When Christophe Cheret and associate Richard Poisson, both Burgundians from France, went to Hebron in Palestine last summer to teach kitemaking and flying to Arab children, they found that kiting was one of the few play activities there. The reasons have to do with the special circumstances of life in one of the most highly disputed cities in the world. Hebron has 500 Jewish settlers living, for religious reasons, in the midst of 120,000 Moslem Palestinians. Only Israeli army protection permits this to continue. For years now there have been daily tensions that have often erupted into violence.
Kites are popular partly because they are cheap, or even costless. As Cheret comments, “Buying some line only costs 40 cents for half a mile. The rest of the material can be gotten free. Materials such as sticks, paper, plastic bags, tissue paper, and rags for tails are readily available. Or broken kites can be recycled. There is a very important problem of poverty in Palestine. Money is used for living and studying— for school books in particular. There is none for toys.”
Another important factor for the children is security. “Kites can be made at home, a secure place. They can be flown alone, from the child’s own roof; there is no need to roam the city to find friends for a soccer game. Walking in the city can be dangerous and difficult. Not a lot of space is needed for kites. In case of a clash and the immediate imposition of a curfew, a boy can quickly duck back into his house, if necessary leaving the kite flying and line dragging. Parents favor kites. They can always keep an eye on their child when he flies.”