A Summer Experience for Diaspora
Palestinian Youth and Friends
(Age 14-17)

2016 Experiences

     July 18th 2016
 

Today the Go Palestine campers had their first day in Ramallah Friends School! They all met in the morning and separated into four groups with their respective counselors and came up with very creative team names.  This year we have campers from all around the world, Canada, Jordan, the U.S, the Gulf and even Hong Kong! They spent the morning getting to know each other and introducing themselves with fun team building activities to get the ball rolling. The campers had a pizza party at Jasmine Café followed by the annual group photo. On the way there, they walked through central Ramallah to get a feel of the city until they arrived on site to eat. They walked by Al Manara, Ramallah’s central square where they were able to see the five lions adorning the Al Manara roundabout; traditional symbols of bravery, power and pride representing the five founding families of Ramallah. On the way back they had a chance to walk through the Old City and pass by the Ottoman Court where they were taught about its history.

 Back on campus in the afternoon the campers met with film director Emtiaz Diab who was invited to talk about her work and show them her latest movie “Nun Wa Zaytun”; an artistic portrayal of Palestinian lifestyle, values and heritage. This was followed by an animated Q&A session with the director where we discussed topics relating to grassroots Palestinian media as well the notions of the Palestinian as a story teller who constructs Palestinian identity through his/her accounts and experiences and how, through their own experiences to come they will fit into this role. 


    July 19th 2016

 Today the campers had an instructive day in Birzeit and Rawabi to start off our travels by exploring the towns surrounding Ramallah. We started the day on campus with our daily warm up to get the blood flowing and energize the campers in the morning. This was followed by a short crash course on the history of the Palestinian-Isreali conflict to contextualize what we will see during our trip. We went over key dates such as the Nakba, the Intifadas and Balfour declaration and explained to them the division of Palestinians into four categories of West Bank, Gaza, Jerusalemites and Palestinian Israelis. We also went over the basics of Area A, B and C so that they could understand the geo-political situation that they are going to experience in the coming days.

 

 They then took a bus to Birzeit University Campus where we met with a Birzeit official who  showed us a short film about Birzeit’s history. He explained to the campers the importance of  Birzeit’s role in the Palestinian conflict. He emphasized the importance of education as a tool of  resistance in the conflict and the struggles of Birzeit students throughout it’s history to maintain  the rights they had to education. They proceeded to take a short tour of the campus where we  saw the monument erected for the Martyrs of Birzeit. This was followed by a leisurely lunch at  the cafeteria where they had a chance to unwind from the heat.
 
 They ended the day by taking a trip to Rawabi, the newly built modern Palestinian city.  This  was to show them the potential of the Palestinian nation. The bus ride back home was  animated by discussions about the concept of Rawabi and a free to use AUX cord for the  campers to play their own music and unwind after a full day.




    July 20th 2016

After our daily warm up activity the campers got on the bus with Muawad our driver and we headed to Balata refugee camp in Nablus.  We arrived on site and met with Mahmoud Sobuh at the Yaffa Cultural Center; a local community center which aims to rehabilitate and give opportunities to the locals of the camp: Mahmoud gave us a detailed insight on what life in a camp is like. The campers were told about the different struggles the residents of Balata camp face, from lack of adequate housing and infrastructure to the psychological effects of living in a restricted and precarious community.  They were then shown a series of short films about the camp made by members of the community.
 We then took a short tour around the camp where the campers experienced what daily mobility is like for residents of Balata. They walked around the extremely narrow streets due to over population and were exposed to the strains of daily life in the camp. This was followed by a group reflection session of what we had seen so far.   

We continued our visit of Nablus in the old city with our tour guides Mohammad and Mustafa who explained the role of Nablus as a hub of the resistance during the intifada and it’s rich history as one of the oldest cities in the world.  They were able to see the Al-Sumara public baths, the Hussein Abdelhadi Palace, Al Khamash soap factory as well as the SPICE SHOP where they saw the final product of the renowned Nabulsi soap factory. The campers ended the day with the famous Nablus knaffeh, a sweet cheesy delight after a hot day and finally they were able to relax a bit in an old local coffee place before we got back on the bus and headed to Ramallah
 


July 21st 2016
 
 
The campers headed to the oldest city on earth, Jericho, on Muawad’s bus.  Sunblock, caps and plenty of cold water were on our checklist today as the heat of the Jordan valley is renowned for it’s harshness.  We arrived at Aubergine hotel, a local community/tourist center where we met with our guide Ashraf; a young man who settled in Jericho to preserve its heritage by hosting groups to visit the lowest city on earth (258 meters/846 feat under sea level). Ashraf had a quiz prepared for the campers with riddles and questions based on what they were about to see that day; so we separated into our groups to solve the mysteries.
 
