Impressions of the
Abulhassan Al-Jaberi – the Netherlands
My new friends, my new home
When I met the internationals in Jerusalem, I
was still wondering whether the camp would live up to its
expectations. But then I met the locals. Spontaneously I started
teasing and acting like I knew everyone, locals and
internationals, for years. That was exactly how this camp was: i
felt like we had been friends for years and we had last seen
each other only the day before… Seriously, from the first moment
in Abdelrahim Jerdani School we just started chatting and
The Askar kids amazed me most. These kids…
under these circumstances… are full of enthusiasm, life, joy and
energy. From the moment I saw them I became one of them: playing
with them every day, being ripped apart by ten of them, being
chased by twenty of them, buying candy bars for seventy of them…
and afterwards missing all of them.
It feels like I’m more experienced now and I
know more about me. People go through the worst things here and
they can still have a good time. It hurts to see them suffer. I
started to regard the Palestinian cause as an even bigger duty.
I really hope I can give them something back in the future.
Adam Kershaw -- UK
I can’t remember the last time I met so many
nice, interesting, smart people in one place. This workcamp came
about by chance for me, and up until the last minute I didn’t
think I would have enough money for the flights. Thankfully, I
made it, and I’m so glad I did.
It has been a really inspiring experience,
and I’ve made friends that I’d like to keep for a long time to
I hope you guys enjoyed the camp, and that
you learned some things from us internationals. I’m going now,
with so many happy memories and great experiences, and an
altered perspective on Palestine.
Keep pushing. I (and many others) will be
thinking of you all for a long, long time. Inshallah, this is
Mohammed Ali Amla -- UK
My brothers and sisters in Nablus
My heart always longed to travel to the
blessed land of Palestine. I didn’t know what fate had in store.
The only words I can use to describe these last few weeks, is
it’s been an ‘emotional rollercoaster’. I’ve smiled, I’ve
laughed and surely I have cried.
Why so many tears you may be wondering? My
tears began in the Old City of Nablus, as we were given a guided
tour; to visit such an old city is an honour especially when
each road has 100 stories to tell, very much like all the people
you meet. Each child at Askar will bring a smile to your face.
However, each has his/her own story to tell which would soften
the hardest of hearts. When children have their childhood stolen
by the occupation, the psychological scars are apparent. The
children make the most of the opportunities available and you
will always see them playing and smiling.
Coming to Nablus has taught me many lessons.
One which I shall never forget about the Nablusian people: no
matter how tough life becomes they keep continuing with life. To
live is their only hope for a better tomorrow.
I have never felt as welcome as I have been
in Nablus. I came as a stranger but was greeted like a brother.
It’s been great to share thoughts and emotions: at such a
turbulent time in history we discussed, debated and disagreed.
We shared many smiles and many tears, I’m sure I’ll be in
contact with this diverse group of new friends, I will never
forget my brothers and sisters in Nablus who have a special
place in my heart.
Fernando Peinado Alcaraz – Spain
I’ve renovated all my energies
This is my 2nd visit to Palestine
and I feel I’ve renovated all my energies and I am sure I’ll
come back soon. I love staying in this country because I feel
very close to this friendly and hospitable people and Palestine
will always have a place in my heart.
I have the dream of becoming correspondent in
Palestine. In case I don’t achieve this I will fight for your
rights whatever I do in my life. I thank the Zajel program for
all your good work, now it’s my turn to work when I come back to
my country. Be sure I will do my best!
Gregory Melus – USA
Their love of life and untiring spirit is
an example to everyone
This was an unforgettable experience that has
impacted me in ways I have not fully understood. I thoroughly
enjoyed every part of the camp. How do you describe the
friendliness and warmth of an entire people who overcome so
Every local volunteer made me feel extremely
safe and welcome in their hometown. The lectures were very
intensive. I feel that I have a more accurate perspective of the
situation, and I have real experience to support my conclusions.
It allowed me to reflect on my personal beliefs as well as some
of the minute differences that exist between the faiths.
The cultural events were fun, and of course
the work at Askar was extremely rewarding. Working in a refugee
camp was inspiring because seeing children’s resiliency in such
a difficult situation can only make me stronger. Their love of
life and untiring spirit is an example to everyone.
