In December 2014, Dania Husni al-Jaabari, a 14-year-old Palestinian girl from Al-Khalil (not Hebron),won first place in the Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition. She solved 240 math problems in six minutes.
Ahmad Ayman Nashwiyeh, an eight-year-old Palestinian boy also from al-Khalil, won second place. He solved 180 problems in six minutes.
The two children competed against approximately 3,000 children from over 15 countries.
In January 2013, Areej El Madhoun, a 14-year-old girl from a Gaza refugee camp, won first place as well. As UNRWA writes, in “recent years in Gaza, creativity and achievement has grown and flourished against extraordinary odds; a blockade and the rubble of many conflicts, the last of which was eight-day war on Gaza in November 2012.” UNRWA continued:
Areej sees her success as the greatest gift she can offer to the children of Gaza after the recent eight-day war, which saw houses and infrastructure destroyed, and incidences of psychological trauma rise.
“Winning the first prize is a victory for Palestine. I was very proud to carry my country‘s flag”, said a delighted Areej.
“When I was announced as the winner, I felt overwhelmed and cried so hard”.
The recent memory of war made her victory particularly poignant, Areej added
“I went through some difficult times before the competition. The most recent conflict in Gaza had just ended two weeks before the competition began.”
In the end, the fear and anxiety brought on by the conflict did not subdue her overwhelming joy at winning first prize, she said.
The Intelligent Mental-Arithmetic International Competition takes place every two years. Israel’s genocidal military assaults on Gaza also take place roughly every two years. It is no surprise, ergo, that, Areej’s victory came just after Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud, an eight-day attack that, according to the UN:
- killed 158 Palestinians,
- 103 of whom were civilians (65%),
- 30 of whom children (19%), and
- injured more than 1,000,
So too did the victories of al-Jaabari and Nashwiyeh come right after Israel’s Operation “Protective” Edge
- a 51-day attack that, according to the UN and Amnesty International,
- killed 2,192 Palestinians,
- 1,523 of whom were civilians (69%),
- 519 of whom were children (24%), and
- injured around 11,000.
What is so inspiring is that, in a society that has been illegally military occupied for 47 years, and colonized and ethnically cleansed for 67 years, these children still flourish.
What is so inspiring is that, in occupied lands in which the vast majority of children suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), in which children do not feel safe in their own homes (they are, rightfully, afraid of being kidnapped, detained without charge, tortured, and raped by the Israeli military), and in which almost 100% of children have experienced warfare, these children still flourish. In the words of University of California clinical professor of psychiatry and global health sciences Dr. Jesse Ghannam, nowhere else in the world is there anything “like the levels of traumatic exposure that [Palestinian children have] been exposed to on a chronic and daily basis.”
These children’s victories serve as a striking testament to the strength of the Palestinians, of their reluctance to give in to the oppression and ultimately death to which Israel has subjected them (with steadfast US support) for these almost seven long decades.
As the Palestinian slogan goes, “Existence is resistance!”