Sunday, July 7, 2013

July 4 Camp Day 10 -Hebron.

The campers arrived early morning at 7:00 am at the Ramallah Friends School for our journey to Hebron (Al Khaleel). On the way, we learned a lot about the surrounding settlements around Hebron, as well as the land confiscations. 

We visited the only Palestinian Koffiyeh (Palestinian scarf) in Palestine. We witnessed the production, took awesome pictures, and purchased original gifts from the factory. We met Mr. Hisham Sharabati from the Hebron Defense Committee, and he toured us through a Palestinian area surrounded by Kiryat Arba settlement and by the Israeli military/civil base in Hebron. We learned this settlement and the military base were built on Palestinian land. 

Later we went to Hebron Rehabilitation Committee center and we were given a presentation titled “Hebron Till when a Ghost City.” The presentation gave us an overview about the history of the city and about the effects of the occupation and illegal settlements in Hebron. The campers engaged in a productive conversation.

Then we went on a tour around the old city of Hebron and we witnessed the negative effects and the damage that the settlement/settlers cause on the Old City. We walked to visit the Ibrahimi Mosque were we faced some difficulties from the Israelis. The Israeli soldiers gave us a hard time and refused to let us enter  the mosque due to our Go Palestine camp t-shirts. They demanded that we either change the t-shirt or made sure that the word Palestine was covered before entering the mosque. After much discussion, we were able to cover up our camp t-shirts and entered the beautiful mosque. Some campers prayed, and we learned the history of the Ibrahimi mosque including the 1994 massacre. We then took a walk to "Shuhada Street," also known as "Apartheid Street," where Palestinians are forced to walk on one side of the street and Israeli settlers on another. We witnessed first hand the inequality, making it a very surreal experience. 

We then enjoyed some lunch at the Hebron
Rehabilitation Committee. After lunch, the campers enjoyed some free time to do some shopping in the old city. Then we went to a village called Tal Rnebeh, where we witnessed how settlers live with Palestinians and how the IDF soldiers protect the settlers. We later enjoyed some time playing with the children. After some fun time, we met with a Hebron resident who hosted us and briefed us on the village of Tal Rnebeh and about the general situation in Hebron, giving advice about how they could support and advocate for their issues while living abroad. 

Our last stop was the Hebron Glass factory, where the campers had a tour and bought some beautiful gifts for their loved ones. On our way back to Ramallah, we made a pit stop in the holy city of Bethlehem where we enjoyed delicious falafel sandwiches at the famous restaurant Aftimos. Yum! 

Friday, July 5, 2013

July 3 Camp Day 9- Rawabi and Ramallah.

After meeting at Ramallah Friends School Campus, Go Palestine Camp went to Rawabi, which is a new city built specifically for Palestinians. We started out with a private bus tour of Rawabi to see the whole city. Then we had a tour of a 4-D exhibit to get an idea of what the city would be like if we were walking through it, and later watched a 3-D movie about the city and what it contains. After that, we went outside to see the largest Palestinian flag in the country, and the progress of the construction of one of the neighborhoods of Rawabi. We then had a Question and Answer session with two employees and Mr.Bashar Masri himself who developed the idea of Rawabi and is the chairman of Massar International. Mr. Masri explained the funding of the project, how he transformed an idea of building a city for Palestinians into action, the education systems that would be implemented within the city as well as the positive international attention the city and Palestine have received.

Then we went back to Ramallah to have lunch at Sangrias Restaurant to eat and sing karaoke. We had a friendly competition to see which group of campers would be the best singers and dancers. The whole camp was dancing, singing, and enjoying their time. After every round, groups voted for each other. People who were having lunch at Sangrias made guest appearances in some of the songs and assisted with judging.

After we walked back to campus, we had a conversation about what the campers wanted to do for the kids in Aida refugee camp because they enjoyed their first visit so much they wanted to go back. 

After finishing our discussion, we headed to the library and welcomed our guest speaker, Ahmad Shami who about his family story and their suffering because of the occupation. He also talked about the formation of the Palestinian identity, and the importance of finding it in a country of confused identities. 

At the end, we walked to Rukab Ice Cream, which is one of the most popular and oldest Ice Cream places in Ramallah. The campers then went home early to get ready for a busy next day.

July 2 Camp Day 8- Ramallah Snowbar.

Today was a relaxing day compared to the strict schedules of Go Palestine Camp. Everyone met at a swimming pool called Snow Bar and spent the day swimming, sunbathing, racing and having chicken fights in the pool as well as singing and dancing.

After playing for several hours, the campers were tired and hungry. Snow Bar prepared an Arab Bedouin meal called Zarb, which is a meal consisting of chicken and vegetables that is cooked underground. All the campers enjoyed the meal and were fascinated by the food. They also enjoyed eating different salads and Hummus.

Later we surprised a camper with a birthday cake and celebrated her birthday with all the campers. After this tiring but relaxing day, we gave the campers the night off to see their families and host families as well as have free time to enjoy their time in Palestine.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 1.2013 Camp Day 7- Bank of Palestine, Ramallah Musuem, Sakakini Center.

This morning we walked to the Bank of Palestine in Ramallah where we were welcomed warmly. We started off with, Hisham Al Shawa, the General Manager of the Bank of Palestine talking about the history of the bank and it’s challenges associated in operating under occupation in addition to how the bank attempts to reach to Palestinians living in the diaspora to invest in Palestine’s economy. 

Afterwards, the campers watched a short film on the bank initiative in building gardens for children aiming to keep them productive in playgrounds rather than wandering the streets. We then engaged in dialogue and were given awesome souvenir gifts.

