**Click images to view a gallery of the day's photos**
Today the Go Palestine campers took a tour of the Birzeit University campus. They explored the campus and spoke with students from the university. During a presentation by students from the Right2Education campaign, they participated in a discussion about the geopolitical realities of being a student in the West Bank, and more specifically Birzeit University’s long and arduous history of resistance to the occupation. Following this, the students visited an on-campus memorial dedicated to Birzeit students who lost their lives to the occupation forces.
Following the trip to Birzeit university, the campers traveled to Rawabi, a planned housing and urban center headed by Palestinian businessman Bashar al-Masri. They were taken on a tour of the neighborhoods, the Romanesque amphitheater and entertainment center, and ended the tour with an engaging Q&A with Bashar al-Masri himself. After the trip to Rawabi, the campers returned to Ramallah to have ice cream at the famous Baladna ice cream.
Today the campers visited the Mahmoud Darwish Museum where they learned more about Palestine’s national poet. They saw a collection of his original manuscripts, observed a recreation of his office, and appreciated his personal objects and the stories behind them. Following the visit they were able to purchase copies of his books and commemorative memorabilia.
Following the Mahmoud Darwish Museum, the campers visited Al Kamandjati Music Academy. They learned about the school’s efforts to bring a substantive musical education to children from refugee camps who would otherwise not have such an opportunity. During the tour, the campers enjoyed a performance by some of the school’s music teachers, sang along to renditions of famous Arabic songs, and got to sit in on a music class.
After the visit to Al Kamandjati, the students went to the Sharek Youth Center, where the directors of the center talked about their work with Palestinian youth and the problems they face because of the occupation. The campers then visited one of the center’s projects in Kofer Ne`meh, located in Area C, the Sharek Youth Village. They learned how the village uses recycled materials for its structures because Israel does not allow construction in Area C using concrete and other sustainable construction materials.
The campers then hiked to the youth village to help complete the construction of a building, lather olive tree trunks with a protective solution, and organize a mass of recycled tires for a future structure. At the end of the day, the campers ate dinner with bread baked fresh at the site. After dinner, they started a bonfire and brought a guitar to sing songs together before hiking back to the bus.
Today the campers visited Nablus, starting their day at al-Najjah University. They took a tour of the young campus and its facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Before heading to their next destination they caught a breathtaking view of the entire city of Nablus.
Next the campers visited the ancient city of Sebastia, where they toured structures dating back from the Greco-Roman era to the Ottoman period. They learned how Israel committed war crimes by damaging and attempting to steal Sebastia’s structures to implant them into their museums, in an attempt to literally erase ancient Palestinian history in Sebastia. Following a large lunch in Sebastia, the group returned to the Nablus city center.
The campers then visited one of two remaining Nabulsi soap factories, and learned how constant Israeli siege rendered the thirty other factories out of business. After purchasing some of their own Nabulsi soap, the campers visited Nablus’ Old City. They visited a Turkish bath, witnessed sites damaged by Israel during the Second Intifada, and walked through the Old City’s bustling markets. They finished the tour with classic Nabulsi kunafeh, a dessert renowned for being the best in Palestine.
Today the campers traveled to Hebron, a major flashpoint in the Zionist occupation of Palestine. On the way to the city, they witnessed the increase in settlement activity and the presence of occupation soldiers and infrastructure. The first stop in the city was to the Ibrahimi Mosque, where they learned about past Zionist terrorist activity in the mosque, which rendered 60% of it under Zionist control and the remaining 40% to Palestinians, albeit under Israeli control and surveillance.
Following the visit to Ibrahimi Mosque, the campers walked to the entrance of Shuhada Street, the once active and lively city center now turned into a ghost town, with access given only to the city’s 500 Zionist settlers. They then walked through the Old City business district and spoke with its shop owners and inhabitants, who described how the occupation of Hebron has resulted in the closure of hundreds of shops and the displacement of numerous Palestinians from their homes. They visited a family who described the dangerous and difficult living conditions brought forth by settlers occupying part of their house.
After a solemn visit to the Old City, the campers had lunch and visited Hebron’s famous glass and ceramic factory. They got to witness workers create all sorts of ceramic and glass objects and the design and painting process that goes into them. They were able to purchase ceramic and glass goods of their own. Next, the campers visited one of Palestine’s last remaining Keffiyeh/Hatta (traditional Palestinian scarf) factories. They witnessed the design and production process that goes into the scarves and other traditional textile goods, afterwards purchasing keffiyehs of their own.