We first all got on the hantours (horse carriages), the local transportation vehicles used mainly for farming but also used for sightseeing for visitors of the city. From Aubergine hotel we rode to Hisham’s palace, one of the main historical landmarks of Jericho. Built during the Umayyad period the palace was destroyed by a major earthquake in 747/8 and was discovered in the 19th century by Dimitri Baramki and has since been a major site for Palestinian and Islamic heritage.
 
We took the horse carriages back to the hotel where we had a hearty lunch cooked by the local butcher shop. This was followed by a treasure hunt based on the riddles Ashraf gave us about Jericho and Hisham’s Palace where team Zaytoun won the prize. Luckily they were generous enough to share it with all the campers.
 
After an instructive morning we all changed into our swimming clothes and headed straight to the Dead Sea! One of the most unique bodies of water on earth, the campers had a chance to unwind a bit in the sun or in the shade. They lathered themselves in the famous Dead Sea mud known for it’s cosmetic properties and floated around in the salty mineral water of the sea to finish the day on a relaxing note.
 
 
        July 23rd 2016

 
 
After their day off, re-energized, the campers met up at the campus for our morning warm up. After that, the campers took the bus to Deir Ghassaneh. A small village in the west bank where they went for their first day of community service! The village has one small community center for the whole village, which serves as a playground for kids, and a reception hall for weddings and parties. Mustafa welcomed us in the morning to his town’s humble recreational center.
 

A wedding had just taken place the previous night and the local volunteers at the center were having difficulties keeping the place in shape as it was so widely used by the village as the only communal location. The campers came at the right time, as their help was much needed to fix up the place. Among the work that was done they first started by collecting all the trash that was lying around to clean up the place. They then dug holes around the compound to plant some young plants to add to the greenery of the area. Others were on weeding duty on the local holy shrine at the center of the compound and some fixed up the chicken wire fence while another group painted old car tires with bright colors to add to the playground. They were rewarded with a delicious dish of maklouba cooked by the local women.

After lunch the campers got back on the bus and headed to Nabi Saleh village. Home of the large Tamimi family who are subject to constant harassment by the local industrial settlements. We went on a Saturday, which is Sabbath, a holy day for Jews so as to avoid any type of risky exposure. The campers were welcomed by Janna Tamimi’s family, Janna being arguably the youngest reporter in the world. A strong inspirational 10-year-old girl made famous by her confrontational attitude towards the occupation and her awe-inspiring patriotism and determination to her people. The campers were shown an emotional short film about Nabi Saleh and the difficult situation they live followed by a Q&A session with the Tamimi family. As they left they saw the seemingly endless multitudes of empty tear gas canisters hanged around the village as a reminder of the struggle that they face. We headed back to Ramallah a bit shook up by what we had witnessed but it was nonetheless a necessary part of the experience.

 







 

       
      July 24th 2016

 
 
Today the campers had their first full day on campus.  We started in the morning with a long reflection session where everyone shared their opinions, comments and points of view of what they have seen so far.
 
Amongst the topics of discussion the campers discussed the contrasts of Palestine between Ramallah, Nablus, Rawabi, Nabi Saleh etc… As well as adressed the different manifestations of the Palestinian struggle.
 
The councelors were initially here to mediate and guide the conversation but the campers took the reigns and created their own constructive dialogue.
 
We continued our morning with sports activities including football, basketball, volleyball as well as ping-pong. After lunch they all organized into groups where they participated in a games tournament based on communication skills and mutual participation. They finished the day with a surprise water balloon fight to cool off after an active dayon campus.
 
 
     July 25th 2016
 

 Today the campers had their second day of community service after Deir Ghassaneh at the Tent of Nations complex next to Bethlehem. An old Palestinian grove where Daoud and his family before him have resisted the constricting life of cultivating the land surrounded by 5 settlements. They rely mostly on international volunteers to preserve the area and maintain an active foreign and Palestinian presence to deter settlers from approaching the area or causing any further damage or landtheft.
The camper’s task was to clear the land and work the soil to insure a bountiful harvest as well as ready the terrain for the young trees and vines planted to replace those destroyed by settlers. 
The work although tiresome, was necessary for the campers so that they may understand the value of the land and the strain of working it and protecting it on a daily basis. Daoud conveyed the importance of preserving the heritage and manifested the resillience of Palestinians when faced with violent encroachments to their rights. What was even more admirable is that the response was always through non-violent resistance; an important lesson for the campers to take in and consider as inspirational in the context of the Palestinian struggle. 

 
       July 26th 2016
 
Today the campers had a rewarding relaxing day after the previous day's efforts at the Tent of Nations. They all met at Aquazan swimming pool for a fun day in the sun and group activities.
In the evening they had a screening of the oscar nominated movie "5 broken cameras". A powerful artistic documentary that conveys a personal perspective on the struggles of the occupation in the towns of Nil’in and Bil’in.
This was followed by an emotional group discussion session where the campers expressed their opinions on the movie and how it related to what they had seen. Some expressed their reactions to the movies while others discussed the use of media in Palestine.
 
