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A Decade On, A Boy, A Ball And A West Bank Wall

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A Decade On, A Boy, A Ball And A West Bank Wall


A Decade On, A Boy, A Ball And A West Bank Wall

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

Just over 10 years ago, in an effort to improve its security, Israel began to build a physical barrier in and around the West Bank. The concrete wall and fence cut off the Palestinian Amer family from their village. Their son was separated from his soccer friends, and a game that was the most important thing in the world to him at the time.

The young American recently saw a film about that family. And he asked NPR's Emily Harris to find out what happened to the Palestinian boy in the years since the barrier was built. Here's what she found out.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Last year, in his sixth grade class in Oregon, Simon Hatcher saw a short documentary about the Amer family. It stuck in his mind.


SIMON HATCHER: I watched it in class and I thought, wow. There's really this kid that can't leave his house because there are walls on both sides of it, which must be so hard for him. And I was just, like - I was really sad.


HARRIS: The movie, "Offside," shows then 13-year-old Ishaq Amer, kicking a soccer ball around by himself and waiting a lot - mostly for Israeli soldiers. At first, the family could only leave or come home if soldiers unlocked a gate. Seeing the film almost a decade after it was shot, Simon wanted the rest of the story.

HATCHER: I'd like to know if his situation has gotten any better. And I'd like to know if he's able to play soccer with his friends. And I'd like to know how his life is able to go on with a wall built on all sides of his house.

HARRIS: We found Ishaq, who is now 19 and recently became a dad. He lives in the village and works in construction.

ISHAQ AMER: (Through Translator) I grew up, got married. I come and go.

HARRIS: He visits his mother, father and younger brother regularly. They still live in the house on the Israeli side of the barrier. But now, the family has a gate key.


HARRIS: A road from the village dead ends at the yellow metal gate. On the left, concrete barriers rise more than 20 feet toward the sky. On the right is a mesh fence with electronic sensors. Barbed wire is strung above.


HARRIS: Just inside, there is a paved road for Israeli military use only. Across that road is Ishaq's family home. Behind the house, a double fence separates this Palestinian family from an Israeli settlement. Ishaq says he's only partly glad he doesn't live here anymore.

AMER: (Through Translator) It's true that where I'm living now, I'm freer. There's no wall and no settlement. But I'm separated from my family and I don't like that. My feelings toward the wall are the same. It must go.

HARRIS: The Amer family lost their nursery business when the barrier went up. But they have planted some fruit trees and flowers around the house.


HARRIS: They keep a few animals on their quarter acre, too.


HARRIS: Ishaq's mother, Munira, waters petunias as she talks about the first years of the wall. She says even after they got the key, their movement was restricted and Ishaq was frequently not able to cross the barrier to play soccer with his friends.

MUNIRA AMER: (Through Translator) I remember very well when Ishaq had to play here on his own. I felt really bad for Ishaq. But what could I do?

HARRIS: An Israeli court finding in the case notes that the military offered to provide a home or land closer to the village. But Ishaq's father, Hani, is proud the family is still in their home.

HANI AMER: (Through Translator) What is similar from those days is that our house is still walled in. What's different is that we have the key. We fought for this and this is freedom compared to before. This makes me optimistic for the future.

HARRIS: Ishaq's younger brother, Shaddad, barely remembers the past, life before the wall. He's 13 now, the same age Ishaq was when the film was made.

SHADDAD AMER: (Through Translator) This wall is a prison. I don't know if it will ever go.

HARRIS: Unlike his older brother, Shaddad likes farming and writing more than soccer. Ishaq, even now, still finds some time to kick a ball around with friends.

Emily Harris, NPR News.


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