Francesca / Italy:

Here I understand what "identity" really means.

 When I first arrived, I didn't realize what I was going to do and how I was going to feel. I’ve spent three weeks in this beautiful land, and now when I have to leave, I feel really sad , Here I found love and friendship in every one of the local and international volunteers. When I look at the Palestinian kids, I often see the strength and the solidarity that I don't find in my country, there is nothing in particular I expected from this workshop, but now I am leaving with so many emotions I never felt before.

I'm not really sure if I gave something to these kids or not, but I am sure that they gave me a lot, I feel like I am at home and I will never forget this  land , the colors , and the diversity of Palestine , Here I understand what " identity " really means.

Palestine will stay in my heart.

Javier/ Spain

These three weeks have been the richest weeks of my life

It is quite difficult to summarize three weeks full of feelings on paper. These three weeks have been the richest weeks of my life in many respects. I've made a lot of friends around the world and especially from Palestine. I have to thank the local volunteers for their help in the activities. Without them, it wouldn't have been possible to do anything.

About the voluntary work, I found it more rewarding than I had expected. Every time a kid came to me with a smile or a piece of chocolate, or when they come to the bus when we arrive at Askar, these images will be kept deeply in our hearts for ever.

The organization of the camp was also great. From the first meeting everybody took care of us to make us feel safe. Maybe there was a lack of freedom, especially in regards of moving around the city.

Lisa /Canada

 I feel I will be leaving Palestine with a completely different view of the conflict

 I have to admit that when I came to Nablus, I already had an idea of what I could expect. Needless to say I was totally wrong. The occupation and the latest Intifada have taken their toll on Nablus, yet despite the hard conditions the Palestinians opened their lives and hearts to us.

The work camp itself took some adjusting to, yet all the experiences I will be taking home with me made my three weeks here so worth it. I will never forget the smiles of the children and the courage of the refugees living in Askar camp. I have been lucky to travel a lot, but nothing will ever compare with my visit here.

I feel I will be leaving Palestine with a completely different view of the conflict here, and hope to continue helping Palestine by sharing my experiences with others back home in Canada.

I would like to thank the local volunteers for their patience in trying to understand us, and for opening their lives up to us. This has definitely been a wonderful experience and I urge anyone thinking of volunteering in Palestine to consider coming here. You will not regret it.


I hope to come back and spend the rest of my life in this country.

As a Palestinian Italian, my aim in this trip was just to see my homeland and to see with my own eyes all the violence and the injustices that the Palestinian people have to live through, but this work camp gave me a lot more. I met people that are really special, especially among the local volunteers; I found a kind friendship, respect and kindness that I can rarely find anywhere else.

The strength and the enthusiasm of the kids in Askar refugee camp are amazing as well. I really feel that I got and learnt from these kids more than I gave to them, But dealing with these kids made me feel bad and guilty because they deserve a better future.

There are many things that I would like to express, but words are not enough. Regarding organizing and transportation, I have nothing to complain about. Everything was great, especially the camp leaders who had to manage so many volunteers in such a difficult situation.

From this work camp I got a lot more than what I expected, so I just feel grateful. Nothing to say about occupation and political situation since, as a Palestinian, thoughts and opinions about this political situation are just obvious. I am proud to be Palestinian and now I really hope to come back and spend the rest of my life in the country.

Marcia/ USA

I feel that I can't stay away

At first, when I arrived and saw what was going on and my bed for the next three weeks, the sink that was going to be my shower, and tried to fall asleep despite the ants and bombs, I wondered what I was doing here, if I had made the right choice in coming. I didn't know if I had the energy to start over again trying to be a friend to another group of people that I would leave again in three short weeks.

But the second I saw the children's faces I knew that there was no place in the world that I would rather be. These kids gave me a gift of a type of happiness that makes you forget material comfort, and allowed me to forget that I would only be here for three weeks. I feel that here I am home. I have been amazed in good and had ways by all that I have seen and I know that I have made friendships that will last for lifetime. I've gained so much knowledge and experiences that I can hopefully share and use to try to explain the situation to people in my country and I hope that in this way I can repay the children for the gift they have given me and the people of Nablus for welcoming us so open-heartedly. I hope that I can come back soon because I feel that I can't stay away.     