I would like to thank all the volunteers from
the bottom of my heart. They showed so much patience with the
international volunteers and were wonderful hosts. I look
forward to keeping in touch with everyone, as much the
internationals as the locals, and God willing we will see each
Holly Kilroy – Ireland
We have learnt more than a thousand
books could teach us
I could never have imagined the time I have
spent here in Palestine. We all know about the conflict but no
one can possibly realize the extent of it till they’re here.
Every single person has a story to tell; every single person, a
tragedy. And still, we did not find a broken people, but a
people strong, proud, ambitious and full of a joy for life.
We came here expecting to teach kids and see
what life was like in Palestine. Instead we have learnt more
than a thousand books could teach us. We have not only seen what
life is like here, we have lived it. We have felt the sorrow and
the anger as well as sharing so many laughs and smiles.
The people of Nablus are the most welcoming
people I have ever met and the kids are just fantastic. So
energetic, enthusiastic – classes were never boring! Despite all
the troubles they face on a daily bases they laugh and play as
if without a care in the world. So many are so smart, we can
only hope they get the opportunity to reach their full
Yet we know now, the sad reality is that many
of them won’t. Checkpoint hold ups, humiliation, falling in with
the wrong crowd and being witness to the horrendous war crimes
of the Israelis: these stifle the potential of so many one could
almost give up hope.
But then we look to the local volunteers of
Zajel and of Askar. These people have strived to make a
difference. Despite the difficulties that each and every one of
them has faced, still face and will face, they work to help
people in the same situation as themselves, to help foster a
better future for the people of Palestine. I really do wish we
had more people like this back home.
All our worries and complaints seem so petty
and meaningless standing next to them. Our three weeks in
Palestine have taught us the fatal danger of our ignorance, a
few words of Arabic, and most of all an awe inspiring lesson in
the strength of the human spirit. Hopefully what we contribute
is not just contained in these three weeks but instead what
happens from here, what we say and do when we get home.
In our hearts and in our minds,
This is the start of something big.
Thank you Zajel, thank you Askar
Thank you Palestine
Loes de Kleijn – the Netherlands
Why can’t I bring you guys with me?
At this moment, at the end of the camp, I
feel like I’m leaving all my friends, I want to go home to see
my old friends, but why can’t I bring you guys with me?
The whole camp was an experience I will never
forget. I learnt so much and met a lot of people; I feel like
some of the volunteers will be friends for years.
If I tell you about my feelings towards the
kids I would talk for hours. I really enjoyed my time with them
and I wish I could have seen them more often. Every time I saw
the smiles on their faces I felt so good… Every time the kids
were doing the dances I taught them I felt like I really gave
them something to remember, and I felt so proud that I taught my
kids to do these dances. My feelings about the whole camp:
Great, I loved it!
Mark Robert Hesling – UK
I am already thinking about my next trip
There must be something about Nablus that I
really like because this is my second time here. I haven’t even
left yet and am already thinking about my next trip here next
year. At first it can seem like a large, bustling, intimidating
place but actually it’s one of the friendliest, warm and
welcoming places I have ever been to in my short life. The
locals are embarrassingly hospitable, the internationals are
great people, and the time I spent here – though now it seems
like it’s gone in a flash – will live with me as a very happy
Time flies when you’re having fun, but I hope
it was not just that, and whilst we are here and whilst at home
we can do whatever we can to help make Palestine free, and that
the country can be rid of the ugliness of occupation and will be
as beautiful as the people here are.
Micha Ovtchinnikov – Switzerland
Just one big family
The consequences of the “Information War” are
very apparent here and the situation is unjust to an extreme,
yet seeing it in practice gives an insight as to how to combat
the plague of propaganda, here and back at home.
The experience provided by the Social
Development Centre in Askar Refugee Camp and the kids has proved
to be beyond the craziest expectations I have ever had. Apart
from one or two distinct features of my life back home, nothing
is as pure as the friendship the kids and volunteers have
created and cherish. This was a great test, a practical one, for
the promotion of human dignity. One word: respect.
I would never have thought to see a city as
beautiful as this one amidst the horrors. Nowhere have I felt
that the city is just one big family as it is here. As a human I
am attracted to this place and it truly is home to me.
