Jenin is a beautiful mountainous area situated in the north of the occupied West Bank, Palestine. The old city, which has a large population of 35,000, has been troubled ever since the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. In that year, the native Arab population of many cities and towns such as Haifa, Acre and Jaffa as well a huge number of villages were forced to flee or driven out by Zionist forces. This was the original ‘Nakba’ or ‘catastrophe’ of the Palestinians. Many of the inhabitants of Haifa and the surrounding villages and countryside settled in Jenin, and the descendants of these refugees still live in the refugee camp, which was established in 1953 close to the town, with a population of about 15,000.
Recent History of Jenin Refugee Camp
More recently, in 2002, Jenin camp suffered a serious military incursion by the Israeli army during the second Palestinian Intifada or ‘uprising’. Forty percent of the camp was destroyed, many people were killed including non-combatant women and children. Although the physical structures have been rebuilt, the people in the camp still bear the psychological scars of this to this day. The picture featured is of the famous Jenin horse, assembled from scrap metal after the ruinous incursion, which stands inside the camp as a symbol of hope and regeneration for its people.
Jenin camp is supported by the United Nations (UNRWA) but lacks many basic educational, medical and recreational facilities. Children have a lack of open spaces to play, there is a shortage of doctors and sports centres and youth centres.
There are many great organisations already operating in Jenin camp and in the town. Our aim is to publicise the great work of these organisations in Jenin; to support links between these places and individuals/ groups here in East London; and to send volunteers to assist these organisations where possible. Below you can read about just a few of those carrying out vital work in the context of a harsh military occupation:
Jenin Creative Cultural Centre
A long standing partner of THJFA, Jenin Creative Cultural Centre was established in 2005 to provide local young people with cultural and educational experience. The Centre is in need of funds to keep operating in the town, please visit their website and think about making a donation so they can keep up this important work with young people in Jenin.
The Freedom Theatre
The Freedom Theatre was established in Jenin Refugee Camp in 2006. In the context of a brutal occupation and few opportunities, the Freedom Theatre offers children, youth and young adults in the Jenin area a safe space in which they are free to express themselves, to explore their creativity and emotions through culture and arts.
Cinema Jenin was established recently, resurrecting the presence of a cinema in the town after the last one closed in the first intifada. A film about the creation of the Cinema entitled ‘The Story of a Dream’ will premiere at the 24th International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam on 22nd November.
Patient Friends Society
Patient Friends Society provide primary health care to Jenin and the surrounding villages and run the only school for students of special educational needs in the West Bank. Professionals from PFS have visited Tower Hamlets on two occasions to speak about the health situation for Palestinians in Jenin and Palestine as a whole.
‘Mornings in Jenin‘, a novel by Susan Abulhawa, is a critically acclaimed story of a Palestinian born in Ein Had and displaced to Jenin Refugee Camp during the Nakba of 1948. The book is for sale in the UK from Amazon. A film based on the novel may be commissioned very soon!