You Welcomed Us into Your Home When You Are Not Even Welcome in Your Own Home
By Louise George
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend the International Youth Exchange Program (Zajel) at An-Najah University, The programme included field trips to the cities of Hebron, Bethlehem and the Old City in Nablus in addition to a number of Palestinian refugee camps and the villages of Anabata, Duma, Wadi Al-Badhan and the Samaritans. Zajel also organized cultural field trips to the lands of 1948 where we visited the Village of Ein Hod, Wadi Nisnas, the Old City in Acre, the Apartheid Wall and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Upon arriving in Palestine nothing has been what I expected, from the Old city of Nabulus and your thriving University to the desolate streets of Hebron. It has been a very emotional journey. Bethlehem was also a very difficult place to visit. The workshops have been challenging, but very rewarding.
The Zajel Summer Workcamp exceeded my expectations; the experience was above and beyond what I had ever imagined. I had decided to attend the camp on rather short notice, applying for the camp only two or three weeks before it began. I was looking to get involved in volunteer work but being my first time I wanted to attend a program that was both informative and educational. I came across Zajel online, and having always had a huge interest in Palestine the work camp was exactly what I was after.
Zajel was an opportunity not to be missed and I applied right away. As many of the girls have stated Nablus, the University, and the entire West Bank, was nothing as we had imagined. The media paints a very vivid picture of the situation in the West Bank, and yes, to a degree some of this information is correct. Life is more difficult than in any of the countries we come from and you, the Palestinians, face daily challenges you needn't face, such as, water shortages, power shortages, and restriction of movement; a complete monopoly over your freedom. But despite this adversity what shown through was your strong character.
Life goes on, and the Palestinians are a shining example of this; not only do you carry on, but you do so with both pride and dignity. "You welcomed us into your home when you are not even welcome in your own home.” Despite the hardships you face, you welcomed us into your homes and hearts with no reservations. Your warmth and generosity blew me away.
There are many things I am still digesting from the camp and my time in Palestine, and I have a 40 hour plane ride to mull over my thoughts, so I can add to my reflection then. But thank you Zajel for making this possible and all the local volunteers for all the hard work, time and effort you put into this camp. You truly made this a memorable experience, one that I will cherish forever. And thank you to all the other international volunteers; I couldn’t have gone through this with a better bunch of girls.
At the end of the workshops I realized that I may not have been able to completely open the door for the students in just two weeks, but I had at least crept it open, paving way for the next person or idea to enter their minds and hopefully to have a positive influence on them.