Alternative to begging sought for Palestinian street kids

Palestinian children sneaking into Israel to beg in the streets should be placed in special houses that would provide vocational education and employment, National Council for the Child director Yitzhak Kadman told the Knesset Tuesday. Speaking to the Knesset Committee for Children's Rights, Kadman said the house would offer the children an alternative to begging on the streets, where they are constantly in danger, especially since many of them don't risk returning home every night and instead sleep where they can. The children often go out to beg at the insistence of their families as a main means of financial support. "It's the poverty of their families that makes them come," said Amit Ben-Tzur, assistant to committee chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich. The children could receive vocational education to help train them for future jobs and also gain employment in the house so they would have money to take to their families at the end of the week, Kadman said. Attempts to deal with the problem up to now, such as the police taking the children back across the border, have not worked, since they continue to cross without passes and return to Israeli streets. A similar project in Turkey to stop Kurdish children from begging has been successful, Kadman said. "To solve the problem requires cooperation among all the services," said Kadman. "Without it there's no chance to solve the problem because it crosses the borders of municipalities and government agencies. We also need to invest money to build facilities similar to the Turkish model." All the organizations and government agencies have to work together to solve the problem because no single government or secular organization bears full responsibility for this crisis. A joint effort between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority is the only option that will end this continued problem. "Cooperation on both sides will guarantee, not a full stop of it, but it decrease it to the minimum possible," said Ibrahim Sarsur, a member of the committee and an MK from the United Arab List. "I expressed my full readiness to help solve this problem and be a mediator between the Palestinian government and the Israeli government." Children begging has been an ongoing problem for several years, but only in the past three years have NGOs become involved. The ages of the children range from five to 15. While a majority of begging occurs in Jerusalem and the Galilee, it has also appeared throughout the country. Amoun Sleem, a representative of the gypsy community, also spoke at the meeting, requesting that her group be included in any solutions. She said begging has long been a problem for her people, and they have received no aid from the Israeli or Palestinian governments.