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By: Ani Samantha

I developed an interest in Palestine from following media sources like teleSUR, Democracy Now, ‎and Al Jazeera, and watching lectures by thinkers like Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and David ‎Graeber. Having been trained in anthropology, which holds fieldwork as its defining methodology, I ‎felt that I needed to immerse myself into the Palestinian context in order to better understand it.‎

I now have an understanding of the chronology of the conflict and the territorial configuration of ‎Palestine. Zajel Program, the local volunteers, and the lecturers were very informative. I truly felt ‎welcomed and I appreciate everyone’s keenness to share their knowledge with us and answer all our ‎questions. Every trip that we took across the West Bank was captivating. Our walk on Al-Shuhada ‎Street (which is not open to Palestinians) in Hebron and discussion with Youth Against ‎Settlements, a local guide’s insights into settlements and the apartheid wall in Bethlehem, and our ‎meeting with a group of elders who lived through the Nakba at Askar refugee camp were especially ‎eye opening. We also learned about local culture by attending a pre-wedding ceremony, meeting ‎Bedouins in the desert, and visiting a Samaritan village. Academic lectures on topics including ‎health, energy policy, and education further enriched our learning experience. The work camp ‎served as a great introduction to Palestine’s history and politics, which I hope to explore in greater ‎depth in the coming years.‎

I helped deliver a workshop on research opportunities abroad to a group of about 15 students. I ‎think a lot of work is needed to improve students’ English language skills and their understanding ‎of European/North American guidelines for resume and proposal writing in order to prepare ‎competitive applications to universities in these regions. I was, however, impressed with the ‎students’ desire to expand their horizons and their extremely respectful attitude towards the ‎international volunteers.‎

My interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is grounded in a preoccupation with inequality. I ‎believe that we must pay attention to power disparities both between societies and within them. I ‎was impressed with what seems to be a total lack of homelessness in the West Bank. Inequalities ‎between men and women, however, are very visible. Men almost exclusively occupy public spaces like streets, cafes, and restaurants. ‎

Overall, the Zajel program exceeded my expectations. Zajel and the local volunteers were extremely ‎flexible in accommodating our interests and requests. The PR department succeeded in educating ‎international volunteers about the impact of the occupation, and I am sure that many of us will ‎continue to engage with and advocate for Palestine. Thank you for these extremely enriching two ‎weeks and please reach out if there is anything I can help the PR department with remotely from ‎Canada.‎

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