Today the campers split into two groups, the first going to Jaba’ village and the second going to Anata village. The Jaba’ campers participated with RIWAQ to beautify some of the Anata’s walls with painted murals and designs.
The Anata campers participated with ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition) to assist in building a home for the Hajjaj family, whose home was demolished twice before. They helped mix cement, cleared stones and debris for a new garden, and carried floor tiles into the home. Following the long day of work, the campers enjoyed a delicious traditional Palestinian dinner of maqloubeh.
Following an eventful week of trips and community service, the campers had a fun afternoon of swimming at the Snow Bar pool. Later that night, the campers met for a karaoke party at Sinatra’s Restaurant. Campers and counselors sang and danced together, capping a fun day with singing and laughter.
Today the campers once again split into two groups for community service with RIWAQ (find acronym) and ICAHD (Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition) in the villages of Jaba’ and Anata. The group who worked in Jaba’ last time today worked in Anata, and vice versa.
The campers in RIWAQ got to participate in mural painting and face painting with local children (and among themselves!). The group in Jaba’ continued helping the workers complete the new Hajjaj family home, installed new fences, and planted trees in their new garden.
After a morning of activities at the Ramallah Friends School, the Go Palestine campers joined ICAHD for a ceremony in Anata village commemorating the completion of the new Hajjaj family home. This was ICAHD’s 128th home construction as political resistance against Israel’s ongoing occupation and home demolition. Following a speech by ICAHD’s director and the mayor of Anata, the ceremony broke into song and dabkeh (traditional Palestinian dance). Following the ceremony, the campers partook in a dinner feast with volunteers from ICAHD.
After a busy morning on campus, campers enjoyed Palestinian traditional meal (Musakhan) at ”Al-Fallaha” a local restaurant in Ein Areek village. Following to that we visited a small village called Nabi Saleh. The people of this village have nonviolent demonstrations every Friday to protest the illegal Israeli settlements that have gradually been taking away their land and their water. The entire village of 600 people only had approximately 8 hours of running water per week. They showed us the settlements on the surrounding hills.
After their participation in the opening of “ Al-Bayara” kids playground sponsored by Bank of Palestine, Go Palestine campers enjoyed spending their time in the water during a very hot day where they spent lovely time swimming in Snowbar.
We were hosted by Lajee center in Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem. We spent the whole day in the camp where we got the chance to tour the camp, to meet with women, ex-prisoners and children; discussing the ex-prisoners experience in the Israeli occupation jails, role of women in the community and the daily life of people living in the camp. In the evening we all got tickets to attend the beautiful show of El- Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance troupe; one of the Palestine International festival nights.
A very exciting day trip to Jerusalem, visiting Al-Aqsa mosque, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and touring the old city. Then we drove to Haifa and Akka where campers were astonished by the beauty, the history, the old neighborhoods and the magic of the Mediterranean sea.
We left from Ramallah Friends school campus and headed to Bethlehem, the trip started by visiting the Nativity Church, then continued to spend time shopping in the local market. Bethlehem is one of the Palestinian cities that has been dramatically affected by the separation wall which is very visible when you drive in the city streets, we walked by the wall, wrote and painted our hopes for a better future. Then we enjoyed a great local Palestinian lunch (Fukharah) at 1890 restaurant in Bait Jala. The day program has not finished yet! It ended with great hike in a wonderful area in the north of Ramallah called Jibia where we culminated the day by surprising 3 of our campers who had birthdays by having a birthday party in the outdoor in Palestine beautiful nature.
One more day is left separating Go Palestine campers from the very hard goodbye moments.. Today we spent our time on campus meeting with and listening to Palestinian experts who came to share with us knowledge and data about settlements and the separation wall. We also had a great session of reflections and thoughtful discussion about the camp experience and the future. As much entertaining it was as much painful for our campers to know that this day evening DJ party was their farewell one.
The last day of the camp!! Go Palestine campers started their day with 4 hours session learning Palestinian Dabkheh, then walked together to downtown Ramallah to eat Falafel. The afternoon was a hard one; Campers spent the time reflecting on the whole experience and getting ready to depart the next day. The evening was the traditional Bon fire that Go Palestine campers make every year in their last night in Palestine, but their tears and hugs to each other saying goodbye was the real fire!!