War Child: helping the children of Gaza overcome the trauma of conflict

March 22, 2011

By Mike Pope

Gaza is not like it is depicted in the mainstream media, its people are not doomed and it can achieve peace with Israel according to Jezza Neumann, director of War Child.

Gaza is an incredibly hospitable place, the friendliest people I’ve ever met; it’s not dangerous in terms of your daily existence.

Along with fellow director Jayyab Abusafia, Neumann discussed filming the documentary, his thoughts for the future of Gaza’s children and their state of mind during a Q and A session with Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News after the screening.

Given the opportunities they will be like any other child, given the opportunities they will have peace with Israel.

Having spent 53 days in Gaza filming, Neumann and his crew formed close bonds with the children and their families. 

The trust was ultimately shown through the scene with Mahmoud and his uncleshowing him his Kalashnikov, very intimate scene. Because our film was about the kids and their lives, we could keep a very low profile, we didn’t need to get involved with the authorities, we didn’t need to tread on any toes.

Neumann has since kept in contact with the children but says their situation has not changed. 

Although his films have been very popular, it has been difficult to raise large amounts of money for their families because "the Palestinian Diaspora in the UK isn’t the wealthiest" he said.

The most important issue yet to be addressed in Gaza is the mental health of its children, said Neumann:

It’s one of the biggest worries in Gaza at the minute; what has this mental trauma done to the children? There isn’t a child who was not touched in this war.

Abusafia explained that what may seem like violent behaviour for children to outsiders is just kids having fun in Gaza – their games reflect the world they live in.

It’s the life that any Palestinian could live. Do they have fun playing these games? Yes they do. This is the only way they can take the anger out from inside.

According to Neumann nothing will change until the blockade around Gaza is lifted:

Whilst they are kept encaged around male mentors who seek a violent answer they are more than likely to become fighters.

The directors do however have a "glimmer of hope" for Gaza’s children. Through the story of Ibrahim and Mahmoud, two boys who could be "good or bad", Neumann has tried to show what the future of Gaza could hold.

They are very much in the prime age, they can very much get influenced left or to the right.