Viva, Viva Palestina
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.