9 Joys and Challenges of a Palestinian Summer
Palestinian summers are full of mixed emotions for children and parents. Children are excited to have a break from school. Parents are apprehensive as they worry about how they will keep children busy. Somehow, we manage to find a balance between the joys and challenges of this hot season. And when summer ends, we are happy we made it through.
1. Summers are long!
Summer vacation starts in June, and we have limited options for entertaining our children. I wish I only had a week’s-worth of activities to organize to stimulate and entertain my children, but they are home for three months, and I have to keep them happy.
2. There are a limited number of camps.
This is the summer story of most Palestinian mothers. We start calling each other to find out what summer camps are available so we can send our children to them. Particularly if we are working mothers, we constantly look for the day-camps running the longest so we can still work. Most camps are expensive though, ruling out camps for many who simply can’t afford it. For those who can, the longest camps run for three weeks, and then we have the remaining two months and one week to fill with activities.
3. Children become addicted to technology.
During the summers, many parents complain that their children spend too much time on TV, computers, tablets and other technology. After trying the few available entertainment options (camps/swimming/parks), we revert back to the tried-and-true method of letting our children become hooked to electrical or battery-powered devices.
4. There are very few parks.
To counteract the boredom, I try and take my children out in the afternoons. There are 45,000 people in the greater Bethlehem area, and we have three major parks we must all squeeze into. Let’s say only 10% choose to frequent a park on any given day; it is still jam-packed during opening hours, and most parents chase their kids to keep them from bumping into other children and hitting each other.
While summers are challenging, there are many beautiful parts of a Palestinian summer that we cherish.
1. Swimming is a wonderful way to spend our time.
While visiting pools is expensive, those who can afford it do so. Many middle to upper-middle class families enroll their children in swimming lessons, particularly since we spend as much as we can afford going from one pool to the next. There are six or seven outdoor pools we visit every other week. Pools are expensive, but swimming lessons are a good and relatively inexpensive investment in your children.
2. We love to pick fruit from our trees and fields.
We are connected to the land, and each season comes with its own fruit. Beit Sahour, where I live, is famous for its faqous, which is a light colored cucumber. It is so much fun to see our kids go and pick them rather than buy them in the market. We also enjoy other fruits of the season, like figs and apricots, and love to make fruit preserves from them.
3. Children play freely in the safety of our neighborhood.
For kids, summer is for playing. While playgrounds and parks are few and far between, my children enjoy the rugged beauty of our neighborhood, roaming the streets with views of the valleys and mountains around us.
4. Summer is prime-time for crafting and creating.
I collect all the paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and we spend many days painting, gluing and decorating. If you’re ever at a loss for ideas, internet searches are just a click away, and endless options exist to choose from. We make binoculars, pen holders, piggy banks, and more, all from the same material.
5. This is one of the best opportunities to pursue and cultivate friendships.
Many other mothers are home with their kids wondering what to do, trying to fill the time. If you’re one of these mothers, I encourage you to get together with other moms so you and your children can build relationships and enjoy one another’s company. These are relationships that will last far beyond the summer, and this is the best time we have without the stress of homework, deadlines, and hectic work schedules.
Summers might not be easy, but they are certainly a time for making memories and spending quality time with our children and friends. No matter what the challenges are, we can choose to find joy in the simple things, and make the best with what we have.