Column: Week of the Young Child refers to all children


For the Valley News

Published: 04-19-2024 6:47 PM

In Lebanon, this month we have celebrated the Week of the Young Child, which concludes with schoolwide events this week. I am a mother of three daughters, a 5-year-old and twin 2-year-olds, yet I find it impossible to embrace Lebanon’s Week of the Young Child without grieving for the children of Palestine.

My girls have Arabic names. Children deserve to not be severed from their language for fear of being paralyzed like Hisham Awartani was, one of the three Palestinian-Americans shot in Burlington.

Children deserve to grow surrounded by love, not die in a car surrounded by the dead bodies of their family praying for help before being killed, as 6-year-old Hind Rajab was in Gaza.

Children deserve food security. According to UNICEF, in March, 27 children have died of starvation and the number has only grown. Humanitarian aid airdrops are killing the people it intends to help, including children like Zayn Arouq.

As a mother, I take my kids to the library every week. Last week, I mentioned to a Lebanon librarian that I don’t see a display for Arab American Heritage month (which is every April), and a wall of books is immediately arranged to excite readers. In Gaza, libraries and cultural institutions have been reduced to rubble.

As a mother in Lebanon, my girls get the best public education available; in Gaza, every university has been leveled. The scholasticide and targeted killings of Palestinian academics is an unacceptable loss.

As a mother, I take my girls to their medical checkups. In Gaza, 30 of 36 hospitals have been bombed with American bombs. From March 18 to April 1, Israel completed a siege of Al-Shifa hospital, Gaza's DHMC. This war crime was punctuated by 400 Palestinian men, women and children being murdered execution style; Israeli attack dogs or bulldozers trampled Al-Shifa’s dead.

As a mother, I take my kids to church. We attended an Easter egg hunt Easter Sunday; Gazan Christians attended service in the dark because Israel restricts Palestinian electricity and fuel. The temporary ceasefire put in place for Ramadan was violated, but America is still providing weapons to Israel with my tax dollars. Every week there are new emergency increases in Israeli military aid and simultaneous removal of humanitarian aid funding.

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Above all, as a mother, I have a responsibility to raise good, kind, moral kids. But Palestine doesn't have the luxury of waiting for us to be better; Palestine needs us now. It takes every citizen to raise our voices and reject the mass killing of children.

I am grateful that the Lebanon City Council passed a call for a ceasefire in February that was reinforced by adopting the DEI Committee’s written resolution, which passed with a 5-4 vote. The resolution calls for a permanent ceasefire, an end to military aid for Israel, a call for humanitarian aid for all and a call to release all hostages.

The opposition to these peaceable demands relied on the morally barren defense that it is not the city’s responsibility to comment on global affairs. We live in this world. A coalition of Arab, Jewish, Muslim and other allies who participated in the endeavor to pass this resolution agreed that this is our responsibility. I believe it is each American’s responsibility to advocate for peace and the right to human dignity for all. It is our responsibility to care for one another, including the silenced and oppressed.

As a mother, as an Arab American and as your neighbor, I plead with you to speak up for Palestine now. Read from an Arab American author this month. Honor the Week of the Young Child. Each child is precious.

Laila Abdo Volle is a writer and storyteller. She lives in Lebanon.