Next we took a walk to the Museum of Ramallah where we saw thousand-year-old artifacts. We finished touring the museum and we went and enjoyed an excellent lunch at Level 5 restaurant, which overlooks beautiful scenery of Tireh.

After lunch we stopped by Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center and saw “Palestine Before 1948: Not Just a Memory” exhibition for the photographer Khalil Raad. The campers toured around the exhibition and took some pictures and were mesmerized by the images of Palestine before the Nakba, in its original form. 

Later on, we returned to school and reflected on our trips thus far and our reactions to what we’ve seen and learned.  After finishing up the discussion with sports outside, we wrapped up the day with a guest panel titled “Youth Activism and Engagement in Palestine.” Fajr Harb, from the Carter Center and Najwan Berakdar, a Senior debate coach spoke about their involvements in several activist groups such as Love Under Apartheid Campaign, BDS movement, Bab Al-Shams Initiative and so forth... Najwan in specific reflected on her identity as a Palestinian of Israeli citizenship and raised in “Palestine of 1948” and elaborated on the challenges and the discrimination Palestinians face daily. Fajr reflected on his experience growing up during the 1st and 2nd Intifada and different forms of activism. The campers engaged in talk and inquired about how Palestinians living abroad could help, such as themselves. Afterwards, the campers took the night off to spend the evening with each other or with their amazing host families.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June 30.2013 Camp Day 6- Najah Universty, Balata refugee Camp, Masha Amer Family.

After meeting at the Friends Boys School, Go Palestine Camp traveled to Najah University in Nablus. The representatives of the university welcomed us warmly and told us about the success of the institution in the Middle East as well as provided information of what the school offers in terms of post-graduate studies. Najah University is ranked 6th in the Middle East, offering degrees that range from medicine to fine arts. After we learned about the university, we took a tour of the campus, which allowed us to see the rolling hills of Nablus as well as take a tour of their small museum of artifacts.

We later went to Balata refugee camp to learn about the history of the camp, the struggles of daily life, and the steps we can take as Palestinians to change the situation. We then took a tour of the camp, and the students were shocked about the quality of life of the refugees. The buildings were so condensed that the campers had to walk in a single file line down some of their main roads.Afterwards, we went back to the Yaffa Center and watched a short documentary about two young men who had a passion about photography and film and the necessity for documenting their lives in the camp. Finally, the students learned Dabka with members of the camp and then watched them perform. 

After this, Go Palestine Camp went to St. Jacob’s Well and Church. They were told the history of the sacred well and drank water from it. Later, we went to the Tomorrow’s Youth Organization and took a tour. We learned about classes that focus on empowering women to make changes in their lives at home, and the different opportunities offered for children of Balata Refugee Camp to learn, play, and ultimately, cope with the deteriorating conditions of the camp, after this, students were ready for a delicious meal.

To finish off the day
, we went to Mesha village and met with the Amer family. The family used to own the entire hill before 1948, but since then, the Israelis destroyed and stole his crops and decided to build a wall less than 20 ft from the house. Currently, their home is trapped between a wall and a settlement, and there is virtually no way they can leave without being monitored by the IDF. Hanni Amer talked about his determination to stay on his land as well as the retaliation he has gotten from Israeli settlers and soldiers for simply living on what was left of his land. He stated that he “would not trade one grain of his land, not even one atom, for the world or even the universe,” when speaking about Israel’s attempts to remove him from his house. The campers then bought soap, oil, and accessories from his wife and went to the roof to get a full view of the settlement, the wall, and the gates surrounding the house. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 29.2013 Camp Day 5- Aboud, Deir Ghassaneh, Jifna

On the fifth day of camp we took the campers on a hike over the mountains of Aboud and Deir Ghassaneh. We met in the early morning at 8:00 am in the Ramallah Friends School campus so we could prepare them for the hiking journey. We hiked for 3 hours at Aboud and Deir Ghassaneh until we arrived to a holy religious place, where a man lived, prayed, and died there. We took many breaks along the way, including stopping at a natural spring that provided campers with cool water. The trek was long and hard with some highs and lows on the way, but in the end close to everyone was able to complete the difficult task.

After the hike we had lunch in Jifna at the Dream Pool. At the pool the campers relaxed by the pool, swam and played cards. This was a great time for campers to unwind from the tiring hike and to cool themselves down by jumping into the cold water. After the pool, the campers went back to the Ramallah Friends School campus to be picked up for the night off.

Friday, June 28, 2013

June 27.2013 Community Service Day 1

The fourth day of camp started with going far below sea level to the surrounding villages of Jericho and the Jordan Valley. There, Go Palestine Camp learned that illegal settlers are paid by the Israeli government to live and cultivate the land. However, the Palestinians who previously owned the land are cultivating what used to be theirs and are paid very little for it. In fact, it takes a Palestinian working on a settlement farm about four days to earn enough money to fill a water tank, and the Palestinian families use this water in less than two days

Furthermore, we visited a small Palestinian village, and compared its dry environment to the lush, green settlements who redirect water from Palestinian wells to their settlements and farms. We talked to the young children of the village and saw its small school, which was under a demolition order twice by the Israeli government. Thankfully, it is still standing today! 

After this, we did service work with the villagers of Jiftlik to help them make clay blocks to rebuild houses that were demolished by the Israeli military. This happens weekly in Palestinian villages and that same day we saw Israeli jeeps and bulldozers who just recently finished demolishing two houses. After completing our service work we were cordially invited to a Palestinian home in order to eat a traditional meal 

We then sent the campers home to shower and change and went to Quattro Club in Ramallah to have a delicious meal, bowl, play games, and dance! This was a great way to wind down the day after working and touring the desert.