28 May 2013
Despite the devastating humanitarian consequences the tragedy of displacement has wrought, a group of displaced Palestine refugees sheltering in one of UNRWA’s schools took a pause from their daily preoccupations to mark the 65th anniversary of Nakba Day.
This muted occasion of remembrance took place at UNRWA’s HaifaSchool in Mazzeh, Damascus. Since mid-December 2012 the classrooms and administration offices of HaifaSchool have served as a shelter for 562 Palestine refugees who were compelled to flee their homes and to abandon their businesses as a result of the intense fighting taking place in Yarmouk refugee camp. Haifa is one of 14 UNRWA school buildings that currently serve as temporary shelters for some 6,970 displaced Palestinians, alongside around 1,430 displaced Syrians. UNRWA is committed to providing assistance and support to displaced Palestine refugees in Syria.
Taking their inspiration from “Resilience and Hope”, this year’s Nakba Day theme, Palestinian children painted eight colourful murals on the walls of HaifaSchool. Under the supervision of UNRWA teachers and local Palestinian artists, the children worked diligently and to brilliant effect, giving creative expression to their understanding of the theme and enjoying themselves in the process.
The displaced Palestinians residing in the school gathered to offer encouragement and to appreciate the beauty of the children’s work. In addition to mural painting, an exhibition of intricate Palestinian embroidery, precious family heirlooms, and 1948 memorabilia was mounted in one classroom. All items on display were contributed by the displaced Palestinians who had carried them as they fled Yarmouk. The atmosphere was enlivened by two bag pipers who led a performance of folkloric Palestinian songs by the children of HaifaSchool.
Ali Mustafa, Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees (GAPAR), UNRWA’s government counterpart, joined the Director of UNRWA Affairs, Syria, Michael Kingsley-Nyinah to mark the event.
“It is appropriate and essential that Palestine refugees should mark Nakba Day, even in the face of the extreme suffering inflicted by the Syria conflict,” said Kingsley-Nyinah. “The mural paintings at HaifaSchool remind us that the Nakba is an indelible part of the collective memory of the Palestinian people. To mark it is to celebrate the legendary spirit of Palestinians and to renew their undying hope in a better future that includes the just, lasting resolution of their plight in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Until that day, UNRWA will remain unwavering in its duty to support and assist Palestine refugees.”
Ali Mustafa pledged that “GAPAR will continue to work closely with UNRWA to ensure that Palestine refugees continue to receive the help they need with the support of Higher Relief Commission.”
"The murals marking Nakba Day reflect the fact that Palestine refugees have maintained their strength and resilience as a people, from generation to generation, while awaiting their return to Palestine. I believe they will continue to maintain this resilience,” Ali Mustafa continued. He also thanked the SyrianArabRepublic, which “has treated the Palestine Refugees as its citizens and will continue to do so until they return to their homes lost in 1948 and beyond”.
Samah Nazzal, 13, who used to be a student at UNRWASabarinSchool in Yarmouk, is now displaced and living with her family in HaifaSchool. "I am happy I participated in this activity, the first of its kind since our displacement from Yarmouk in December 2012,” she said. “This activity gave us a feeling of things being normal for one day. It helped us to find a moment to meet with our friends and classmates, to exchange experiences, and to renew our hope to soon to return in peace to our homes in Yarmouk.”
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