Celebrating the conclusion of the tenth annual Zajel International Volunteering Camp

On June 29th 2010, the university celebrated the conclusion of the tenth annual international volunteering camp, organized by the International Youth Exchange Program (Zajel) of the Public Relations Department. The ceremony took place at Martyr Zafer Al-Masri Auditorium in the Old Campus. The attendees included Dr. Kherieh Rassas, President Assistant for Strategic and International Affairs and Dr. Jawad Fatayer, President Assistant for Alumni Affairs. 

Prior to the celebration, the President of An-Najah, Professor Rami Hamdallah, received the international volunteers in his office where he thanked them for their participation and volunteer work. During the celebration, Dr. Rassas also thanked the volunteers on behalf of the university, for the efforts they exerted in order to benefit the locals through the different training courses they provided. She also mentioned that the Palestinian society in general and the university in particular value the work that the internationals have achieved over the past two weeks.

This year, the camp consisted of more than 40 internationals from more than 14 different countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Norway, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Belgium, and Slovenia. The international volunteers took part in a number of social, academic and cultural activities and events. They also provided daily training courses for the university students in which hundreds of local students participated. The courses focused on different topics such as conversational English, discourse skills, communication, leadership, management, electronic media, and others that helped sharpen their skills and add to their current experience. Students were happy to participate in these workshops which provided them with the chance to learn new things in various fields and acquire more skills. 

The camp included a number of lectures by professors and researchers from the university that tackled a number of key issues Researcher, Ranin Grais from Haifa delivered a lecture about the Palestinians who were expelled from their homes in 1948 but remained in Israel. The lecture was organized as part of a number of lectures and workshops that were organized by Zajel. Grais spoke about the history of the Palestinians of the 1948 to preserve their identity and heritage.

She also presented a number of statistics and studies on the demographic situation of Palestine before 1947 and the reasons that forced the Palestinians to leave their homes and lands. In addition to this, she illustrated the repercussions and negative impacts of the 1948 war on the Palestinians which led them to become homeless and deprived of their rights. The lecture, aimed at educating internationals about the difficult conditions that Palestinians inside Israel face everyday because of the Israeli practices and prejudice against them. 

Also during the camp, Dr. Fatayer spoke about the history of the Palestinian cause and highlighted the most significant phases in this history. He also spoke about his own experience as a Palestinian-American who has experienced a lot of difficulties and challenges while living outside Palestine. A discussion was raised between Dr. Fatayer and the volunteers who exchanged ideas and questions about the possible solutions for the Palestinian cause and the psychological dimensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The internationals listened to the Director of the Civic Committee of the Nablus Governate, Engineer Naseer Arafat discuss the history of the city of Nablus, the different historical eras it went through such as the Canaanite and Roman ages, in addition to the extremely difficult conditions the city has witnessed over the last years which threatened its social fabric. He also spoke about the history of the different religions that the city hosted and still hosts such as Islam, Christianity and the Samaritans and pointed out to the harmony and tolerance that characterized this co-existence between those faiths. Furthermore, he explained the rehabilitation projects that are planned for the city. 

This year’s camp featured a variety of lectures that addressed various issues such as the status of water in Palestine since 1967 and the policy that the occupation adopts in dealing with water resources that spread across the Palestinian land, a lecture by Mr. Nidal Atallah, the Counselor in the Palestinian Hydrology Group, Mr. Atallah discussed a number of vital issues related to water status in Palestine such as conflict over water in the Middle East and the role that the Israeli settlements play in taking over water resources that belong to the Palestinians. He further explained the different obstacles and challenges that water projects face. He also described the unfair distribution of water which means that many Palestinians are left with only a small amount of water which can not meet their daily needs.

Internationals also learned about the Right to Education campaign when Dr. Anan Quzmar, the Coordinator of the Right to Education Campaign at Bir zeit University spoke about the reality of education in Palestine and the challenging conditions that students and educational institutions face currently. Dr. Sa'ed Abu Hijleh, an instructor at the Department of Geography at An-Najah delivered a lecture about the issue of international solidarity with the Palestinians. He also discussed the geographical dimensions of the Palestinian cause, the division of land, the necessity to enforce international laws so as to achieve justice in the occupied territories. 

