Palestinian ‘Disneyland’ brings joy – and anguish – to families

Palestinian children of the West Bank have few of life's little comforts, but now they have a chance to visit a big amusement park built in one of the region's poorest areas… if they can afford the $10 entrance fee.

Tulkaram, one of the poorest parts of the West Bank, is the last place on earth where one would expect to find an amusement park.

Since Mega Group Corporation manager Maher al-Hamad built the park three years ago, it has seen nearly half a million visitors.

“I’m trying to make good places – we can make something good in the world. Like other places, like Disneyland – we should have the same,” Maher said.

For many of the school children bussed in from across the Palestinian areas, it’s the highlight of the school year.

“Our children suffer so much, because they don't go outside,” said teacher Jihad Daher.

Amusement parks are a new phenomenon but their magic has a downside. The entrance fee is $10 and for some parents who earn less than that a day, the price is too high.

Narmien Yamer’s school is planning a trip this weekend. The students have been excited for weeks but fifty girls will be left behind because their families don’t have the money.

“I would love to go on the trip, but to be honest my father is not working. We don’t have enough money to eat. So how can I ask my parents to send me?” Narmien said.

Dr Mahmoud Khraishi is a psychiatrist and a father of six. He warns that the playgrounds are putting huge pressure on children and their families.

“I’ve lost count of how many arguments I’ve had with my kids about whether or not I can afford to send them on these trips. Just a few days ago I saw a thirteen-year-old girl who’d tried to commit suicide because of the pressure from her peers to go on an excursion and the pressure from her parents not to. They couldn’t afford it,” Khraishi said.