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'Children of the stones': the day Palestine was reborn

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When the first Intifada commenced in December 1987, I had just turned 15. At the cusp of manhood, I had entered my first year at the famed Khaled Ibn Al-Walid High School in the Nuseirat Refugee Camp.

Though future opportunities in a refugee camp under military occupation were restricted, my imagination had soared further than the confines of my family's impoverished existence.

Life, of course, had other plans.

My father's rebellious past was overpowered by the daily degradation of life of want under a merciless occupation. My grandfather had recently died, along with the dream of ever going back to his village in Beit Daras, which was ethnically cleansed in 1948.

For me, and many of my generation, the Intifada was not a political event. It was an act of personal - as much as collective - liberation: the ability to articulate who we were at a time when all seemed lost. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) languished in Tunisia after being forced to leave Lebanon in 1982. Arab governments seemed to have lost interest in Palestine altogether. Israel emerged triumphant and invincible.

And we - those living under protracted military occupation - felt completely abandoned.

I will never forget the day when I resolved my personal conflict and reclaimed my identity, along with my family's honour. It was on the morning of December 9, 1987.

Israeli soldiers poured into our refugee camp, some on foot and others in small jeeps and large military vehicles. A battle was about to commence. Women, children and the elderly were urged to leave before the arrival of the army. Many young men also retreated. I was terrified, yet exhilarated.

I was no longer a middle school pupil, but a student at Khaled Ibn al-Walid, and thus could justify my flight. I picked up a stone, yet stood still. Some kids ran towards the soldiers, with their rocks and flags. The soldiers drew nearer. They looked scary and foreign.

When the kids began throwing their rocks in the direction of the army, my anxiety began to dissipate. I felt that I belonged there. I ran into the battle with my heavy schoolbag in one hand, and a stone in the other. "Allahu Akhbar!", "God is great!" - I shouted. I threw my first stone. I hit no target, for the rock fell just a short distance ahead of me. Yet, somehow, I felt liberated, no longer a negligible refugee standing in a long queue before a United Nations feeding centre, extending a hand for a dry falafel sandwich and half an egg.

Engulfed by my own rebellious feelings, I picked up another stone, and a third. I moved forward, even as bullets flew, even as my friends began falling all around me. I could finally articulate who I was and, for the first time, on my own terms.

My name is Ramzy, and I am the son of Mohammed, a freedom fighter from the Nuseirat Refugee Camp, and the grandson of a peasant who died of a broken heart and was buried beside the grave of my brother, a little boy who died because there was no medicine in the refugee camp's UN clinic. My mother is Zarefah, a refugee who could not spell her........

© Al Jazeera