10 Questions Every Palestinian Parent Asks
In Palestine, people are eager to have their children get married. This is how it starts. When your son or daughter turn 25 they are considered ‘too old’ to find a spouse, and parents start the ‘Mr. or Mrs. Right’ search for them. The parents are worried they may fail in their task; in order to ensure success, they ask the neighborhood and the surrounding community to keep their eyes open.
1. Are you pregnant?
The happy couple weds (making happy parents). After a couple of months, the parents are no longer happy. They pressure their children to get pregnant, “At least one -- just to make sure you’re not infertile.” Within the first year of marriage the couple bears a child. As can be expected, life with kids is different and we make mistakes because we are not yet used to our spouse, or to a child, and all of a sudden, we’re a family of three.
2. Who will raise my children?
My husband and I have certain rules. My mother also raises my children with me. Not to mention my mother-in-law, who expresses her opinions. I might ask my child not to say this or that. Then she will respond, “Well, grandma says it.” Everyone raises my child, especially extended family and those who live close by.
3. How many children can I afford?
We all want to choose the best for our children. Oftentimes, we think “I don’t want my child to go through what I went through.” Giving our children privileged experiences by enrolling them in many activities costs money. At the same time, we can lose the joy of being with our children if we run from one activity to the next. Nowadays, Palestinian Christians have fewer children (2 or 3) than they had in the past (5 minimum).
4. What is the best education I can find?
Families tend to stress about this because choosing a school is challenging. We have schools that teach everything in English, German or Arabic, and we can choose schools that specialize in European or American curriculums, equipping our children with the tools they need to leave the country.
5. What do I say to my children about politics?
It is hard to raise our children in this environment. What do I tell them about “the other”? Jews live on the same land with us. Most people consider them enemies as they took our land, and here I am, teaching them how they could be called friends. What if Israel continues with its policies of dehumanization? How can my kids be free of this? Looking beyond to regional politics, many mothers think, what if ISIS comes here? Most people here keep saying, “The worst is yet to come.”
6. How can I provide the best medical attention for my children?
Generally, Palestinian hospitals have terrible systems and poor health care. Most families do not have health insurance. If something terrible happens, you have to pay massive fees out of pocket and go into debt.
7. How can I challenge Palestine’s ‘gender issues’?
Most women are accustomed to various forms of gender discrimination. Men work outside and bring home the most money. Mothers must raise their children. Many mothers also work outside the home. They must not complain. She is never allowed to get sick.
8. How can I entertain my children?
Most options available in Israel or other Western countries are absent in Palestine. No gardens, no zoo, no public playgrounds, no sea, and very few child-friendly venues. Children begin to complain. We tell them there is nothing to complain about, and we give examples of children in Africa who have no food. My children ask, “What does this have to do with not having anywhere to go and play or enjoy with friends?” So, we become entertainers for our children.
9. Can I believe in something better?
Each country has its challenges. In Palestine, one unique element of our lives and our children’s upbringing is that we are traumatized by the conflict. In spite of this, I believe that parents must pass on a strong positive message to future generations. I also believe that the greatest hope for change comes from breaking stereotypes and questioning the rights and wrongs around us. We cannot give in to despair; we must not feel sorry for ourselves. We need to carry an optimistic message of the future, how we can turn a bad situation into a good one. We must believe, and keep believing.
10. Can you believe in something better with me?