Anni/ Finland

I am sad to leave this place

Because of my studies I had been interested in the Middle East and Palestinian affairs for many years. Finally I had the chance to join this work camp and it was an even more amazing experience than I had expected. I had a chance to live the Palestinian life for three weeks with local and international volunteers.

Politically it was intensive and there were tense times in Nablus during these weeks but we were kept safe by the locals’ efforts. We visited many places and organizations such as the Red Crescent and An-Najah National University and we had workshops on many issues. Some of the activities were cancelled because of the curfew or for other safety reasons and we had to stay in the school where we were accommodated. But, well, that is the way life is here.

This way we had a chance to see some of the suffering of the Palestinians and we had a chance to work every day in Askar refugee camp arranging activities for the children who loved us even without any apparent reason.

There were so many touching moments, many times left so sad and frustrated and depressed that I just needed to be alone and think.  That is the way I feel. There are a lot of unprocessed feelings and thoughts to bring home.

Anyway, I have nothing to criticize about the arrangements; for me it was easy to adapt to cooking for ourselves, sharing the housework, and sleeping in classrooms (mattresses on the floor) etc. I will not hesitate to come back to meet my new friends and these children. I had an unforgettable work camp and that is why I am sad to leave this place I love.

Ayres Canfield

local Palestinian people welcomed us into their hearts.

My experience at this work camp has been extremely moving! In the beginning I was overwhelmed by the difference between Palestine and America, but as time went on, and as I got to know the other volunteers and the local children, I came to realize that there were not as many differences as I had perceived, the moments I experienced here will stay with me forever. There were comical moments as well as very emotionally moving moments, and together they have made my stay here in Palestine memorable.

Two of the most memorable experiences for me were the tour through the old city and the time we spent at Askar refugee camp with the children. These two experiences helped me to better understand the Palestinian hardships as well as their spirit. The Zajel Program was extremely helpful in making us feel safe in this war torn country while informing us on helpful topics such as Palestinian literature, women in Palestine and conflict between Palestinians and Israelis to name a few. The local Palestinian people welcomed us into their hearts.

The local volunteers were unbelievably helpful. They were willing to risk their safety in order to make our stay in Palestine more unforgettable, In short there are many factors that made this project successful: the local volunteers, An-Najah National University, Askar Refugee Camp, our means of transportation, bus driver, cab driver, the other international volunteers and many more.


At all times I felt safe

Longing to go to Palestine, I was hoping to witness the struggle of its people first hand, to come to understand their perspective better, to meet new friends, and lastly to let Palestinians know, if they don’t already, that people from the USA respect them as human beings, and care about justice. My three weeks here have provided me with the opportunity to experience, do, and share all that I hoped to.

I was able to glimpse the reality of everyday life in Nablus, falling asleep to the sound of gunshots, interruptions in entertainment or work activities in order to scurry out of danger presented by clashes in the city, and the restriction of freedom imposed by curfew. I had fruitful conversations with local volunteers and other locals that made the Palestinians’ perspective more clear for me, and created in me an awareness of a nation with a beautiful culture and a tragic and great history.

The tours of the old city, university and refugee camp were extremely beneficial. Meeting with refugees and hearing their stories were very important. I think that the tour of Josef Tomb and the Palestinian authority buildings, as well as the meeting with the governor, were all very interesting. The trip to see the Greek Catholic priest was interesting, At all times I felt safe. I believe that the rules and procedures set out for us as well as the presence of local volunteers with us throughout our time were reasonable and important for our well being. Overall I felt that the schedule was full and provided for an excellent experience.

German/ Mexico

For me it is the beginning

I felt really safe when I was with everybody. Somehow the camp leader was always keeping us calm and I felt that everything was very well coordinated, thus I was very happy. I came here with the understanding that Palestinian culture would be very different, so I was very open about trying new things. I think the most culturally shocking moment was when we had to eat from the same plate.

Nice seats, nice driver, nice driving, very comfortable and always punctual! Great! I think the most exciting moment was when we were driving up the hill to Nablus.

The transportation to Nablus was very nice and very surprising! The driver was the first Palestinian I met so it was very interesting to learn from him. Although we had problems with the language we were able to communicate quit well.

