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By: Karmen Chuñé

My last visit to Palestine was ten years ago and there was something inside of me that steered ‎the wheel to come back this year. Luckily, I came across the possibility of joining Zajel camp at ‎An-Najah University. I contacted them via email to find out more about the camp and I must ‎say I only needed their first reply to make up my mind, even though I still didn't know the ‎details. It was the "welcome home" at the end of the email that made it. I would be staying in ‎Nablus for two weeks and I would eventually find out more about what I would be doing. Well, ‎now I can say that these two weeks have been the most intense, insightful, rewarding and ‎sometimes heart wrenching weeks I have had for many years.‎

Alaa, the coordinator of the camp, is one of the most energetic people I have ever met: he was ‎never tired of helping us, no matter how many issues he had to deal with at the same time. ‎Always with a smile on his face, the knowledge he has about all the places we visited made him ‎a great guide. However, he was not alone on this venture: an amazing group of young local ‎volunteers was always there to help in whatever was needed. Together they formed a very good ‎team, everyone knew exactly what their role was, they were always aware of our needs and ‎provided for them and their professionality was up to everyone's expectations.‎

The workshops made up an important part of our program. There were many of them and the ‎international volunteers could choose and sign up to be either main trainers or assistants. I ‎joined the icebreakers workshop as a main trainer and the main reason why was because I have ‎been an English teacher for the last 26 years. It turned out to be one of the most requested ‎workshops as I had to deal with over 40 students for two hours. If there is one trait I would ‎highlight about the local students is their willingness to learn, to make themselves understood, to ‎improve and get better every day. ‎

Sometimes I was so moved by their motivation that I would never get tired of preparing ‎materials and activities - I felt I had to be up to their needs. Needless to say that, as a teacher, ‎this is the most rewarding approach to teaching.‎

As I mentioned above, the workshops took only part of our time during the two weeks the camp ‎lasted. A significant part was dedicated to travelling through the West Bank and beyond, to ‎‎1948 historical Palestine.‎

One of the most unforgettable moments of this trip was when we arrived at the Mediterranean ‎Sea and all the local volunteers that were coming with us that day ran towards the shore. I learnt ‎that some of them were seeing the sea for the first time in their lives! Can you just figure it? For ‎the time of our stay they all became children again, splashing each other and fooling around. It ‎was a great sight to see.‎

At the start of my two weeks with Zajel I already knew it would be an unforgettable experience. ‎Moreover, now that it is over, I feel I have learnt a lot, maybe not so much about the conflict ‎and the situation the Palestinians are enduring, but mostly about their endurance, their ‎willingness to carry on with their lives and pursue their dreams no matter how much it costs or ‎how long it takes.‎

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