|Jun. 17, 2002
Young Palestinians wild for "martyr" necklaces
By THE JERUSALEM POST STAFF
|Youngsters in the Balata refugee camp adjoining Nablus have replaced their once-precious Pok mon cards with a less innocent craze that has swept up children in the camp: necklaces with pictures of "martyrs" in the current violence against Israel, according to a report in The Toronto Star
"I used to have plenty of Pok mons - my school bag was half full of them," Saleh Attiti, 14, told the paper. "I threw them all away. They"re not important now. The pictures of martyrs are important. They"re our idols."
The children use the necklaces as they once used cards of Pok mon or sports heroes, spending allowances and constantly hunting for prized ones.
The paper reports that Palestinian children are adopting the uprising"s militia fighters as role models.
"These children are convinced that martyrdom is a holy thing, something worthy of the ultimate respect," Munir Jabal, head of a Balata teachers association, said in an interview "They worship these pictures. I think it will lead them in the future to go out and do the same thing."
In Balata, a stronghold of the Fatah-linked Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, the most highly sought after necklaces have pictures of Mahmoud Attiti, Raed Karmi, and Yasser Badawi, members assassinated by the IDF during the conflict.
The most recent hot item is a pendant of Jihad Attiti, the 18-year-old who became the camp"s first suicide bomber two weeks ago by blowing himself up and killing two Israelis - an 18-month-old baby and her grandmother - in Petah Tikva.
Added Saleh, a nephew of bomber Attiti: "We love them and we want to be like them."
The paper reports that the trend first appeared last November. A shopkeeper in Nablus, Assam Kanaza, was producing plaques of civilians and militants killed in the fighting when a family asked him to produce a plastic medallion of their son.
Kanaza, 29, said the work was noticed by other families who lost loved ones, and new orders came in until the medallions snowballed into a popular phenomenon. Kanaza said he"s produced more than 5,000 of them, and another 6,000 plaques and key chains - all with the pictures of "martyrs."
Kanaza"s business is reportedly booming. Other merchants have jumped on the craze with cheaper alternatives.
According to the paper, teachers have grudgingly allowed students to wear their "martyrs" necklaces in class.
The principal, who asked not to be named, said teachers were forced into a similar compromise about posters commemorating fighters and suicide bombers, which used to fill classroom walls. The students agreed to take them down in exchange for posting them on classroom bulletin boards.
Jabal told the paper that the children have lost all fear of IDF soldiers and already go through dangerous lengths to imitate their militant models.
Recently, his 15 year-old son was shot in the leg by soldiers after setting fire to an unoccupied tank.
"I opened my son"s closet and found it full of martyrs posters and necklaces. I said to him there"s nothing wrong with being nationalistic and defending your rights, but you"re just too young," Jabal said in an interview. "I said, "Ultimately, you"ll be rewarded with your picture hanging from a necklace, and we will have lost a son."