During the week before the beginning of the second semester, I have been invited by the PR of An-Najah University to join a hike program for four days, 70 students and me were touring around Nablus city.
We saw many things that I and others had never seen. We visited the cemetery, the woman’s Research Center, the Roman Theatre, Jacob’s well, Josuf’s Tomb, the Balata Refugee Camp and the Yafa Cultural Center there. We hiked many kilometers to the Samaritan mountain and learned about the people there, their culture and history. We have visited the soap factory too. We ate Nabulsi sweets and learned from local people, I had two translators that kept me well informed as my Arabic is not as good as it should be. For me it was 4 days of learning about the Palestinian culture, history, and economics. I could have done 4 more days it was that interesting.
I was very impressed by our group. Although we walked quite far, students never seemed to get tired. Their enthusiasm never ended. Mine neither. Let’s do it again! Four times now I have come to Palestine. I am here now. My first was in 1998 a one semester teaching at the Islamic University of Gaza which in July of 2014 was heavily damaged in the Israeli bombing of Gaza that killed thousands and destroyed houses, hospitals and schools.
The second time was also a one semester contract at the An Najah National University in the West Bank shortly after the second intifada (Palestinian uprising in response to Israeli occupation) and shortly after the American Rachael Corey was run over by a militarized Caterpillar in the process of destroying more homes in Gaza. She tried to protect a Palestinian home, a Texas peace activist. There were so many Israeli military checkpoints in Palestine which made it very hard for Palestinians to go to work, school, or just travel. Various times I was not allowed to pass the checkpoints. Israel even didn’t allow me to come to Nablus where I was planning to teach so I had to back track and hike through the mountains near Iraq Burrin village. The villages and countryside showed me the beauty and friendliness of the rural areas and folk. I saw Israelis enter Palestine many times in their military vehicles and I witnessed the destruction of Palestinian homes leaving grandparents and children homeless. My third time was my teaching semester at the Arab American University of Jenin, West Bank in 2009.
This is my fourth trip. I am back at the An Najah National University working at the English Corner with students who want extra practice with English. The campus is gorgeous.
All of my experiences have been wonderful opportunities to learn more about the Palestinian people and their struggle for freedom. People have enough problems finding work, feeding their families, finding health care instead of finding themselves in a war zone. I am honored to be back in Palestine.