You Will Always Feel at Home
I was looking for a non-touristic journey in which I could truly experience life in a new country, rather than just visiting museums, ruins or buildings. I found it with the Zajel Youth Exchange, where I was able to compare what I had heard about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the media with people's personal narrations; their opinions; their suffering; and their personal way of dealing with the conflict in every-day life.
By: Greta Giovani
I spent two weeks at An-Najah National University in Nablus, talking with students and taking part in a cultural exchange. Zajel organised trips all around Palestine including Bethlehem, Ramallah, Qalqilya, Rawabi, Hebron, and many other villages. I appreciated the existence of several learning levels: cultural, political, historical, social and human. We were also shown traditional dresses and dances, we tasted Arabic coffee and food, and we discussed economic and political problems. For example, the lack of human rights, the troubles in water management, and the freedom of movement.
Most of the time I lived in cheerful harmony, making new friends and overcoming stereotypes and cultural differences. I also had to face harsh situations such as passing through checkpoints and observing the difficult lives people have in the refugee camps. One of the most significant experiences was the apartheid wall, which is a symbol of control, repression, and division. Despite this, many artists try to make the wall talk through the universal language of street art.
The volunteers in Zajel and the people of Palestine always say “welcome home”: you will travel in the Middle East, in a conflict zone, with people in an incessant struggle…but you will always feel at home.