Every morning at 7:30 the children at our school stand in lines in the courtyard. Ranging from 1st to 6th grade they stand in queues in front of their teachers. School bags next to them on the floor and looking generally presentable in their uniforms they fidget and chat, generally arguing about who’s standing too close to whom and who cut in line.
It’s still really warm here so the weather is lovely that time of morning. It’s a peaceful kind of chaos.
The religion teacher turns on his microphone and leads the students in reading the Fatiha and a couple other Souras from the Koran. He encourages them to be louder; to think about the words.
There is a brief exercise period involving arm lifting and movement before three students are picked from the lines.
These students climb onto an elevated circular slab of cement and yell scouts orders into the microphone.
'At ease!’ and various other things of that nature.
Then comes the national anthem.
I had never heard the national anthem before and, on my first day, was treated to a rousing rendition of it. The children form a salute with fingers at hairlines and, with their little bodies being almost thrown backwards by the strength of their voices, begin to sing:
(Translation courtesy of Wikipedia, feel free to offer any corrections if needed)
بلادي يا أرضي يا أرض الجدود
فدائي يا شعبي يا شعب الخلود
بعزمي وناري وبركان ثأري
وأشواق دمي لأرضي وداري
صعدت الجبالا وخضت النضالا
قهرت المحالا عبرت الحدود
بعزم الرياح ونار السلاح
وإصرار شعبي بأرض الكفاح
فلسطين داري فلسطين ناري
فلسطين ثاري وأرض الصمود
بحق القسم تحت ظل العلم
بأرضي وشعبي ونار الألم
سأحيا فدائي وأمضي فدائي
وأقضي فدائي إلى أن تعود
My country, my country
My country, my land, land of my ancestors
Revolutionist, my people, people of perpetuity
With my determination, my fire and the volcano of my revenge
With the longing in my blood for my land and my home
I have climbed the mountains and fought the wars
I have conquered the impossible, and crossed the frontiers
With the resolve of the winds and the fire of the guns
And the determination of my nation in the land of struggle
Palestine is my home, Palestine is my fire,
Palestine is my revenge and the land of endurance
By the oath under the shade of the flag
By my land and nation, and the fire of pain
I will live as a Revolutionist, I will remain a Revolutionist,
I will end as a Revolutionist - until my country returns
For Eid, the school constructed a mini Kaaba in the basketball court and the students came to school with improvisations of traditional pilgrimmage dress for the mini Hajj that would take place later.
All gathered after the morning lessons with girls in veils and the boys in white taubs, sheets or towels which they wrapped around themselves.
The journey around the Kaaba began, accompanied by regular scolding from the religion teacher.
‘Be serious! This is Hajj, not a race!’
‘Ahmed stop pushing Mustafa – shall we cancel the whole thing and go back to class??’
Nagham, a beautiful little girl in my class, jumped up and down waving enthusiastically at me throughout all the back and forths between the basketball post and the school bus sign a few metres away (or the hills of Safa and Marwah).
The children then threw erasers at the ‘devil’ after a warning about their performance.
‘Let’s try to aim properly this year children, last year was not good. ‘
After all, nose bleeds at mini Hajj are a bit of a downer.