Conducting Classes at An-Najah was the Most Rewarding Aspect
By Sedina Salin– USA
For the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to join the Youth Exchange Programme of the Public Relations Department at An-Najah (Zajel) that concluded its 3rd international skills development voluntary camp for the year 2015 which focused on developing students’ extra-curricular skills.
The programme included learning English and French vocabulary through songs, learning English conversation and developing communication skills with European academic institutions and building competency to merge in the work field as well as developing public speaking skills. The programme included workshops held by international volunteers from the US, France, Algeria, Bosnia and Hersek, the UK and New Zealand and were attended by around a hundred An-Najah students.
Prior to discovering the Zajel Student Exchange Program, I believed that Palestine was a unmitigated military zone with no hope for the people who resided in it. This very idea exists in the mind of many people in America and I decided for myself that experiencing Palestine was the only way to dismiss projected misconceptions of this beautiful country. My initial encounter of every activity or trip was to say the least shocking, each in their own way. Conducting classes in the old and new campuses of An-Najah National University was the most rewarding aspect. I was able to teach students a variety of topics and in the process I simultaneously learned from them. I quickly learned throughout my visits within the West Bank that each city has its own culture and struggle. The Old City of Nablus was a lovely and educational experience, thanks to the local volunteers of An-Najah University.
Hebron and Bethlehem were the most difficult due to the extreme level of military occupation and apartheid wall presence. But regardless, it remains the most touching and insightful trips. We were able to hear firsthand the stories everyday Palestinians face and have faced due to the violence imposed by Israel. This perspective was a pivotal component needed in order to understand the complexities within the Palestinian cause. The pinnacle part of Palestine for me was interacting with the people. From the local volunteers, University students, and the entire community. I have never felt so welcomed in my entire life and all expectations of hospitality were surpassed. The generosity, warmth, kindness, and congeniality were continuous to which I cannot express enough gratitude for. My trip to Palestine will never be forgotten and I will make sure that one day I will return.
One of my final trips was to the Old City of Jerusalem. This was one of my most anticipated trips because of the holiness and spirituality that suppose to exist there. Being Muslim, my objective in going was to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayer. Once entering the Old City, we found it nearly impossible to locate where the Mosque was within the quarters. There were no maps, no signs, When we asked for help we either were told "there is no Mosque, its closed" or we were maneuvered purposely to the opposite direction. Once we remembered that Alaa told us the way to the Mosque was to "follow your heart", we finally found it. The struggle to get in didn't end there, as we were heavily questioned on the sincerity of being Muslims. Although once we finally entered, we felt right at home. Our faces got brighter and our hearts opened up. We no longer felt out of place and lost. It was inside the Mosque, praying, that I found something more than spirituality and holiness. We all agreed that inside, we found a piece of ourselves.