Child, what will you remember
When you recall your sixteenth year
The horrid sound of helicopter gunships
The rumble of the tanks as they drew near
As the world went about it’s business
And I burned another tank of gasoline
The Dow Jones lost a couple points that day
While you were crying in the City of Jenin

Did they even give your parents warning
Before they blew the windows out with shells
While you hid inside the high school basement
Amidst the ringing of church bells
As you watched your teacher crumble by the doorway
And in England they were toasting to the Queen
You were so far from the thoughts of so many
Huddled in the City of Jenin

Were you thinking of the taunting of the soldiers
Or of the shit they smeared upon the walls
Were you thinking of your cousin after torture
Or Tel Aviv and it’s glittering shopping malls
When the fat men in their mansions say that you don’t want peace
Did you wonder what they mean
As you sat amidst the stench inside the darkness
In the shattered City of Jenin

What went through your mind on that day
At the site of your mother’s vacant eyes
As she lay still among the rubble
Beneath the blue Middle Eastern skies
As you stood upon this bulldozed building
Beside the settlements and their hills so green
As your tears gave way to grim determination
Among the ruins of the City of Jenin

And why should anybody wonder
As you stepped on board
The crowded bus across the Green Line
And you reached inside your jacket for the cord
Were you thinking of your neighbors buried bodies
As you made the stage for this scene
As you set off the explosives that were strapped around your waist
Were you thinking of the City of Jenin

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Sheet music:

“Jenin” originally appeared on the 2002 CD, Hang A Flag In The Window.  Later also on the Daemon/AK Press 2003 release, Behind the Barricades:  the Best of David Rovics on the 2007 live CD, the Commons, in 2009 on Waiting for the Fall — a Retrospective, and in 2014 on the CD compilation of Palestine-related songs, Falasteen, Habibti.

During Israel’s 2002 invasions of Jenin and other West Bank cities the IDF destroyed a lot of buildings and killed a lot of people.  I figured while they were in Jenin that perhaps the next suicide bomber in Israel would be from Jenin.  If memory serves, I was actually working on writing the song, sitting on the grass in Canterbury, England, when I heard on the radio about a suicide bomber from Jenin who had just exploded.

This song was played many times on BBC Radio 3 by Andy Kershaw in the years after I recorded it.  Playing this song, and some things Andy said in an interview with me on his popular weekly world music show, resulted in Andy getting called to talk to the BBC Board of Governors, for the first time in his 30-year career at BBC.  Andy playing this and other songs of mine represents the vast majority of airplay I’ve ever gotten on a popular national radio broadcast in my entire career.  After Andy lost his job at BBC, the royalty checks that come in 4 times per year went from the triple digits, back to double digits…