July, 2003 workcamp
On the morning of July 12, 2003,
Zajel Youth Exchange Program opened its July International
Voluntary Work camp. The work camp ran from the 31st
of July involving international volunteers from Britain,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea,
Spain, Sweden, Belgium and the United States.
Volunteers worked on different
sites of the municipality park, which had been neglected since
several few months. They also worked in the destroyed houses
of the Old City, as well as some of the homes of needy people
Zajel organizes this activity in
order to offer placements for the international volunteers who
would like to gain a better understanding of the life,
culture, religion and political situation in Palestine.
There were various cultural
activities organized during the July workcamp. A workshop
about the history of Palestine from 1917-1948 was given by
Mr.Alaa Yousef, coordinator of Zajel Youth Exchange
Program. He explained the roots of the conflict and the
emigration to Palestine from abroad as well as the Palestinian
Uprisings against the English Mandate of Palestine. This
workshop gave a clear image about the deep roots of the
Palestinian Jewish conflict before 1948.
The workshop also explained the
events of 1948 war and its impact on the Palestinian community
when one million Palestinians were deported from their
villages and cities.
A workshop on Christianity took
place at the Catholic church in Nablus, George Saadeh, the
Priest of the Catholic church in Nablus. He spoke about the
tolerance between Muslims, Samaritans and Christians of Nablus
who have lived over the past hundreds years in tolerance and
coexistence. He also mentioned that all three monotheistic
religion are based on the word of God and have the same goals
but that it is politics which emphasize the differences.
A long tour to the old city of
Nablus took place also. Volunteers had the opportunity to
enter destroyed homes, inflicted by the Israeli invasions.
They could see destruction of some houses, burnt merely a few
hours before the tour by the Israeli occupation forces. The
group could also meet the eyewitnesses of the old city who
told their stories. The tour also included visits to the
traditional sites of the old city such as the Turkish Bath.
A workshop on Islam and Terrorism
took place at An-Najah National University, Dr. Nasir Al Shaer,
the Dean of the College if Islamic Religion, explained the
difference between terror and resistance, stressing on the
right to resist the occupation. He also talked about the clash
between civilizations and possibilities to have coexistence
between them. He supported the idea of dialogue between
different nations and pointed out that the American age does
not represent the west and that there are still many nations
who are interested in mature dialogue with Muslims. He
responded to questions from volunteers about the old
testament, promised land, and Islam phobia.
An interesting tour to the
Refugee Camp of Al-Ein was organized. Both international and
local volunteers visited the refugees in their units,
interviewing them, and listening to their experience of the
homelessness and the hard conditions they have gone through
over the past half century. There was discussion about the
refugee’s right of return and the implementation of
international community decisions regarding refugees. The
local volunteers themselves got great experience from the
study visit to the refugee camp. The visits to the refugee
camps of Nablus were extended by visiting Balata refugee Camp,
the largest one in the West Bank as well as Askar Refugee
Meeting with the governor of
Nablus was also organized in order to get an idea about the
impact of the current situation on the city of Nablus in the
fields of economy and unemployment. The governor explained the
Road Map and the hope that it gives to Palestinians despite
its many flaws. The international volunteers discussed with
him the new political developments on the ground and the
importance of lifting the imposed siege around Nablus which
has prohibited 180.000 citizen from movement for more three
A workshop on the Palestinian
women was also prepared at the Family Defense Society. Mrs.
Falak Al-Khayyat, Director gave a speech on the
psychological impact of the Israeli occupation on the family.
She explained how the work of the society is important in that
they can provide a psychological release for the women, men
and children who come to them for help.
Two British volunteers made a
comparative study between the Northern Irish conflict and the
Palestinian situation. They presented the history of the
conflict in Northern Ireland and drew parallels. Afterwards,
volunteers asked questions about the current situation and the
ongoing peace process.
Evening entertainment included
visits to the Turkish Bath, coffee shops, parks, host
families, wedding parties, Josef Tomb and the sports field.
In addition international nights were organized including a
Korean night and an Italian night. A children’s carnival was
organized by the international and local volunteers and they
did their best in order to encourage children to release the
tension and pressure created as a result of the continued
curfew and siege.
It deserves mention that the
second International Voluntary Work camp of this summer will
begin on the 10th of August and end on the 31st.