemetery in Jenin camp. Most of the graves are the remains of those killed in the attack.

“We were terrified,” said one mother. “On the first day our house was hit with a rocket. The explosion threw my sister six meters away, but, thanks to God, she survived. We ran to another house with seven families in it. That house was also hit with a rocket and the debris injured us and covered others. We kept moving from house to house because they kept getting hit, until there were thirty families in one house ( 300 people, men, women and children). They [the Israeli military] didn’t give us warning. How can helicopters warn people to leave? Houses were pushed over on top of families. Bullets destroyed all the water tanks so there was no water. I was injured but we weren’t allowed to leave the camp and ambulances weren’t allowed to come inside.”

“At 2:30 am, the Israeli military surrounded our house,” said the son of a store owner. “They made us come out with our hands up and they arrested me and my brothers. They gave us no charges but they told us to wait in prison six months and they would tell us what we were accused of. They kept telling us to wait. I was kept for four years without trial or even accusations and my brother was kept for five years without trial or accusations.”

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Statue of a large horse on the edge of the camp made out of scraps of cars destroyed in the attack

A teenager who was ten years old at the time recounts: “I couldn’t sleep the whole time. The rockets kept me awake. Even when I did sleep I could hear the rockets in my dreams.” Some families were homeless for three years during the cleaning and rebuilding. But, six years after the attack, Jenin camp has experienced a considerable lift. A total project of $27 million was given by the Red Crescent Society to rebuild infrastructure, homes, and a school. Sheikh Zayed of the United Arab Emirates personally funded the reconstruction of the homes in the center of the camp where the most destruction took place.

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Poster of one of the youth killed in the attack. Posters like these are on many of the walls of the camp

Six years after the attack, the walls along the streets are covered with the pictures of those killed during the attack. The cemetery in the camp has 50+ graves marked “martyr,” many of them from the same family. The members of the camp are still beset by all the problems that go along with being refugees, but life has returned to relative normalcy.



Israel cannot kill the resistance, Israel cannot kill the hunger for freedom. For each generation will rise to the struggle until they are free of oppression and occupation. I found a “must see” video of the most incredible outspoken resisting little Palestinian girl below. This little girl could become an elected representative of her country Palestine, inshallah.

Taken FROM


  1. David G said,

    March 9, 2010 at 02:08

    I watched and listened as the Jenin massacre unfolded, at least what the press were allowed to photograph. It has scarred my mind permanently.

    Now, eight years later, the oppression of the Palestinians continues, is even worse. Abbas is a collaborator and the Palestinians are split. Meanwhile Biden has arrived to carry on with the charade of setting up a Palestinian State.

    Joe and Benny must have a good laugh as they tell the same old lies then, in secret, they’ll get on with planning how best to attack Iran.

    Jenin and the death of Arafat heralded the end of the Palestinian dream.

    They are a lost people.

  2. hans said,

    March 9, 2010 at 09:43

    Abbas is a collaborator, I do not hear the West screaming for election now that his mandate has expired. It is up to the PP to throw out these spineless donkeys!

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