Smokinya volunteers – visiting Palestine

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PALESTINE.

We arrived pretty late, also due to the fact that we didn’t know if we were allowed to cross the border with our rented car or not. After some confusion we finally crossed the border from Jerusalem, Israel to Bethlehem, Palestine; all it needed was a simple passport-check by some random police guy who didn’t really seem to care. We met Ahmad, our host who welcomed us to the Dheisheh Refugee Camp, the place where he and his family were forced to live.

At first I was confused by the name “refugee camp” because it seemed to be a normal living area, with multi-storey houses and a school right next to our place. But it was already late, all questions were postponed to next day’s breakfast. We went to bed but it took me a long time to fall asleep not just because of all these thoughts in my head but also because it was very loud outside (which was weird for us), loud car sounds and people let off fireworks…

We woke up with a traditional Palestinian breakfast waiting for us – accompanied by Ahmad’s bizarre but true stories. Last night’s fireworks turned out to be part of a welcome-back party – a man from the village had been released from prison the day before and this is their way of celebrating his return. Ahmad showed us around the Refugee Camp afterwards and we also came across a huge poster with a picture of this particular ex-con printed on it. It was part of some kind of advertisement for a Palestinian communist party. In general, in the camp posters and graffiti of the victims are widely scattered, there is absolutely no street with untouched walls.

Speaking of walls, the wall dividing Palestine and Israel was very impressive. With all these graffitis and messages it reminded me of the John Lennon Wall in Prague, with the “teeny-tiny“ difference that this is not some random wall people decided to paint on…

I believe, the wall is not just something that prevents the Palestinian people to leave the West Bank physically, it is not just a shitty piece of concrete they see in front of them. It is in their heads and in their hearts as well. The anger they feel because of the injustice they face, the pain losing their relatives and friends..it continues to dig deeper in their minds making acceptance or moving on impossible. One cannot call this life. Being stuck in the cursed past which continues to be your present leaves little to no hope at all for the future. Me being me, I can only vaguely imagine how that must feel, let alone how to wake up every morning knowing that I can never leave this place in my life. It consumes a huge part of their existence and the graffiti on the wall make sure that you don’t forget for even a split second what is actually happening. I am sure that the government is feeding their hatred as well. It was very weird to watch Palestinian news and ads showing the beautiful scenery of Israel in one second and then abruptly changing to video sequences where Israeli soldiers beat up kids. Also these posters of a COMMUNIST party – doesn’t seem very promising to me.. With all that hatred surrounding them I don’t know how these people can stay sane. They are literally trapped in a cage/prison called West Bank where misery slaps you in the face every damn day. They are stuck in this space between times, between escaping and living, the words “normality” or “home” nothing more than mere shadows of the past. And still, people are smiling at us when we cross the street. Random men approach Ahmad being happy to see him, shake his hand, give him a hug or a kiss. Little boys who say “Hello” to us and run away giggling on their way home from school. The whole situation is just so bizarre. I am impressed by the strength of the community there but I see that this is the key to sanity, sticking together and supporting each other. It is all they can do.

Palestine was beautiful and horrible at the same time. But going to Israel afterwards felt even weirder. They say, people live in their personal bubbles – I never felt this statement to be more true than there. Crossing the border, now being on the other side of the wall, we heard the other truth of the story as well. Our Israeli CS host stated his opinion defending the necessity of the wall in order to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. For him, Israeli military only serves as a defense force quoting Israeli sayings by heart like “If the Arabs put down their arms today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel.” Like in Palestine, I think that the government’s propaganda has a huge influence on the people there. Both men and women have to render the compulsory military service being fed with the government’s beliefs by the spoonful.

Sitting there, listening to this bilateral story one realizes once more that a solution satisfying both parties is more than just impossible. Both Israelis and Palestinians have suffered a lot and carry huge amounts of hatred and sorrow with them. And what is worse: they are equally stubborn, mad on possessing the Holy Land. For that they even oppress an entire country … depriving these people of their Basic Human Rights. I don’t know what else to say.

-Melanie

To conclude this article I just want to add that going to Palestine is not impossible and actually it’s quite simple to get there, the information on the internet about crossing the border is false and it’s simple to get in and out with a rental car or a bus. I suggest everyone who is interested to live this experience and talk to local people to simply go and visit Palestine – it is not dangerous and people are very welcoming to tourists because tourists bring them sense of safety and share a part of the story.

-Agita

The website of our host – bbtour4.com

Should you have a question, contact us: info@smokinya.com.

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This program is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme to support education, training, youth and sport in of the European Union.

The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an
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Smokinya volunteers – visiting Palestine
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