     July 27th 2016
 

An exciting day was awaiting the campers today. After meeting at the Friend’s School campus the campers had their daily warm up and headed to the Mahmoud Darwish Museum. The most influential poet in Palestine, Darwish passed in 2008.  It was important for the campers to be exposed to the Palestinian literary heritage and understand that Darwish was a voice for the Palestinian struggle. In it they paid their respects to the great poet and were shown some pieces of his work as well as possessions he left behind such as his pens, sunglasses and desk and office recreation amongst other things.
 
After a tour at the museum gift store the campers hoped on to the bus towards their anticipated overnight camping trip to Jibia. A nearby area 20 minutes away from Ramallah, surrounded by hills and forest where they had the opportunity to experience a bit of Palestinian nature and outdoor skills. Upon arrival the campers had a chance to relax on the compound where the owners had set up barbecuing and lounging areas under the shade.

 
Shortly after lunch the campers had their third community service experience as they took a 15 minute hike into the forest to help make a clearing for future campers to come. Part of the experience was to leave their mark wherever they went; and they did a wonderful job in clearing up the open space by building a stonewall with the rocks they excavated from the area and removing all the shrubs and bushes to create a harmonious camping area for the community.

After an arduous couple of hours spent working, the campers headed back to camp for a crash course on Palestinian camp cooking session while other were taught how to put up the tents they had been provided with. As a reward for their hard work the National Security Band came to surprise the campers with a surprise dabke workshop. Everyone joined in for an evening of Palestinian music and dancing around a bonfire. After a hearty meal and when the effort of the day started to set in the campers mingled around the campfire roasting marshmallows and eventually reluctantly headed to bed.

 
     July 28th 2016
 
Rise and shine up and early for our campers today.  An exciting morning was planned for them as drowsy teenagers stretched out of their tents on a cool sunny morning. A traditional breakfast was ready for them, on the menu: Humus, foul, za’tar, boiled and grilled eggs with flatbread and ca’k (sesame bread) as well as tea and a some fruit to properly start off the day.
 
After having fueled up, the kids were guided by Wael on a morning hike on the Palestinian hilltops. A long line of red shirted campers stretched across the hills and into the tree lines. They were surrounded by the vast valley and got a good breath of fresh air to begin in the morning.
 
After arriving to one of our stops on the hike it was time for a bit of sporty activity. They all took turns doing abseiling, where they are tied to the side of a small cliff and supervised by professionals. And with their headgear and rope they have to climb down the rocks in a perpendicular position to the bottom of the cliff. A little adrenaline rush gave the campers a new experience to add to their memories in Palestine.
 
After lounging in the surrounding Nature and appreciating the beauty of Palestine the campers headed back to the camp site to take down the tents and prepare to go back to Ramallah and probably catch up on all the sleep they lost joking and chatting through the nigh.

     July 30th 2016 
Our destination today was Bethlehem; We started the day with a community service at the SOS village where campers helped clean, renovate and paint orphan children`s play ground, they spent a great  time with children and had lunch with them and their families. We then headed to the Nativity Church and toured the old city. Our next station was walking by the separation wall; campers had the chance to understand the reality more, they expressed their feelings and thoughts by writing and drawing on the wall. After that we headed to the Solomon pools and visited a beautiful Palestinian heritage museum.  



         July 31st 2016

  Today Go Palestine campers lived a typical Palestinian Village life,
they learned how to make Straw Trays, milk sheep and cows, bake bread as well as help in the kitchen by making food and salads. We ended our day with an evening community discussion and reflection session which was very interesting and insightful. 


 


                                           August 1st 2016

                                                    
After our morning warm up the campers headed on the bus for a day in Hebron/Khalil. One of the tensest cities in Palestine because of the presence of the tomb of Abraham. Settlers have taken over the old city and segregated the area by taking over Palestinian homes in order to stay closer to the tomb of Abraham located in the Hebron Mosque, now separated in two for muslims and jews. The aim of the trip was also to show the campers that Hebron is also a hub for Palestinian trade as well as a center for Palestinian artisan heritage. We started off the day by stopping at the famous Khalil glass factory. Khalil is known for its production of beautiful ceramics and glasswork that the campers were able to see from start to finish. The glass blowers showed the campers how they work the glass into vases, pitchers and other household items in the red-hot oven set at the center of the factory.
 
After this the campers also had a chance to visit the ceramics factory located up the road. They observed the meticulous attention to detail that it takes when decorating ceramic plates, bowls and ashtrays amongst other things. The artisans with years of practice have become masters of the profession reproducing traditional Palestinian flower designs and patterns almost effortlessly with mechanical precision.
 
