Monday, 2 September 2013

Trip to Nablus

Three weeks left till we leave Palestine. It has been an incredible experience. Many of us are contemplating on what we’ll tell our friends and family once we arrive back to the UK. 
Recently we visited three distinctive institutions in Nablus. As we reached Nablus we made our way to Balata Refugee Camp. Walking through the gate a friend and I had noticed the walls covered with posters of martyrs. We also took note of the densely populated camp with 30,000 residents in an area of 0.25 square kilometres.
Balata Refugee camp as it looked in 1950
The residents of the area provided us with a brief history. In 1950 the UN set up the camp to provide the refugees from Jaffa with temporary housing. They left their homes with nothing except for their house key as they hoped it would only be a couple of days till they could return. Unfortunately matters got worse as the borders for the State of Israel were sealed, forcing many refugees to move into concrete housing replacing the original tents. To this day many of the residents in the camp hope to return to Jaffa one day.
After our brief meeting at Balata Camp we made our way to Project Hope, a non-governmental organisation that provides educational and recreational programs to communities that are threatened by the occupation.  Working with national and international volunteers they provide children, youth and adults a chance to learn and grow in the education sphere. It was surprising to hear that that not many communities in Palestine are welcoming when it involves international volunteers as the majority assume that these volunteers are from Israel. The only foreigner a Palestinian often sees is an Israeli so it wouldn’t really be a surprise. He explained how hard it is to tell some communities that these volunteers are pro-Palestinian and are there to help. 
An Najah's lovely campus
Unfortunately we did not have enough time to ask questions as the next trip was to An-Najah National University. We were provided with a brief tour around the big and beautiful campus including the faculties of law, medicine and media.
Visiting Nablus, Area A was fascinating. The refugee camps provided us with an excellent understanding of the concept called ‘hope of return’. At the same time it was good to know that there are organisations helping to improve Palestinian education as many are affected through the occupation on a day to day basis.
I recommend to eat the sweet Kanafeh in Nablus. It is divine.   

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