There are few open spaces in the West Bank where kids can play safely. Most communities have no public parks. Even cities like Bireh or Ramallah have few open spaces or parks where families can gather.
For Bireh, that reality has changed, thanks to the newest Al Bayyara park that opened there in November. In partnership with local municipalities, the Bank of Palestine and private donors, Anera has changed the landscape in West Bank communities by turning empty rubble-filled plots into beautifully landscaped public parks with shaded benches and playgrounds. Al Bayyara means orange grove in Arabic.
Shiraz Abu Mas’oud is a mother of two girls and two boys aged 2 to 13. She says her children, young and old, were excited when she announced they were all going to the new park.
I took them all because it suits all ages,” says Shiraz.
Shiraz says the park has already encouraged her neighbors to build a better sense of community and cooperation. Shiraz and other mothers in the neighborhood have discussed contributing to the park as a community to add new games and benches after a guard is appointed by the municipality.
They have also thought of ways to keep it clean. Shiraz’s 10-year-old son Mufid and 13- year-old daughter Razan both want to encourage other kids who use the park to help keep it clean. Mufid says he loves the swings the best and is looking forward to enjoying them with his school friends.
Mufid and Razan go to the same school in the West Bank and feel like the park is a pleasant extension of their classroom. “We sometimes take classes out here and it’s quite fun,” says Razan.
Vivian Sulieman is Mufid and Razan’s science teacher in the elementary school across the street from the park. She has worked as a teacher for 18 years and believes in contemporary education and the need for children to learn in different stimulating environments. “I am a mother myself and I know how difficult it is for parents to find time during the day to take the kids out for a fun activity or some fresh air, especially when there are no parks around. I believe that taking students outside the classroom has a terrific, positive effect on them.”
Recently, Vivian says she brought her older students out to the park where she taught a class on healthy eating and nutrition. “I thought the kids needed a change of scenery and something to reenergize them.” Vivian knows that some students get bored and lose interest when they’re sitting all day inside. “So this is a good way to unleash their creativity and imagination," she says. "They love being outside in nature.”
Shiraz and her neighbors love seeing their children interact and converse with other kids at their school or at the park. She believes such parks deepen their sense of belonging to the community.