By: Maria, Italy
I am Maria, an Italian volunteer who has been part of the International Youth Exchange Program (Zajel) of An-Najah National University for a couple of weeks.
As soon as the journey to Nablus began, I turned left and saw the yellow
sky and the opaque light of the countries of the East. I saw rocks and boundless expanses of olive trees. When we arrived the local volunteers brought us to a park to have the first orientation. It seemed I entered a book: women wearing the hijab were sipping lemonade, smoking Shisha under secular trees, with the creaking of the swings and prayers of the minaret and in the background.
Since the first day I have been trying to hear here and there the stories of the
volunteers about their customs and habits, and I didn’t miss the
opportunity to get taught a few words in Arabic, although I think it
will take a lot more than these guys’ encouraging smiles to learn this
fascinating but difficult language.
Many are the cultural shocks I’ve experienced here, but this makes me
realize that to really visit a country you have to know its
inhabitants, enter their homes, eat with them, travel with them, and
let them guide you.
On the evening of the fifth day we went to the desert, between Bethlehem
and Hebron. They took us up a hill from which we could see the sunset.
We stayed there for half an hour in silence and in meditation. After such a
heavy day it was regenerating and my eyes needed to see something
In the morning we went to see the sunrise on the Dead Sea. It was dawn,
the sun was coming out of the mountains. The light was illuminating the
light breeze of the sea. All colors, rocks, sky and sea were in tune. I
am amazed by the beauty and perfection of nature. It was one of the best
moments of my life.
On the evening of the seventh day, the French volunteer and I went to dinner at the home of one of the local volunteers. The family welcomed us with open arms and for me it was a very relaxing evening: I felt at
home. The three of us after dinner chatted up late, talking about
actualities, politics, and religion. We talked about our feelings, our
weaknesses, our fears and our dreams. Life is worth living for these kinds of experiences.
What I have learned is that every person tells a story. We haven’t had the time to discover the stories of all the volunteers, students and all the people we encountered in our way, but now we are able to collect little pieces and create the history of the Palestinians. I am so thankful to each of them and so grateful I have had the opportunity to join this project.
Regarding the English workshops, it was very inspiring to try to find a way to get them interested in the subject and get them talking. Although it was definitely not easy, because they were young and although getting them understood was challenging, it was an enjoyable experience.