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For 21-year-old Muhammad, being an Arab in an Israeli university means no friends, no drinks after lectures and the constant threat of violence. His experience spills out in fast beats and staccato rhymes, it’s emblazoned in graffiti across the vast Palestinian wall. He dreams of being a star as bright as the ones replacing a nationality in his passport. Will Muhammad find fame, fortune or just another wall?

It’s 60 years since Israel seized Palestine and there’s celebration in the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev. ’We made a country from nothing!’ they cry, drinking and singing and shooting fireworks into the sky. On the other side of the wall Muhammad’s refugee camp listen in sadness. ‘I hate this prison’ Muhammad says, kicking the wall. The Israeli militia forced his father onto the small Shu’fat camp in 1967. ‘It’s not a refugee camp, it’s an Arab neighbourhood’ say the Israelis. But Muhammad and his friends have no freedom, no money and no security in their lives. ‘We’re living in a ghetto’ he says, spraying the word G-TOWN in giant letters across the wall.

‘God why am I doing this?’ Muhammad says as he begins the hour and a half long bus ride to University in Ariel. Every time the bus stops along the West Bank Road he holds his breath. ‘I’m trying not to speak Arabic’ he whispers, ‘half of my class are from Israeli settlements on this land. They hate me.’ His teacher may believe that the student body accepts the 5% of Arab students in their midst, but the students tell a different tale.

‘I don’t speak to them, not at all’ , says one student, whilst another proudly declares ‘I want to kill a Palestinian’. The walls of fear, hatred and misunderstanding are all this generation has ever known. ‘I chose the shortest, nearest and cheapest Cinema and TV course’ says Muhammad when asked why he would come to a university inside an Israeli settlement. The university itself is seen as an important step in the ‘Israelisation’ of Palestinian territories and outside of its walls, the anniversary celebrations take on a new force.

‘I was beaten and stabbed by a group of Jews whilst the police watched’ says a 15-year-old Arab boy. The Ramallah refugee camp responds with a silent portent: ‘We are launching 21,915 black balloons, one for every day since our villages were destroyed’. Each balloon has a letter from a Palestinian child attached to it, expressing their hopes and dreams, living in a world of walls.

‘My dream is to make music and movies’ says Muhammad. His father put the little he had towards an education for Muhammad but is now suffering from a fatal heart disease. ‘Life is hard for us and it’s getting harder’ says his father ‘I hope to God Muhammad will make it’. As Muhammad takes the long treacherous journey home from Ariel, to Jerusalem, black balloons fill the sky.


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