Monthly Archives: January 2012

Everyone laughs in the same language

Today, one of our work colleagues kindly accompanied us on a trip to Bethlehem.

We visited the church of the nativity, Basilica and Grotto of the Nativity.  According to tradition, the grotto of the Nativity is the place where Christ was born of the virgin Mary.

The Grotto of the Nativity – The star marks the spot believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

After this we visited Dheisheh refugee camp.  It wasn’t what I had expected a refugee camp would look like.  It was more like a poverty stricken village with concrete built structures, many of which are not connected to the public sewerage system.  There are at least 14,000 people living here.  It is a home for the people who fled from their homes in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

There is lots of graffiti art on the walls many with Handala in them.  This is the drawing of an artist named Naji Al-Ali.

“Handala was born ten years old, and he will always be ten years old. At that age, I left my homeland, and when he returns, Handala will still be ten, and then he will start growing up. The laws of nature do not apply to him. He is unique. Things will become normal again when the homeland returns.”  —Naji Al-Ali

On July 22, 1987, in London, Naji Al-Ali was assassinated as he walked towards the offices of Al-Qabas newspaper.

Whilst in Bethlehem we went to witness the reality of the apartheid wall.  It is a wall built by the Israelis which is over 700km long and around 85% of which is constructed inside the west bank.  It is being used to ilegally annex Palestinians land.  In 2004 the International Court of Justice declared the wall and its associated permit regime illegal under International Law.

It is an 8 metre high concrete structure.  It is covered in grafitti art from around the world, which shows the widespread support for the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

This is one quote by a girl from India which stuck out for me…



Training and Jerusalem…

The first half of the week consisted of training.  We had various discussions about the organisations we are going to be working for, the skills we have to offer and security briefings.  We also had talks about the history and politics of Palestine.  This turned into a lengthy discussion which did leave me feeling greatful that I live in a politically stable country which I think is something many of us take for granted.  However I was left questioning how effective my work could actually be to the overall situation.

One piece of advice we were given about the Palestinian culture is ‘the accepting is more important than the eating or drinking.’ – I will keep this in mind!

After training on Tuesday we visited the Consulate General of Jerusalem’s house.  We had an informal chat with some delegates.  They believe there should be a two-state solution, but have come to terms with the fact that there is little hope for the conflict being resolved in their life time but are however, implementing various measures towards this, and were open to any ideas we had for solving the conflict!

The peace talks current progress was described as; ‘two people trying to share a cake whilst one person is eating it!’

It made me realise how politically strategic countries decisions are, for example the reason why the UK hasn’t yet formally recognised Palestine as a state; they have to be strategic in choosing the right time to do this.

I left feeling disheartened about the situation in Palestine, but optimistic that the work we are going to do will have a positive effect in benefiting the people’s lives whilst they deal with the everyday problems resulting from the occupation.

On Wednesday we went to the Old City of Jerusalem, entering via Damascus gate.  We had lunch in the old city.  This consisted of a feast of falafel, hummus, pitta and various other salads.  We briefly saw the dome of the rock from the outside.

It has been central to almost a century of conflict between Muslims and Jews.; battling over historical and religious meaning, ownership and access rights.  The compound which includes the dome of the rock and Al-Aqsa mosque is believed by both religions to be the place where they began.

In the evening we went to see a documentary called ‘The Law in these parts’ .  It was directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz who is an Israeli .  The documentary consisted of a number of separate interviews with Israeli ex military judges.  Palestinians and Israelis living in the west bank are tried in different courts; Israelis are tried in the Israeli courts whilst Palestinians are tried in the military courts and are subjected to very different laws.

The judges showed no remorse and when asked if they would make the same decisions if asked again today, they answered in the affirmative.

The story of one man at the end stuck in my head; that he was arrested and whilst kept in prison his land was not being cultivated so the Israelis used this as an excuse to take his land.

Thursday we moved into the flat we are going to be living in for the next three months.  It is extremely cold inside!  Nobody has central heating in Palestine as it’s very expensive, so we have a few electric heaters.

My journey begins…

Mixed emotions were running through my head and butterflies in my stomach as I struggled to drag myself out of bed at 5am this morning!  Feelings of excitement along with nerves; am I going to get along with everyone in the team? Are they all going to be really knowledgeable about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?  Am I going to be interrogated by the Israeli’s upon my arrival at Tev Aviev airport?

All these nerves were forgotten once we arrived at the airport and met the team; everyone seemed lovely and we all got along well right from the start.

Upon arrival in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv the majority of the group went straight through security with only a few minor questions about why we are here.  Two members of the group however were taken away for questioning.  They both have Muslim first or middle names.  After over an hour of repeatedly being asked simple questions by different people such as their name, fathers name, grandfathers name, address, telephone number, email etc they were then allowed to leave.

I can’t believe I’m actually here in Jerusalem, WOW!…