The workshops were very well done and informative, but I was expecting something more substantial. After security, voluntary work was the second priority, it exceeded my expectation and as I said before '' for me it is the beginning ''.

I really understand that '' nothing is planned '' in Palestine due to the uncertainty from the Israeli army. Changes in schedules, lack of siesta times, sometimes no internet etc. are just effects of the occupation. I think the best thing to do is to tell the volunteers that we will experience lack of communication, but that everything is fine and the best experience was with Samah. She is really amazing and there is so much to learn from her.

This is just the beginning. This work camp was my first real field experience in humanitarian affairs and I'm looking forward to develop my skills to become a better person and professional, The curfew opened my eyes so much that I learned that if I want to work in humanitarian affairs I will be in curfew, shootings, bombs, etc quite often so I wanted to learn as much as possible about them. So now I am Zajel.

Suhaila/ USA

Until further notice

The local Zajel volunteers did an amazing job maintaining our sense of safety and confronting so much that I and one other volunteer coined the phrase "occupation tourist".

We experienced the frustration of not being free to do as we are accustomed to doing. Beyond the normal cultural differences, being in a place that faces daily invasions, random "until further notice" curfews, and is under occupation - there are no words to describe it.

The leaders of Zajel adapted as much as they could, finding themselves responsible for 30 additional lives: ours, the "internationals". I enjoyed being an international. I love this term, so much nicer than foreigner. Our "magic bus" was wonderful, and always a welcome sight .The food was always delicious although it will be quite some time before I want hummus again.The work camp was hard, simply because we wanted to give more than just being in Nablus, but sometimes that is all we could do because we spent so much time disciplining the kids.

About as much time was spent disciplining us too. Saif, Fawaz, Safaa, Razan, Jihad, Mohammed, Husam, Hakam, Samah and Sabeih were not just locals. They were our informants and friends, I cannot find the words to adequately express this all.

The speakers I found most beneficial, the father who reminded me that Palestinians are Christians, Jewish, and Muslims. The President of An-Najah National University who represents the perseverance of the nation by furthering education which shows a hope for a future. The professor, an amazing man who was the only speaker to state this atrocity is actually about human rights.

Politics will make you forget that sometimes Zajel provided me with the chance to be reminded ……I am forever in debt, I am forever in debt. But, I look forward to giving back again, again, again and again.

Stijn/ Belgium

People in Palestine are warm, open and friendly

This has been my first summer camp and the first time I have been out of Europe. There are so many aspects in Palestine. This kind of work camp is new to me and I really wanted to learn how to deal with it. this was like a first step and I am very grateful for this experience.

I can write about how sad this situation is for the Palestinians but, to be honest, that aspect (the political situation) didn't interest me anymore once I was here. What really interests me is the way person all over the world deal with tough situations.

I think Palestinians have three things that Belgians don't have: religion, friendship and family. These three things help Palestinians to keep strong.  Don't ever take them for granted. People in Palestine are warm, open, friendly and considerate. In Belgium it takes years for two people to become best friends, in Palestine it seems so easy.

Although I have problems with the very intense and narrow contact and the ways of communicating with others, I really find the Palestinian way of interfacing is more valuable than the Belgian one! And the strong belief of the Palestinians is another thing which makes them unique.

I myself was always very critical when it came to religion. But not anymore. Now I have seen that really being religious is sometimes the most powerful weapon, while before I used to think that what you give to your god, or what you give to your religion, is something that’s not important.

Ivan / United Kingdom

All of the Palestinians deserve a better fate than the extreme oppression

 Thank you very much for providing me with a wonderful and invaluable experience, I hugely enjoyed all aspects of the work camps, and I feel that I gained much more than I could possibly have hoped for. As far as the routine aspects of the camp are concerned, I was pleasantly surprised. The food was delicious and almost always plentiful. Most of the transportation was done by bus and it was always superbly organized, although as a result of this reliance on the friendly bus-driver we perhaps had fewer chances to walk through the city than I would have liked.