In addition to these lectures, the volunteers participated in a number of field visits including Hebron where the volunteers were taken on a tour around the city and introduced to Hebron's most important and historically significant sites. Mr. Waleed Abu Halaweh, Public Relations Director at Hebron's Rehabilitation Committee, guided the volunteers on a tour to the Tomb of Patriarchs (Haram Al-Ibrahimi) where he explained the various restrictions that are imposed on the inhabitants of the city, limiting their movement and contact with the outer world. The visit came as part of many visits that aimed to familiarize the internationals with the significant sites and cities in Palestine and educate them about the harsh situations that Palestinians face under occupation.

Another visit was conducted to the New Askar Camp in Nablus in cooperation with the Center for Societal Development where the internationals interacted with children in the camp. Their activities included sports, drama, music, physical therapy, dancing, painting, crafts, and many others. The activities were designed to give children in refugee camps a chance to participate in useful and entertaining practices that would help them overcome the difficult situations they face everyday. 

The volunteers also visited Balata Refugee Camp where they met with people and discussed their past and present experiences. They came face to face with some of the Palestinians who witnessed the 1948 exodus and were familiar with the suffering and agony they experienced..

A similar visit was made to Qalqilya where the volunteers were received by its Governor Brigadier Rabih Khundagji who gave a presentation about the impact of the Separation Barrier on the life of the people in the city. He also spoke about its impacts on the economical life in Qalqilya in addition to the environmental and social effects resulting from building it. The volunteers were taken, later in the day, on a trip to see for themselves the negative environmental impacts and the difficult living conditions that resulted from building the separation barrier.

Near the conclusion of the Zajel volunteering camp, the internationals made a visit to the Samaritan sect in Nablus. Mr. Ya'qoub Samiri, head of the Samaritan Myth Society in the city spoke about the history of the Samaritans, their traditions, customs, religious rituals, and their historical affiliation with Nablus. He also described the religious tolerance that characterizes its relationship with other religions and sects in the city. The volunteers were further involved in discussions about several topics related to the Samaritan way of life, how they deal with others, the reality of the Samaritan woman, as well as the Samaritan traditions that characterize their different social celebrations and occasions.

The visit came to reinforce cultural and intellectual exchange and understanding between the Samaritans and other people from different parts of the world. And as part of the many activities that Zajel carries out, this event is a key element which allows for more understanding between local and global cultures.

 

This international event included many more unique events such as the organization of the Global Village exhibition in which international volunteers displayed different items and traditional dishes that were unique to each country. The exhibition aimed to familiarize locals with other cultures and traditions of the world; it also helped in bridging the gap between different cultures. The world has become a global village, close contact and communication between different cultures has become ultimately inevitable, therefore, it is important to hold such events which help people across the world become familiar with each other's tradition, heritage and way of thinking. 

The activities that the Zajel international volunteering camp focused primarily on educating internationals about the history of Palestine, its culture, tradition, the conditions that people encounter under occupation, the reality of education, environmental crises, education, the Palestinian cause, providing training for students, helping locals, as well as strengthening cooperation and understanding.

Internationals, on their part, expressed their pleasure and happiness to take part in the camp and stated that they have learned a lot from visiting Palestine. To them, speaking to the locals was able to give them a better understanding of the situation in Palestine and the Palestinian culture. It was a mutual benefit. Furthermore, they were excited to interact with local students who gave them a closer look at the Palestinian society and the difficulties of daily life they face..

 

One of the internationals said that he came to Palestine knowing nothing about it, he was like a total stranger, but with the help of the locals he became more confident and learned many things about the Palestinian life. He learned how Palestinians defeated fear and stood in the face of all adversities imposed by the occupation. He added that he has gained a better understanding of the Palestinians and why they are still fighting and not surrendering. 

Around the goal of bridging the gap between local and international cultures and educating others about the situation in Palestine, this annual event will continue to receive more visitors and volunteers from all over the world so as to reinforce the abovementioned goals and help in achieving better understanding between people.

- home -