Below you can read the testimonies of this years’ interns from the Dutch FFIPP chapter: Berna, Christa, Jaime and Tasniem.
I did my summer-internship at the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem. I traveled around West-Bank to collect information and stories on topics I was interested in. Occasionally, I also joined the journalists as an assistant to certain area to help cover the story. One of the most impressive days was during the annual ten-day Summer Camp, organized by the Popular Resistance Committee of South Hebron Hills for the children of the villages in that area.
Some 1000 Palestinians in that area are threatened to be homeless because the Israeli government declared their villages to be a military training zone, also known as Firing Zone 918. Despite the fact that these people were living there before 1967, they live with the uncertainty of legal proceedings and harassment by Israeli authorities. While they are not allowed to live in their own lands, the number of settlements around that area is still growing. This does not only lead to more violent attacks by the settlers towards the Palestinians, it also makes clear what the main aim of the Israeli government is: wipe out the Palestinians from that area in order to start building new Jewish settlements.
The children are seen as an important part of the non-violent resistance, for they are the future generation. In the camp, they learn the importance of unity, values of freedom and they get gamewise familiar with the tools of democracy. Each day trainers facilitated games and several educational activities for the children. These activities promote peace education within communities and enhance conflict transformation skills through the philosophy of knowing ‘the other’ better by means of dialogue. These things are important for their resistance since being a peaceful society is an everyday resistance itself. As one of the volunteer trainers of the camp said: ” By staying a society, we, the Palestinian people, will eventually overcome the occupation and win”.
During my internship I have worked at Tent of Nations. Tent of Nations is a Palestinian farm owned by the Nassar family that stands in the midst of the occupation. Located in area C of the West bank, the farm is surrounded by four illegal Israeli settlements: Betar Illit, Ne’ve Daniel, Gush Etzion, and Elazar. Since 1991, the Nassar family received their first demolition order from the Israeli authorities and until this moment – 22 years later – they are still in a legal struggle to hold on to their land. Unfortunately, the combat over this land is not only legally fought: the Israeli attempt to expel the family from their land is a fact the Nassar family faces daily on the ground.
Though these facts are daunting – or maybe exactly because of these facts – my internship at Tent of Nations has been absolutely enriching and inspiring. This was thanks to my work, the beauty and serenity of the place, and the peaceful determination of the people I lived and worked with. Situated on a hilltop close to Bethlehem, the farm of Tent of Nations looked over the splendid surroundings of the valley close by, followed by the Northern Judean Hills, and the Mediterranean sea at the horizon. In this beautiful and serene nature, I worked the land of the farm, watered the trees, cooked, welcomed and hosted groups of visitors, helped install water cisterns, enjoyed the sun, the view, and the always positive attitude at the farm.
Through these activities, I helped the Nassar family in their ambition to fight the occupation through disseminating peace and understanding. While the occupation tries to perpetuate discord between people, Tent of Nations is simultaneously working hard on building the bridges that go far over the walls and the separation blocks the Israeli build. Its mission is to work towards understanding, reconciliation and peace, not only between Israeli and Palestinians, but between everyone who wants to hear one another’s story. This they do by bringing different people together, by sharing their stories of struggles, and through education, summer camps for children, and a woman’s center. During my stay at Tent of Nations I have seen many international, Palestinian and Israeli groups visiting the place and all of them received an equally warm welcome by an overenthusiastic and positive Daher (my boss). This nonviolent ideology is what the Nassar family tries to spread to as many people and it was absolutely inspiring to help them with this.
Throughout your life cycle you are supposed to trip over with some ‘turning point’ experiences or moments which will lead you to a complete renovation thoughts; a change of perspective. So was my case when I first went to Machu-Picchu and I saw the world from its heights. And so was when I went to Israel and Palestine and I met Salïm, an 8 years old boy that shook my heart with his life experience in the little village of Nabi Saleh. Because going to Israel and Palestine with FFIPP meant to me an enriching and learning experience not only in the professional level, but as well, and more sharply, at the human level.
There I had the opportunity to do my month internship with Al-Haq, a highly professional human rights organization. Unlike other organizations in which I have volunteer before, Al-Haq was working with cases of human rights violations happening right there and in that very moment. And so, as a law student, I could for the first time in my life approach my academic studies from beyond what is written in a paper. And believe me, this changes everything. In the organization I had the pleasure to meet Shirin, a Palestinian lawyer with who I shared an office. She, as many Palestinians, was born in Jerusalem but she cannot go to her hometown because she is not allowed to cross the checkpoints. I will always remember the feeling of injustice I felt when we were talking that I, a Spanish tourist, could go to all those places where she and her family grew up for generations but that they might never see again. Again, the learning was both professional and personal and I will always be grateful to FFIPP for offering me that unique experience and learning.
“My husband is sick and unable to work. I have six children, two of them are university students. I maintain my whole family after I opened my own business. I started selling food from my house, but now I have my own shop with four staff members working for me. “ This is one of the many inspiring stories I came across during my internship at Asala.
Asala is a Palestinian NGO supporting women with microfinance, training and workshops to start their own business. Many of the women now sell homemade food or work in their own shop. Those women all have a story how they support their whole family, gained more responsibility and influence within that family and, most of all, developed themselves to independent businesswomen.
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