The generally excellent standard of the basic aspects of the work camps enabled us to fully appreciate the work and activities that we did during the day. The work at Askar refugee camp was very rewarding indeed and pleasant at the same time. An explanation of what was involved and expected of us at the beginning of the work camp would have been welcome, although our relative unprepared ness was compensated for by the wonderful freedom that we were given to do exactly whatever we wished with the children who were a pleasure to work with given their friendliness and enthusiasm.

 Indeed both of these characteristics applied in equal measure to the staff who organized the work camp. They were responsible, knowledgeable, caring, sympathetic and particularly concerned about our safety and general well-being. The local volunteers, meanwhile, were undoubtedly the most interesting feature of the work camp; they provided a marvelous opportunity for us to have our preconceptions of their culture and society challenged and also to discuss polemical issues such as religion and the peace process openly. The views and tales of the local volunteers were supplemented by several lectures on topics such as the role of women in Palestinian society and Palestinian literature, whilst the speakers provided an interesting insight into various issues.

At the end of the work camp I felt that these interests had been incredibly well-served, and I would have no hesitation in recommending this extraordinary work camp to anyone with the slightest interest in Palestine. It is impossible for me to express the extent of my gratitude to all the staff and volunteers in this report, although I look forward to returning to Nablus in the future and meeting all the friends that I have made in this wonderful city. In the meantime, I must return to Britain and share with others memories such as that of a refugee clinging to the title deeds, dated pre-1948, of his property in Yafa and do my best to persuade others that all of the Palestinians deserve a better fate than the extreme oppression that they are currently enduring as a result of the Israeli occupation and the international community's disinterest in their struggle.

Joell / Sweden

What an amazing people!!!

My feelings during the work camp have been more than divided. I will share with you a short synopsis of my thoughts that I wrote in my diary one day, a couple of lines that illustrate my feelings toward the Palestinian people that I have known and about the situation in Palestine. What an amazing people!!!

Even though I have been sick more than I have been well during the last week, I have never been so happy and so sad at the same time because the distance between happiness and sadness is just minimal here. Yesterday we were having a festival with songs and dance on one side of the road and on the other we could hear the bullets of the Israeli soldiers. Most of the time we knew who they were shooting at…. They were children, because the children were throwing stones at them.

The night of the festival, the Israelis were invading the city with their jeeps. From the news I know now that nobody was killed, just a bunch of injured people. And it's not strange that after a while in Nablus you don’t ask “Was anyone injured?” You always ask “How many were killed?”

A couple of hours before we arrived at the festival we went sightseeing in the Old City and had the chance to see how the Israeli soldiers had left many parts ruined, I have never felt the smell of death so close and so strong as then. Along all the walls through Nablus you can see photos. Each and every one of them illustrates someone that has been killed.

Another aspect of the camp that was interesting for me was experiencing a Muslim city for the first time, Many nights we had lovely discussions about religion that taught me a lot and helped me to understand things I never understood before.

I am really so happy that I had the chance to experience this work camp. I can never express my experiences in Nablus but you can experience it yourself. That is what I think everyone should do.

Anna/ Sweden

Welcome to Nablus

After being here in Nablus for three weeks, I really feel exhausted. It started with the really adventurous mountain trip that really made me start thinking right away about what these people really have to put up with every day in their daily life, Not being able to take the normal roads, not being able to go in and out of town whenever they want, not being able to invite whoever they want whenever they want because of the Israeli roadblocks that happen to be closed just that day. It was really frustrating and I am just starting to understand a little bit of the situation.

Coming to Askar refugee camp was really overwhelming. Children came running to meet us at the bus, I really felt like they enjoyed having us there and that our visit made them happy, we talked about their dreams, hopes and families, It was really touching hearing their dreams about stuff that is so obvious for me, like having a house, being safe and being able to live without tanks and guns wherever they go. It really made me understand a little bit how much fear and pressure they have in their lives. How they still managed to laugh and be happy is for me a mystery but really wonderful to experience.

Living at the school was really pressurized. Not being able to go out alone when you want when you are living so close to other people all day is really hard. Some days we could not go out to the planned entertainment because of the Israeli invasions.  This is something that is part of Palestinian daily life and I believe that it's one of the things I learned most from. Not being able to have your freedom is so wrong.