The campers then went to the last keffiyeh factory in Palestine at the Herbawi factory. There they were greeted by the monotonous clanking of the keffiyeh weaving machines and saw how the age-old Palestinian scarf is made. After a quick tour of the gift a shop and replenishing of keffiyeh supplies the campers headed off to have lunch.
 
Our tour guide during the trip Walid worked for the HRC (Hebron Rehabilitation Center), an organization set up by Yasser Arafat when the Settler colonialism of Hebron was becoming more and more detrimental to the preservation of the city.  The campers went to the center to get a crash course on the situation in Khalil (H1 and H2) and see how the city is segregated between Jews and Palestinians and the constant harassment the locals face with the local settler population. The situation was tense in the city since the recent events so the visit was limited. Althought the campers were able to see Shuhada street, one of the most important commercial streets that was shut down; they were also able to see the cages set up on the roof of the market to protect Palestinian passerby’s from the trash and rocks thrown at them. 
 
Finally the campers went to the Ibrahimi Mosque said to be the location of the tomb of Abraham. To pass through the campers had to go through the revolving doors where they witnessed what negotiating passage with soldiers was like as our director Nisreen explained to them the purpose of our visit. The soldiers were hesitant when they saw “Go Palestine” on the t-shirts but luckily we were able to make them understand that this was a summer camp visit where they reluctantly let us pass. The campers learned about the struggle of living with constant settler presence and were able to appreciate the value of Hebron as a city that contributes to Palestinian heritage on many levels.
 
 


           August 2nd 2016
 
 This morning the campers spent the day on campus starting with an important discussion about Palestinian identity. They sat down in a circle and the floor was open to discussion. We first explained to them the definition of Palestinian Identity and the complexity of it. Palestinian identity can differ between West Bank Palestinians, Jerusalemites, Palestinian Israelis from 1948, Gaza Palestinians as well as Diaspora Palestinians. And we let them tie all these identities together.
 
It was important to emphasize that Palestine Identity is not only defined by occupation war and intifada but it is also a rich cultural heritage and has immense historical value. The campers discussed their experiences and how that added to their Palestinian identity; but some also expressed slight alienation to the disbelief of the situation of their people and the different lives that they lead.
 
It was important to remind them that their presence in this camp was a reclaiming and affirmation of their identity and that the definition of Palestinian identity is very wide and abstract. 
 
After lunch in the afternoon the campers worked on their group projects to show during the last day of camp. All platforms of expression were allowed to convey as best as possible their experiences and the many things that they have learned during these weeks.
 
At night the campers had a DJ and Karaoke party! Barbecue, food and fun were on the program tonight as the campers danced the night away in Ein Qinia. A beautiful garden was lent to us by one of the campers for a night to remember.
 
   August 3rd 2016
 
 

A day on campus today with many activities to choose from awaited the campers. They started off by working on their projects and rehearsing their performance for the last day.
 
They were then shown a documentary film about the situation in Jerusalem to prepare them for their day in Jerusalem the day after. A short discussion about the movies ensued to answer any question that they might have.After lunch they separated into groups. Some went to do a photography workshop with our resident photographer/film maker/ councilor Fadi. While others helped out painting on a big canvas Palestinian symbolism and imagery.



       August 4th 2016

Today the campers had a very early meeting at the school at 5:30 for a full day of program in Jerusalem Haifa. The reason why we had to do the three cities in one day was due to permits that not everyone was able to get so we condensed the program so that everyone may participate in the day trip.
 
The campers started off by going to Jerusalem in the morning. First stop on the program was of course Al Aqsa compound. After a walk through the old city passing through Via Dolorosa, the path taken by Jesus on his way to get crucified the ladies of the group changed into the appropriate clothing to get into the compound. The entrance of a group of 45 was difficult, as recent tensions with settlers forcing entry had made the guards wary as well as the Israeli security who were unsure about letting in a large group of Palestinians. A scenario similar to the one at the Ibrahimi mosque; but nonetheless an experience for the campers to see the daily hindrances to movement Palestinians face.
 

After having been granted entry into the compound the campers were able to visit their ancestral historical and religious heritage, arguably the epicenter of the conflict. After some prayed and others took pictures we moved on to the Nativity Church the place of Jesus’s tomb. The campers were shown around the complex and experienced the Jerusalem experience at it’s best. On their way out of the old city through Damascus Gate we ordered ka’k and falafel the traditional Jerusalemite breakfast to fill us up for our trip to Haifa a three-hour drive from Jerusalem.
 
The campers passed the Bahai monument in Akka and after that they all changed into their swimming gear to have a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea. After a moment of leisure the campers had a hearty lunch and drove straight to Akka