I’ve been in Ramallah for approximately 24hours now. We haven’t seen beyond the cornershop because the weather has been atrocious; windier, wetter and colder than when we left. We have been told that we are in the middle of a week long storm however, meaning that next week should be better. We just have to get through the snow first which is predicted to fall on Thursday. How British of me to begin my first in-Palestine post with an update on the weather.
My experience of the airport was relatively straightforward, others weren’t so lucky, three of the girls with Arabic names were held back and questioned for three hours. They were completely grilled, questions ranging from where they were going to be living and working, to the birthplaces of distant relatives. We were all concerned because we had to be very careful what we disclosed to the Israeli security guards, entering the West Bank isn’t a straightforward task.
The first thing we noted on the journey from the airport was the segregated roads. We started off on a well-lit motorway but were soon directed off onto a track-like side road. Our team leader informed us that Palestinians were not allowed to use the motorway further as it was intended for Israeli settlers. The comparisons to South-African apartheid were noted immediately; this is a topic which I will definitely come back to.
Our apartment is sparse, although it is slowly growing on me. My room is somewhat cell-like; tiled floors and no window, but I do have a 70’s style shaggy rug which is my new best friend. I wish I’d listened to my mothers’ instructions of bringing slippers and a dressing gown. We also have a dog, whom we nicknamed Willy, which growls outside our kitchen window. Although I’d probably growl if I was outside in the monsoon which is slowly flooding out our bathroom. Back to the weather.
We are living in the basement of an NGO which contributes to the development of young people by designing and supporting different initiatives throughout Palestine. Originally funded by the SDC and the UNDP, the organisation is one of the leading independent youth communities within the region. Half of the group will be volunteering here, helping to create a media space which will allow young Palestinian voices to be heard.
Today and yesterday were spent upstairs in one of the training rooms learning about Palestinian history, particularly focusing on the issues which challenge every day life plus the differences between those, and the way that Palestine and Israel are perceived back home. It was emotionally inspiring to hear our national partners speak, we heard first-hand how real lives are affected by the permeation of occupation.
I can’t actually believe I’m here.