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.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

June 26, 2013: Birzeit, Taybeh and Nabi Saleh

Go Palestine Summer Camp started off the morning going to Birzeit University where we got a tour of the beautiful campus as well as learned about the effects of the occupation on the university. We learned that the Israeli military shut down the campus multiple times. At one point, the university was closed for a period of five years, in which teachers and students hosted classes in cars, homes, and outside the school itself. This was a nonviolent form of resistance that portrayed to both the Israeli government and the world that Palestinians have a right to education regardless of who claimed the land. Then we met with advocates of the Right to Education campaign who spoke of an academic boycott against Israel. The purpose of this boycott is to attack the structure of systemic oppression that has been built through Israeli universities because of their close relationship with the government. Doing this is another form of nonviolent resistance that is currently taking place in Palestine.

Afterwards, we went to the Beer Brewery in Taybeh to learn about the only Palestinian-made beer in the world and its success as a small business in an occupied Palestine. The Khoury family kindly gave us a tour of their factory, but don’t worry! No alcohol was involved!

We then went to Taybeh Zaman Restaurant where we had a delicious meal and played games with a gorgeous view of Taybeh and its surrounding villages. We also spoke with Father Jack who told us about the history of Taybeh and took us to an Orthodox Church that has been in existence since the Crusades.

Finally, we ended the day by visiting a small village called Nabi Saleh. The people of this village have nonviolent demonstrations every Friday to protest the illegal Israeli settlements that have gradually been taking away their land and their water. The entire village of 600 people only had approximately 8 hours of running water per week. They showed us the settlements on the surrounding hills, and young children told us their stories about standing up to the military, stating to them that “if America is on your side, then God is on ours.” The night ended with a homemade meal, games, singing, and laughing!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 25, 2013: Bethlehem City tour+ Aida Refugee Camp

After meeting at the Ramallah Friends School campus bright and early, Go Palestine Camp began the journey to Bethlehem City. The counselors pointed out checkpoints, the wall and the stumps of olive trees along the way that were a result of the occupation. This allowed the campers to get a first hand look at Palestine beyond the city of Ramallah. During this time, we stopped to take a picture by a work of art by Banksy, which depicted a Palestinian man throwing flowers, symbolizing peace.
Once we reached Bethlehem, we went to a museum at the Bank of Palestine to see artwork that was almost 400 years old. The museum is not yet open to the public, but the bank graciously gave Go Palestine Summer Camp a private tour. Then we went to the Church of the Nativity where we talked about the history of the church as well as the effect of the Israeli Occupation on it. We discussed the experiences of the church during the Second Intifada, explaining that eight people were killed inside it, and tanks were stationed outside the church. The occupation is even affecting holy institutions.
Afterwards, we went to the Dar al-Kalima College to hear from Dr. Metri Raheb. Dr. Raheb emphasized the critical role Dar al-Kalima plays in the lives of its students and in the Palestinian community in Bethlehem and its surrounding areas. Furthermore, Dr. Raheb reflected on how Palestinians can spread awareness about the occupation and its acts through art and culture, using Mohammed Assaf as an example. We then ate a delicious meal at the Citadel, which was originally an Orthodox Church and followed this by buying gifts at the Jadal Center for Culture and Development. After that, we went to the Separation Wall to witness the effect it has on Palestinians. A woman who lives in a house that is cut off by the wall told us her story and invited Go Palestine Camp into her family’s stores. The money used to buy their products was given to children who cannot get food because of the wall. After this, the camp walked along the wall to see its massive size and to appreciate the graffiti that stated, “Make hummus, not walls” and “Free Palestine”.
Then, we went to the Alrowwad Culture and Theater Society (ACT'S) to learn about the Aida Refugee Camp as well as the projects taking place at the center, and the huge impact the center makes on the lives of the refugees. Our campers played with kids in the Aida Refugee camp, and many of them said that playing with the children was the highlight of their day.

Finally, Go Palestine Camp went to Beit Sahour and listened to Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh speak about the history of Palestine and the idea that resistance is existence. This was followed by dinner with a beautiful view of Jerusalem! All in all, today was a very eventful, productive and enjoyable day!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 24, 2013: Camp Day 1 - Orientation

Our first day today was a huge success! Our awesome Go Palestine staff anxiously awaited our wonderful campers on Monday morning. After welcoming our campers and handing out our Go Palestine t-shirts, the staff and campers introduced themselves and we all played some ice-breakers to get to know each other. Then, the staff explained the rules, regulations, expectations, and cultural expectations to the campers. We then walked through the busy city of Ramallah and enjoyed a delicious meal at Jasmine Cafe. On our walk back from Jasmine Cafe to the Friends Boys School, we had a special tour through the old city of Ramallah by our staff member Qossay.
As soon as everyone returned to the Friends Boys School campus, campers and staff engaged in a deep discussion about tolerance and the importance of respecting one another. The campers engaged in a productive discussion, sharing their personal experiences, opinions, and struggles. It was inspiring to see the campers getting comfortable with one another and opening up.  The staff emphasized that Go Palestine is a safe, judge-free zone in which everyone should be able to express themselves openly and voice their opinions. The staff emphasized that our discussions should not influence how campers view or treat one another, and that whatever happens in the safe zone STAYS in the safe zone.   
After our discussion, the group split up and played basketball and soccer. It was great to see the campers and staff engaged in physical activity and enjoying themselves! We then entered the 'Cinema Room' and watched the documentary Occupation 101. The film was very informative and emotional, addressing everything from settlements to Rachel Corrie to the Intifadas. Following the film, campers and staff engaged in a discussion in which the local campers reflected on their personal experiences living under occupation and their experience living and surviving through the Second Intifada. International campers discussed their experience, struggles, and perspectives as Palestinians living abroad in the 'Diaspora'.
After an AWESOME day, the campers were anxious, excited, tired, and ready to go home to their host families. After the campers left, the Go Palestine staff met and reflected on how successful their first day was and how impressed they all were with the campers. 
After a delicious meal at Jasmine Cafe

Sunday, June 23, 2013

June 23, 2013: Arrival Day

The countdown for our amazing camp is almost UP!!! There is only one more day left for our wonderful journey to begin. Before camp the staff had three days of staff training to ensure that all of you will enjoy and learn a lot from this exceptional experience. We went over all the details and logistics to make sure that your comfort and safety will be met. Our staff members are amazing, fun to be around and all of us are looking forward to meet you all and to get to know each of you. 

Our schedule will be busy and every day we will be exploring a new place and undergoing a new adventures. Our International campers arrived safely today to the Ramallah Friends School campus and all of our amazing host families welcomed them with open arms! The first day of camp will start tomorrow, Monday, we will go over some in-house business, learn some fun ice breakers, walk around our beautiful town of Ramallah and make new friends!! 

The Go Palestine family and the Ramallah Friends School administration are looking forward for this year's camp. :)

International campers arriving to the Ramallah Friends School campus