Some days I was really afraid when we woke up from shootings on the streets, sometimes it sounded like the war was just outside our window and that made us really scared and you felt like you have to be on guard all day and night, You could feel the tension in the air and that something was going on outside and all you could do was sit inside and hear the shootings and the screaming.  Not being able to help the people that actually could be dying out there was so frustrating! It's really crazy to realize that people actually are living under these circumstances all year round.

The meetings with the local volunteers were also a good thing to learn from, Hearing their stories about the occupation, their religion and how their life is really taught me a lot about how different their life is from mine, I really learned a lot from them and I also came to like this country and its friendly people, Also when walking in the streets of Nablus, people where yelling at us "welcome to Nablus, hope you enjoy your stay here".  That really made us feel so welcome here, before coming to Nablus people warned me about harassment but during my stay here I only heard good things and met friendly people.

Altogether I really enjoyed my stay here and I learned so much from the people and from living under the conditions here. You really can't imagine how the situation is until you've been here and met the people, heard their terrible stories and shared their life. I will take this experience home with me and I will share my love for Palestine and my story with as many people as I can. I owe this to the Palestinian people.

Matt/ USA

A sense of ‘love family’

The local help was outstanding by work camp standards, very dedicated, and eager to help, patient with our behavior, great leadership. Alaa was great to have as a tough no-nonsense leader, Seif was great as camp leader, tough when he had to be and had a good sense of humor when it was needed. A tough job handled well.

Great Arabic class, Yusra a great teacher, lots of fun activities planned, great schedule packed with diverse activities, great ability for the leadership to adapt to unpredictable circumstances, plenty of great pictures and video taken and given, great food. Money well spent.

I fell in love with this concave city of lights the moment I saw it the night of August and the work with the local children was awesome, and the internationals were great. One of the best run work camps I have been involved with.  I felt a peace here I don't get back in the U.S.A. Despite occupation there is a sense of ‘love family’, coverage that one has to really look for in my country. Maybe this can give comfort to those who perceive the country I live in to be so great. In fact maybe you have much more than we could ever understand back in the U.S. It emphasizes my belief that all deserve human rights and respect.

Transportation was very good in general. We always had adequate transportation. We also had taxis with locals, the Red Crescent. One time we had a 7 person escort from the Red Crescent during the curfew from the girl's dorm to our dorm.

Living under a curfew/ occupation, we were lucky because we were only interrupted a few times. We only had curfew for one night, and we had restrictions so we experienced a taste but only a small taste of what Palestinian life may be like.

I really liked the sound from the loudspeakers in the city during the call to prayer. It reminded me to think of and thank God. Opportunities for leadership were encouraged by Alaa and it was emphasized for us to take care of our own living conditions, work arrangements etc. In this way we were empowered. Great speakers/ lectures were informative and questions were encouraged.

I think the family of Yusra, Hakam, Yasmine and Mais are exceptional. Their attitude, enthusiasm, spirit and dedication were stood out for me. They must have incredible parents. Fawaz was essential to the camp. His efforts helped make the camp run as smoothly as possible given the difficult environment. He cared greatly that things should go well and tried very hard to meet people's needs. He kept a positive face even during personal trials.

My safety was especially looked after as I seem to look like an Israeli soldier.  This was appreciated. Alaa did a great job asserting authority and using his sense of humor to help manage the group.  He was the glue of the camp.

Seif spent enormous energy directing and running the camp. This tremendous understanding was accomplished extremely well. He had fun joking with the volunteers which helped the camp atmosphere. All the locals were very supportive with us. They never complained about anything even when they had to make a large number of trips for our various needs.

Hina/ Japan

I discovered so much about Palestinians

During the three weeks of the work camp I used the word "beautiful" so many times: the mountains of Nablus, the view from the top of the hotel at night, the women of Palestine, and the smile of the kids in the refugee camp - so many impression overall that Palestine is beautiful. The program had great entertainments planned such as the Palestinian folklore festival we went to, the barbecue trip we had on top of the mountain, and the swimming pool was especially a good idea to entertain and relax the volunteers. Because of the situation (and at times the curfew) we were not able to go out as much as we would have liked. Organized activities like those were extremely valuable, and I think both the locals and the international volunteers got on really well to make the best of those occasions.

