Perhaps one way to describe Palestine is a beautiful nightmare.
The Occupation of Palestine is one of the most talked about and protested issues in the world. Arriving almost two weeks ago, we expected to find a Palestine that would befit our perceptions. We expected to find a war-torn perhaps naively we had underestimated Palestine. The resilience and hope, which we found in Palestine, cannot be put into words. Palestinians “love to live” as one local told us. They want to create the best world for themselves and their people and they will never give up. In Palestinian controlled area’s, one can be forgiven for forgetting that there is any occupation at all. The bustling streets and youthful population bring life to Palestinian cities. The friendly faces, which greet us with “welcome”, are just a small taste of the heart-warming hospitality of Palestinians. The month of Ramadan started within few days of us arriving in Palestine and the transformation was incredible.
The Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University focuses on the documentation and awareness of the affects on education caused by the occupation. The campaign highlights cases of restrictions and difficulties of Palestinian students through social media and awareness events. Within the first two weeks, we brainstormed ideas and discussed what we want to achieve from the campaign. We looked over what the previous cohort did and agreed that we would continue with some aspects of their campaign such as completing a student survey and updating social media through the hashtag #didyouknow which provides statistics and facts about education in Palestine. In addition to this, we decided that moving forward we were going to set out a clear structure and direction for the campaign. The first week was spent settling in and learning about the different aspects and struggles that the campaign faces. Upon brainstorming, we agreed to create a booklet, which would not only show what we have done but also act as a guide to the campaign. It would be continuous throughout the placement and a final booklet would be produced which would then be distributed. The booklet would be supported by a short film of our work and allow others to understand the work which Right to Education does. We believed that this would be beneficial for sustainability of the campaign and would ensure future cohorts and volunteers would be able to get to grips with what they are aiming for. Another aspect of the campaign we decided to focus on was establishing links with not only UK universities but also establishing a similar scheme in Gaza with connections to the Islamic University in Gaza. Although initial contact has been made, this is something we will work on in the coming weeks. We hope to gain an in-depth understanding of the restrictions on education dn the conflict as a whole. To develop our understanding of the human rights violations suffered by the Palestinians we visited an organisation called Addameer who provide free legal advice and representation for Palestinian prisoners. Addameer is a lifeline to the hundreds of Palestinians arrested each year including children who have never been charged with a acrime but are detained and had their basic human rights denied. Following on from this we visited Al-Haq, a well known organisation which works tirelessly to document and report human rights violations and produce submissions of violations to international bodies. Both organisations are NGO’s and work to highlight cases, which would otherwise go unnoticed.
We visited Tulkarm on the edge of the West Bank, Tulkarm was a stark reminder of the struggle many students have to go through. The wall surrounds the city and Kadoorie University located west of Tulkarm is often seen as the most affected by the Occupation. There is a shooting range within the university grounds and Israeli soldiers regularly carry out shooting practices metres from university buildings and students. Buildings decorated with bullet holes act as a reminder of the violations of students right to education and also the psychological scars many are left with.
We look forward to the challenges ahead and exploring more of Palestine.