Just by Årsta square is a place that makes Stockholm’s best falafel. It’s one of the sons birthday. He’s turning eight. He sits quietly, giggling on the other side of the table. We meet so that Anji and Amjad’s children can ask everything they want to know about Palestine. They have in fact never been there. They don’t believe their parents stories.
Maryam, their thirteen year old daughter, asks her father if I’m a racist. I want to think that she can ask, that its a legitimate question. He looks ashamedly down at the table. I smile cautiously. I want to tell her that its ok, that of course she can ask, but I’m unable to say anything. I sit in silence. Amjad cuts in and says she is a little too bold and has a big mouth. I say that’s a good characteristic to have.
Yahya, one of the sons, pulls me by the arm and asks if there is war, if you can hear bombs and if its really possible to live there? It is war, I answer, but I didn’t hear any bombs, although I knew that they could fall at any time. It’s possible to live there, but it’s also the worlds largest prison. I heard many gun shots.
“Are you afraid” I ask.
“Naah”, he replys
Amjad tells me that Yahya is one of Sweden’s best chess players for his age. He even got all the right answers in a quiz on Sweden’s provinces. Yahya tells me he likes school. I smile and tell him to learn the capital cities of the world instead, say that no grown-ups ever talk about Swedish provinces and that I don’t understand why they still teach them at school. None of us there at the table know which province Stockholm belongs to. We guess Södermanland. Uppland. Yahya continues to tell us that they might be forced to close their school in Bagarmossen, where their parents drive them daily early each morning from their apartment on the outskirts of Södertälje.
“Why would it be shut down?” I ask.
“The Nazi’s come there and mess it up” he says.
“Are they also there during the day when you’re there? Do they hit you?”
“Naah, not yet,” he replies.