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I stood motionless and stared at the grey, amorphous mass of hundreds of children, most of them orphans, huddled together on the wharf in the French port of Sète. I suspect this pathetic image will sear my brain and remain with me forever. The children clung together, and not from cold—it was a warm summer afternoon. Like small fish in the ocean or animals in the field, they’ve learnt there is security in numbers. They know who to trust and not to trust.

Multiple layers of ragged clothes hung from their emaciated bodies. It’s easier to wear clothes than carry them. Risking clothes to a carry-bag that could be lost or stolen is not an option.

Most clutched a small object—a doll, a toy, a photograph, some link with their past. Deep in their pockets, pieces of mouldy bread provide emotional comfort. It is never eaten. Whispers with coded meaning—secret eye movements—have helped them survive their brutality.

They do not have to speak to relate their story. Their lifeless eyes say it all—full of suffering and unspeakable violence: parents executed before their eyes; childhood friends whose skulls were crushed with rifle butts or who had suicided by throwing their frail bodies into the electrified barbed wire; men and women torn apart by savage security dogs.

Wall of Tears: The Human Face of the Israel – Palestine Conflict by David Kerr

Release date: April 15, 2020

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