Friends in Palestine
I have to say I enjoyed so much being outside
my daily environment back in Portugal, coming to Palestine and
being surrounded by such interesting, dynamic, cheerful people –
both local and international.
Sometimes I felt that working with children
was an excuse to make us come here and have loads of lectures on
Palestinian issues, because it seemed we spent so few mornings
in Askar. Anyway, I enjoyed the lectures, and to be told about
Palestinian issues was also another reason to come here in the
Apart from the more intense moments (for the
first time I heard shots and bombs in my life) I never felt in
danger as the staff always took good care of our security.
Sometimes they were extra-super-ultra-careful (never letting us
alone for a moment) which made me feel I was ten years old
again. That was a bit annoying, but that I’m also thankful.
Count on me to be a Zajel ambassador back in
Portugal! Now I can say I have friends in Palestine.
Rory Myles Byrne – Ireland
Inspiring, amazing, sad, traumatic,
overwhelming and fun
Inspiring, amazing, sad, traumatic,
overwhelming, fun – the adjectives to describe this experience
could fill a dictionary. Putting to paper such an experience is
possibly the hardest task I’ve faced on this trip – it will take
months for it all to sink in and become clear in my mind. Years
of studying the conflict from afar do not compare to a single
day in this amazing and contradictory land. The suffering,
humiliation and daily oppression of these proud people (of which
we experienced only a minute amount) are a sad condemnation of
the state of the world and international community of today.
The people here, both local and
international, have been inspiring and the extent, length, and
context of our long debates and late night talks have been
without parallel in my life. The nature and way everyone here
has a story of tragedy as a result of the oppression is
unbelievable unless you’ve taken the decision to come here.
People with bullet holes from childhood injuries, regular
middle-class people with no connections to the resistance who’ve
been subjected to the torture, both physical and mental of
holding their innocent parents and best friends dying in their
hands – murdered and now just another unnoticed statistic for
the world to ignore.
As internationals we have received the
benefits of the strongest form of resistance the Palestinian
people have possessed – the will to positively continue to find
and spread joy, thanks to their determination to live every day
to the full: an inspiration for all.
Palestine is an extraordinary place where
every day is a new adventure. I feel as though I’ve only
scratched the surface of this land and undoubtedly this will be
the first of many visits here. I only hope I and us all can
repay even a small fraction of what we have received and spread
the word in our respective countries about what is happening
here… thank you Zajel.
Zain « Mohammed Almasri – Jordan
Nablus, my home that I was not fortunate
enough to be raised
I close my eyes, and I see the last three
weeks of my life like an old silent movie before me. I see
pictures of Nablus, my home that I was not fortunate enough to
be raised in, among its warm infinitely struggling hills and
mountains. A warm feeling imprisons me as I remember that sacred
odor; Nablus’s odor that will stay with me for the rest of my
life, even if I am destined to leave Nablus this time.
Pictures from this great city have conquered
my mind. Now I see myself standing in front of the compound
Building which was completely destroyed by Israeli soldiers last
week. The looks on the Palestinians faces and the unexplainable
strength in their eyes, that increases as time goes by, has
always captured my heart, and formed important lessons that are
not to fade, for this time dust is too heavy for wind to blow
I am leaving but my soul and deepest
sentiments will stay with the Old City clinging to its long
standing walls in the face of occupation. I am coming back,
Inshallah, with the desire to make a change and help out. So
this is not really a goodbye, it is just a temporary farewell to
those who I truly admire and love.
Zubair Hoosen – South Africa
Many moments of laughter
This was a very interesting experience for me. There were so
many people from different countries. I enjoyed the many
discussions we had between western and Palestinian Muslim
culture. There were many moments of laughter that we (local &
internationals) shared, and then there were times where people
told stories which brought a tear to many.
I will never forget a kid in drama class. We were playing a game
where everyone was asked to close their eyes and think of a
happy place. The kid, nine years old, mentioned his happy place
when he will meet with his dad in Paradise. (His father was
killed by an Israeli soldier two years earlier.) This brought
tears to all the volunteers that were in the class.
In the evening we were always taken to a different and exciting
place. I will always remember the breathtaking views of Nablus
from these rooftops. Thanks to Zajel for organizing such an
interesting and informative work camp. I look forward to
visiting Nablus again… soon!