Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities of the world, is the epicentre of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Generations of Palestinians have only known a life under occupation and the protracted nature of the conflict has had enduring emotional and psychological effects on Jerusalemites.
Bab Hutta is a Palestinian quarter within the walls of the Old City. The hilltop neighbourhood is poor, crowded and its residents are regularly threatened with displacement by Israeli settlers and subjected to intermittent violence.
Around 60 per cent of the Old City’s residents are under the age of 18. The average family has eight to ten members and lives in 45 square metre homes.
As a result of the daily tensions, its despondent young people have turned to drugs and delinquency and almost half end up dropping out of high school.
Burj Al-Luqluq was established by residents of Bab Hutta in a bid to save two plots of land owned by Palestinian families from demolition. The land was to be used to build housing units for Israeli settlers.
The organisation was registered in 1991 and today the nine-acre plot is a vital breathing space for the crowded neighbourhood where the youth have access to education, sports, culture and arts.
Young children are offered a healthy and safe play area and mothers are offered skills and parenting workshops to help benefit the youth in the long term.
At Burj Al-Luqluq, sport is believed to be key to children’s mental and physical wellbeing. A football school trains 100 boys three times a week and 70 girls receive basketball training.
A library offers Arabic, maths and English tuition, with 25 computers at the disposal of participants. A drugs-awareness programme has been designed for adolescent beneficiaries and a group were trained in First Aid.
Over 1,200 people benefited from the work of Burj Al-Luluq in 2014, including 500 children.
Photo: Kayané Antreassian/Stars Foundation