I’m usually in the lower street, but some times I am up the hill, where the children enjoy themselves playing ball games or asking us to take pictures of them. If you take one’s picture, that’s it, you’re done, they won’t stop bugging you until you have taken two pictures of each of them, and then again in groups.

But most of the time after school is spent in the street playing football (boys mainly; I see very few girls) and, saving some differences, they remind me of my own childhood, when the street was our playground. I look at these children seeing myself in them, who have at least this space, like I did, before the cars invaded it and evicted the kids of the next generation.

Now the kids in my street no longer can play on it, and I say to A. that of course these Palestinian children are not in paradise, and surely they are maturing in a rush and they won’t need to wait to be too grown up to understand the situation, but at least now, these kids are having a better childhood than the kids in modern European cities, or even the kids in the settlements up the street and down near the school. I never see those kids in the street playing, only throwing stones, only doing acts of hatred.

I leave the street and the children in it for a moment, playing football, and when I come back, only a few minutes later, I find them sitting on the stairs next to the only open shop in the whole neighbourhood, because the soldiers have stolen their ball.

When I ask the soldiers why, they look at me and they keep silent – it is them with the power, full stop. They have absolutely no obligation to speak to me. Another international comes and tells me that this is not the first time they stole the boys’ ball. She asks them why they insist on making their lives impossible. One of the soldiers says: “Because they’re all terrorists”. My colleague tries to reason with them, saying that they are only children. “because their brothers are terrorists, that’s why”. The soldier mumbles and we hear him, “well, if they are not, their brothers are”. I can’t believe what I hear and ask him to repeat it, but he remains silent.

I ask for the details of what has happened to the kids and one of them, bigger than the rest, wants to stop them talking to me, probably because I don’t speak Arabic (I do catch that word). But the others confront him, they make him shut up and they answer my questions.

They tell me that one of the soldiers simply grabbed the ball, and that this is by no means infrequent, although there is no rule that forbids them from playing. They tell me that some soldiers don’t say or do anything when they are playing; it depends on what soldiers there are, each one acts differently, even each day the same soldiers act differently. One of the kids says that some times, the soldiers even play with them.

I guess that’s what you do when you have absolute power over people who do not have any authority to turn to, who are absolutely unprotected, helpless.

The kids remain next to the shop until dark, when they all go home to their families. Later in the night I hear that the soldiers have returned their ball on condition that they don’t play with it.