Having so many different kinds of people from different countries was great especially when people could introduce songs and games from their own countries that we could all share during the free times: Salma's flamenco, Pun's uno, etc.

I met some really great people that I want to keep in touch with for life and I am really going to miss the work. Working with the kids in the Askar refugee camp was honestly the best thing I'd ever done in my life. The kids are really really, really (Walla) great and I love them so much.

So next time I hear the word "Palestine" from anywhere the first thing which is going to come up in my mind is the smiling faces of the kids from Askar, and maybe the smell and the taste of the "konafa" sweets I ate and the Palestinian songs.

I got to know some of the local volunteers very well, especially Mais who I got to know the best perhaps due to being the same age (17) and also students from An-Najah National University who I met during the exhibition with Mr. Tanaka.

Cleaning, washing the dishes and all other housework we needed to do were tiring but actually quite a good idea to introduce a kind of "team spirit" among the members of the committee. The weekend visits were interesting.

Other highlights of the camp were learning about the Arabic culture. I know I annoyed people because I didn't stop singing. I discovered so much about Palestinians in the three weeks, and I'd like to thank you all.

Alex/ Sweden 

Not once have I regretted that I decided to come here

Three weeks have passed since that Sunday when I met a group of international volunteers at a restaurant near Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. Those three weeks have seemed to be the longest three weeks of my life due to all the things that have happened, but on the other hand they have passed so fast that I haven’t even had time to realize I'm actually here, in Nablus, in Palestine.

The situation of Nablus as a city under full occupation became painfully clear before we got here, because since the first moment we reached here everything was so difficult, starting with walking over Jerizim mountain in the dark, hearing the soldiers so close to us, knowing what the driver who walked with us was putting himself through to get us safely to Nablus made my heart beat strongly. And it will keep beating for Palestine and its people.

Staying here for three weeks is not really enough to understand it all, but it has been a good start and definitely it has made me believe that I will return one day.

Those three weeks have been full of so many feelings. For me it has been difficult being a part of all the happiness and jokes and socializing with the other international volunteers since my mind has been so full of thoughts about what I’ve been seeing all the time: what's going on in Nablus, the occupation and the invasions of the Israeli soldiers, the situation of never being able to plan more than a few hours ahead is simply inhuman.

I have spent three weeks the same way as the 200 000 citizens of Nablus live their lives every day. I’ve felt frustrated about not being able to move around freely, not being able to go out whenever and wherever I feel like. I've been thinking that I can't experience the real life of Nablus, the whole city out there, in the streets and markets, in the villages, since I can't have my freedom. But later I realized that what I'm experiencing is actually the real Nablus, the captured city, the Nablus that has no freedom.

I've met people here with different thoughts and opinions that gave me hope for the future of a free Palestine, but I‘ve also met people who make me doubt that there will ever be a solution to this conflict. But certainly I am not the one with the solution for a peaceful future.

And then I thought about the tour we made in the old city of Nablus, and how I felt when I heard all the real life stories and saw the results of the Israeli invasions over the years. And I realized so clearly how almost impossible it would be to think constructively and objectively when every single person has lost a friend or a relative because of the Israeli guns. But still it’s amazing to me the amount of happiness, warmth and friendliness that is there among the people, Everywhere I go there is someone smiling at me, welcoming me to Nablus, asking me to tell the people in my home about life here. And I smile back, thanking them for welcoming me here.

I know I have so much to tell when I get back to Sweden. So many things that I never knew about life here, so many things no one who hasn’t come here can ever fully understand.

There have been Israeli fire shootings right outside my window. There have been times we ran away from jeeps and tanks. There have been helicopters in the sky and explosions, screams and ambulances almost every night. I have felt so empty and helpless, but never ever afraid. Not once have I regretted that I decided to come here to do my very small bit in the struggle for peace for the Palestinian people.

The work with the children in Askar refugee camp gave me a lot of joy. If my presence there has left the children with some good memories and happiness away from the pressured life they live, I can return home feeling not only that I have gained something from this, but that I have also been able to give something from myself. .

Now I have to leave Nablus. I have a strong feeling that it is the moment to say "see you later "but not "good bye". Palestine and its people have gained a place in my heart, a place that I think they will keep forever.