جامعة النجاح الوطنية
An-Najah National University

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My experience at An-Najah University on the Zajel Youth Exchange Programme was diverse, ‎thought-provoking, and other-worldly. The days are long and full of opportunities to learn and ‎meet both students and Palestinians living in different circumstances across Palestine; some ‎with stories of settler and soldier violence, others who have suffered from home demolitions. ‎

By: Suzan Smith

An-Najah University feels vibrant from the early morning, and staff and students are always ‎helpful, curious, and warm. The local volunteers, of whom there are many, are funny, lively ‎and keen to share their passion for their country and culture, while also being open and ‎honest about their experiences as young people living here, and their desires to seek ‎employment opportunities and a safer life.‎

Perhaps the most rewarding experience one can have is in getting to know Nablus city, where ‎An-Najah University is located. Nablus is entirely different from one area to the next. The ‎commercial areas such as the one where the girls’ apartment is, are full of yellow taxis, clothes ‎shops, and stands selling iced drinks, shawerma and corn. The markets are full of fruit, spices, ‎perfume, and fish, and are a great place to spend your free time in.‎

From the hilltops, where you’ll visit many times with the Zajel programme, Nablus looks ‎incredible. If you’re lucky enough to be there in the evening, you’ll hear the adhan (call to ‎prayer,) coming from Nablus’ 90 mosques at the same time, and echoing through the valleys. ‎It’s an incredible experience. Away from the bustle of the commercial areas, the hills are quiet ‎and dense with healthy olive trees, and occasionally goats and camels. ‎

The trips organised by the university expose you to the realities of the occupation. We met ‎parents of children who had been killed by settlers, and visited homes regularly under attack ‎by settlers who had built homes next door. We walked through markets full of bullet holes, ‎refugee camps, and in areas in which Palestinians and Israelis have to walk on opposite sides of ‎the street, even areas in which our Palestinian guides were not allowed to enter with us. ‎

Overall, the experience is a fantastic and thorough introduction to both the history and daily ‎impact of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. You’ll make friends, and meet people who ‎will open their homes to you forever, and you’ll definitely want to return as soon as you can. If ‎you’re not sure about whether or not to join the Zajel Youth Exchange Programme, I’d ‎recommend that you do it. You will not be disappointed.‎

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