The Next Generation Of Palestinian Peace

By Janna Jihad Ayyad
04 May 2019
Journalism, Palestine
ILLUSTRATION AISTĖ STANCIKAITĖ
A 13-year-old journalist captures Palestinian stories, in the hope of sharing a message with the world

My name is Janna Jihad. I live in Palestine, in the village of Nabi Saleh.

I’m a 13-year-old school student. I’m also a journalist. I’ve been working as a journalist since I was seven and a half. 

Of course, it’s really hard living under occupation. I started my work as a journalist when I saw that there weren’t enough people to cover what’s happening in Nabi Saleh – like when my friend Mustafa was murdered, or when my uncle Rushdi was killed. A lot of things started to happen, and the world didn’t know about our feelings living under occupation. I wanted be the voice of those children who are suffering, the voice of their feelings, their fear of losing someone they love.

I took my mother’s iPhone and started recording what was happening around us. I shared the videos on YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.
Every single morning when I go to school, there is a checkpoint. That can make us late to school. Sometimes, when I am in school, there are clashes – we can’t open the window because we don’t want to smell gas canisters. At other schools, soldiers come in and raid the classrooms.

When I come back home, there are checkpoints, of course. When I’m trying to study, I cannot even concentrate because of the clashes that happen outside. Like other kids, I just want to live my childhood and play soccer. I really like playing soccer. Sometimes, I cannot play because soldiers raid the village and stop us. After we sleep, we wake up to find gas canisters just burning near our windows. In February, the occupation army punished people by spraying all the houses and trees in the village with chemicals that gave off a foul smell. The smell remains for weeks and children can’t play in the garden of their houses. It’s the worst smell you could smell in your life.

Our issue isn’t only a Palestinian or Arab issue – it’s the world’s issue, and it’s important for the world to know about it. Of course, we’re humans. We have fears and feelings, but as a Palestinian, I have a goal to share our experience. I can’t let my fears control me. When your fears control you, you’re not really alive.

A lot of people have liked and supported my work. I now have about 300,000 followers on Facebook. Through my work, I have met lot of important people like Graça Machel (Nelson Mandela’s widow), Pope Francis and the Nobel Peace Prize winner Setsuko Thurlow. Recently, I attended the Arab Media Forum in Dubai.

When I met the Pope, I asked him about the Flame of Hiroshima, because we want peace in this world. If adults do not make peace, I believe my generation will create it.

You might have seen the Great March of Return. It’s been going for more than a year now. There is true power in nonviolent resistance. Really, there is power in any kind of resistance. Standing up for yourself matters, and I know that people are seeing us. We are standing with and supporting the marchers. We want more people around the world to know about the Palestinian struggle. That’s our goal. We have to spread the message.

My hopes for the future are simple. I want freedom. I want to live in peace. Palestine is a land of peace, but in 13 years I have never seen it. I have hope though. There is lots of support from the world, lots of people coming to our demonstrations. I can see that the world is starting to learn a little bit more about what’s happening. I believe that if we continue to resist, we can make a difference.

For me, when I grow up, I want to be five things. First, I’m going to study political science to know more about the governments around the world. Second, I’m going to study journalism – of course, Palestine will be free, but I’m going to cover what happens to other people around the world, and tell their stories too. The third thing, I’m going to be a fashion designer, and I will focus on traditional dress and make something beautiful and new, and show it in a really nice way. Fifth and last: I’m going to be a soccer player, because I love playing soccer. 

 ILLUSTRATION AISTĖ STANCIKAITĖ