x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

High-flying dreams in East Jerusalem

No wonder Arab children and youths in East Jerusalem are so fond of kite-flying: the air overheard is neither costly nor regulated nor administered by Israelis.

Cooped up in crowded, claustrophobic Arab East Jerusalem, children and teenagers have few of the recreational options known on the other side of the city, or for that matter in most other cities. Sports club memberships are expensive. So are video games. And this side of town has few parks - only 45, by one count, for about 270,000 people, compared to 1,000 for twice as many people on the heavily Jewish west side of the city.

The air overhead, however, is neither costly nor segregated nor administered by Israeli officials, and so it is to the air that Palestinian children and teenagers have turned their attention. The sky is full of kites.

Children everywhere are known for their innate quality of imagination; who has not seen a toddler gaze incuriously at an expensive new toy and then play happily with its packaging? And kites, fragile though they are, can support a heavy payload of wishes and dreams.

Of course, kites are not really for toddlers; getting one aloft can be a challenge for anyone. Still, challenges are nothing new to the people of East Jerusalem, and a kite's sense of liberty, of optimism and of untrammeled motion in all three dimensions must surely bring a special joy to that hard-pressed population.