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During the week before the beginning of the second semester, I have been invited by the ‎PR of An-Najah University to join a hike program for four days, 70 students and me were ‎touring around Nablus city.

By: Steve John

We saw many things that I and others had never seen. We visited the cemetery, the ‎woman's Research Center, the Roman Theatre, Jacob's well, Josuf's Tomb, the Balata ‎Refugee Camp and the Yafa Cultural Center there. We hiked many kilometers to the ‎Samaritan mountain and learned about the people there, their culture and history. We ‎have visited the soap factory too. We ate Nabulsi sweets and learned from local people, I ‎had two translators that kept me well informed as my Arabic is not as good as it should ‎be. For me it was 4 days of learning about the Palestinian culture, history, and economics. ‎I could have done 4 more days it was that interesting.

I was very impressed by our group. Although we walked quite far, students never seemed ‎to get tired. Their enthusiasm never ended. Mine neither. Let's do it again! Four times ‎now I have come to Palestine. I am here now. My first was in 1998 a one semester ‎teaching at the Islamic University of Gaza which in July of 2014 was heavily damaged in ‎the Israeli bombing of Gaza that killed thousands and destroyed houses, hospitals and ‎schools.

The second time was also a one semester contract at the An Najah National University in ‎the West Bank shortly after the second intifada (Palestinian uprising in response to Israeli ‎occupation) and shortly after the American Rachael Corey was run over by a militarized ‎Caterpillar in the process of destroying more homes in Gaza. She tried to protect a ‎Palestinian home, a Texas peace activist. There were so many Israeli military checkpoints ‎in Palestine which made it very hard for Palestinians to go to work, school, or just travel. ‎Various times I was not allowed to pass the checkpoints. Israel even didn't allow me to ‎come to Nablus where I was planning to teach so I had to back track and hike through the ‎mountains near Iraq Burrin village. The villages and countryside showed me the beauty ‎and friendliness of the rural areas and folk. I saw Israelis enter Palestine many times in ‎their military vehicles and I witnessed the destruction of Palestinian homes leaving ‎grandparents and children homeless. My third time was my teaching semester at the Arab ‎American University of Jenin, West Bank in 2009.‎

This is my fourth trip. I am back at the An Najah National University working at the ‎English Corner with students who want extra practice with English. The campus is ‎gorgeous.

All of my experiences have been wonderful opportunities to learn more about the ‎Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom. People have enough problems finding ‎work, feeding their families, finding health care instead of finding themselves in a war ‎zone. I am honored to be back in Palestine.

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