The opinions expressed by students do not represent the views of Ramallah Friends School (FBS) and Friends United Meeting.
Interviews with Editorial Board Co-Chairs Faris Giacaman and Deema Totah

Tell me about yourselves. Who are you?

Well, what can I say? I’m a seventeen year-old Palestinian, attending the Friends Boys School in Ramallah. I take small interest in political issues, but it seems that I have no choice in the matter, since my entire life is dictated by politics. I’m an avid fiction reader, and I write frequently—which is one of the reasons that prompted me to join BW in the first place. Running the risk of sounding less than modest, I’d like to think I’m open-minded, friendly, and an overall good person. I’m easy to provoke, hard to anger, and I’ve been told by many people that I’m very stubborn. Maybe they’re right. My greatest wish is that some day Palestine will be free, that we become an independent, self-governing nation, and that whenever one signs up for an e-mail account on the internet, the country option “Palestine” will be available.

My name is Deema Totah. I'm a sixteen year old junior at the Friends School in Ramallah. I'm currently studying in the IB program. My favorite subjects are English Literature and Mathematics. I’m currently taking higher level English as a first language, even though Arabic is really my first language. I'm fascinated with English literature. I, especially, love poetry, and write some myself.

I enjoy playing basketball and Tennis, but I mostly read in my free time and log on to msn messenger; that is if I'm not practicing piano, on the phone or studying physics! I love parties, hanging with friends, and watching romantic comedies.

I have been part of the student council since 7th grade, and was elected class president this year. I ran for student council vice president but that didn't go well for me. I just love the rush of being busy I guess, and if you ask my friends they'll tell you I'm always stressed out!

But for the relaxing part, I love traveling with my family. I've been to many countries, of which my favorite would be Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Dubai. I would like to visit Spain and Italy someday.

Describe your personal histories with Behind The Wall

Mr. Hart was my English teacher last year when he decided to launch this e-zine. We were all ecstatic about the idea of having our own e-zine and probably the first teen one in Palestine. It was a new idea to grasp, and we were anxious to get going. Writing articles was part of our English class curriculum. We wrote about whatever subjects we wanted. I remember making an Interview with one of my class mates who had a near death experience at an Israeli check point. I did another interview with one of my “musically gifted” classmates, and how the occupation was affecting his future plans to become a musician. I think I wrote a few more articles about life in Ramallah in general, but I’m not sure which actually got published.
But this year however, I have been taking a bigger role in editing articles for BW. I’ve edited a few that have been published in this current issue (the 3rd edition of Behind the Wall).

It all started with English class, really. Mr. Hart was always enthusiastic about connecting Palestinian youth with teens from other countries. He wanted the world (America in particular) to really get to know Palestinians as a people. He set up a blog between the students of the FBS and students from American schools, making it a part of the English curriculum to post assignments on the blog—short autobiographies, informative articles about Palestinian culture, answers to questions from American students, and the sort. When BW was up and running 10th grade students were required to write essays and articles, to be posted on the website. Although it was a part of my homework, I saw that writing for BW was a good chance to improve my writing skills, but, more importantly, I realized the immense progress that was being made; we were showing Americans the truth of what was happening in Palestine. They got to learn who we really were. I wrote only one article for the magazine last year, but now that I’m in the editorial board, I plan to write many more.

What motivates you to stay involved with BW?

Everyone dreams of making a difference, leaving some type of mark in this world. And I think my chance to make a difference lies in this role. Apart from having a passion for writing and wanting a chance to explore my creative abilities; apart from that, what motivates me most is this want to make a difference somehow. I see Behind the Wall as a kind of initiative taken to show the world who Palestinian teens really are. We hope this will simplify the image of Palestine as a war-zone and rather focus the view on Palestinian teens. It concentrates on the individuals, not the leaders. World media mostly portrays what leaders and presidents think, and so we are trying to bring this concentration to the individual. We hope to take the image of the Palestinian person to a new level, to show other teens around the world who we are, what we think about, and how we see certain events.
As a Palestinian, I'm proud of my heritage. I will take any opportunity to see it thrive, taking into consideration the concerns of it being lost with the occupation. I see BW, not only as a patriotic duty but also as a privilege to make the voices of my fellow teens and my own voice heard.

The main purpose of BW is to connect Palestinian teens to the rest of the world; to break down stereotypes and inform those who are ignorant of the Palestinian situation. I wholeheartedly believe in that goal. So many things that go on in Palestine are twisted and distorted by the media, and the result is what people in other countries see in their newspapers and on their televisions. We’re made out to be the terrorists, the oppressors. In the beginning of the Second Intifada, a Palestinian child was murdered in his father’s arms, caught in the line of Israeli gunfire. There was footage showing the scene. While we viewed it on the local news, a modified version was shown to outside viewers; all that needed be done was to digitally insert a kippa over the boy’s head, and everybody thought he was an Israeli being shot at by Palestinians. These sorts of misconceptions are what motivate me to stay involved in BW, to undo what the media has done.

Now that the editorial board has taken over BW, what new things should readers expect?

More politics, more pictures, more categories, more us. Now that the students are in the driver’s seat, the ride will be a little different. Probably bumpier. I expect you’re going to see more about FBS life, and more about the Palestinian situation. Definitely a different design for the website, if we have our way. Also, this time the editorial board will make sure that there aren’t anymore grammatical mistakes in the articles written by students (which I personally find annoying). Of the numerous suggestions of the 10th graders, we’re probably going to show more about sports (Palestinian teams, leagues, etc…), Wall articles, wall graffiti, and Palestinian culture. The exact contents, however, are yet to be decided. We have a long road ahead of us.

We hope, now that us teens are taking over BW, that it will have a closer look at our lives as TEENAGERS in Palestine. Since we are teens ourselves, we think we can understand what our teen readers will be expecting from us, while still thriving to maintain our adult audience. We hope to give the e-zine a new fresh look, and make it more exciting with new topics and online activities such as "poetry contests" maybe. We hope to make it more easily viewed, and to add new web tools that will make surfing BW much easier.

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