In the heart of al Khalil/Hebron H2, in the Wadi Husain neighbourhood, a courageous woman stands tall, determined to bring positive change to her community. Through her unwavering dedication, she organizes summer and winter camps for children, providing them with a safe haven and simultaneously shedding light on the human rights violations perpetrated by settlers and soldiers.
Recognizing the impact of violence and uncertainty on children, Areej has been organizing summer and winter camps in the local mosque since 2007 to provide a safe space for them. These camps not only offer a refuge from the harsh realities of the daily lives of these children but also foster creativity, learning, and camaraderie. Through engaging activities, Areej aims to cultivate resilience, inspire dreams, and empower the future generation. But even these efforts were undercut this summer by the settlers who made it a habit to threaten the children with their dogs on their way to and from the camp.
In addition to providing a haven for children, Areej takes on the critical task of documenting the almost daily occurring human rights violations perpetrated by settlers and soldiers around her house. Armed with her camera, she fearlessly captures incidents of aggression, discrimination, and property destruction, ensuring that these acts do not go unnoticed. By shedding light on these injustices, she seeks to mobilize local and international support for the cause.
Aware that change cannot be achieved from outside, she works tirelessly to strengthen the support and engagement of the people living in her area. So she established the local group Shabab El Kheir to foster a sense of solidarity among the residents and counter the feelings of despair and fragmentation. As part of their work, the women knit blankets together in the mosque for the community since the winters are getting harsher every year, and electric heaters are costly and risky to use all night.
Married at 16, Areej wanted to continue her education, but it was made impossible due to the Second Intifada (uprising), during which this area was under siege from 2000-2005. She now lives alone with her five sons, while her husband lives in Ramallah because there is no work for him in the area. In 2007, Areej was diagnosed with cancer and needed two operations. Instead of weighing her down, it motivated her to fight not only for her life, but also for a better future for her children and her community.
Her unwavering commitment to justice and empowerment serves as a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit. As we reflect on her remarkable journey, we are reminded of the transformative power of compassion, empathy, and activism in building a brighter future for communities affected by conflict.