Maryam 11 Years Old in Bethany

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I live in a town outside Jerusalem called Bethany, a beautiful old city, in Palestinian territory. It is full of shops, churches, and mosques with wide streets and many buildings. There are many many Israeli soldiers. They walk on the sidewalks and drive around in trucks and tanks. They fly their helicopters over my city and shoot people. They try to make us believe this is their city and not ours. I see a lot of soldiers at my school. They are always there. I can feel them watching me, and I wish they would look in another direction.

When there is a curfew, everything shuts down. You can’t even look out the window or the soldiers will shoot at you. It is like the whole city is in jail, only their jail is in their homes. The soldiers never tell us why they are making us stay inside. They just tell us to go inside and stay there.

I sleep in the school I go to. I live there. My mother died when I was five. She was killed in a car accident. She was 39. My aunt is kind to me, and so is my grandmother, but I still miss my mother. She used to sing to me. There are other girls at my school who lost their mothers, or both parents. We sleep in the same room. Most days at school are the same, we get up at seven and do chores, and then we eat breakfast, then go to school. Religion is my favorite subject because it is easy and it teaches me new things about what kind of person to be.

The teachers are very strict at my school. I get punished a lot for being noisy. I want to be a doctor when I grow up but first I have to finish school. That seems like a very long time from now.

My aunt says that we shouldn’t let boys tell us we can’t do things just because we’re girls. There are Palestinian women who are martyrs now who do the suicide bombings. They are very brave. It must be very difficult for their families.

I have only one wish. I wish I could go to heaven. Maybe in heaven there’s happiness after we die. Maybe then.

NOTE: This is based on an interview with Maryam that Deborah Ellis had for her book, Three Wishes (Palestinian and Israeli Children).