A FORMER Oxford man who has spent the last seven summers volunteering in Palestine has called on other people in the city to experience life in the Occupied Territories.
Kevin Moloney, who is 54 and used to live in Lockheart Crescent, Oxford, is currently working for an organisation called Project Hope in refugee camps in and around Nablus, a city roughly the size of Oxford, in the West Bank.
Mr Moloney, a teacher, has worked with hundreds of children in the camps, many of whom have experienced violence as a result of the occupation.
He said: “A lot of the kids are really traumatised because they hear shooting every night, they see their father arrested or their brother taken away.
“We get horror stories all the time, and just about every child has seen a family member beaten up or taken away.
“When they draw stuff in art class, they sometimes draw dead bodies, people being arrested, or helicopters.”
There are four refugee camps surrounding the city — together home to about 40,000 people.
Dr Jason Hart, a professor in Oxford University’s refugee studies centre, is currently in the West Bank doing a study on the lives of the children living in the Occupied Territories, looking at places they can or cannot go compared with the access their parents had.
Mr Moloney said until recently, all routes into and out of the city apart from five or six were closed, and those that were open were blocked by manned checkpoints.
He said: “If you imagine Oxford being closed off for 10 years, where you couldn’t leave and if you do leave you might not get in again, that is what it has been like here.”
Mr Moloney is married with two children, and has been in Nablus for about three months so far this year.
In previous years, Mr Moloney has experienced attacks on the city, violence at check points and retaliation in the form of rubber bullets and tear gas used against stone-throwing children.
This year, he said things seemed calmer, with tourists finally starting to come in to the city to shop.
But disputes with Israeli settlers surrounding the city saw the hills ablaze on a regular basis, with crops set alight.
He said: “I would love to see more people from Oxford coming to join me here.
“It is a life-changing experience being here, and a really interesting place to volunteer.
“Most people who come once, come back again.”
Anyone interested in finding out more should go to projecthope.ps