By: Glaucia smith
Coming to Palestine to join the Zajel program has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. Meeting lovely Palestinian people was my reward for coming. It’s been a trip of learning about this culture each day, sharing great moments, delicious food and great company, and understanding the conflict with Israel at a deeper level. There were moments of great pleasure and utter sadness as our trips took us around the country.
Balata refugee camp really touched me. It was painful to see the conditions in which 21st century human beings are expected to live. It’s hard to imagine that families have lived there for 70 years.
I was saddened to hear that so many young Palestinians are no longer interested in agriculture even though they have fantastic land.
My favorite place was the desert and to see the sunset while spending time together in that beautiful place. It was quite and the colorful sky was amazing. I didn’t know the desert was going to bring me so much peace and to be there with my husband was really special.
The walk back to the tent and had tea together and in the evening we had a fire and listened to some music and went early to bed because the next day we woke up early to see the sunrise. Everything was brilliant because it was so calm and everyone was happy because we were doing something really special.
My husband did some meditation, which was really good. We had a few minutes to be quiet and appreciate that moment. It was a wonderful feeling for some it was about spirituality and for some it was for enjoyment. It was a beautiful sunrise and everyone was really happy to have that moment.
We could talk all day in that beautiful place. It brought me a lot of calmness. I came back being much happier with life. We went back to the camp and we had a really good breakfast and important rest because it was really hot. We then went to Hebron where we had some challenging moments, but as a group we overcame that moment. We went to the mosque at a busy time and I could see how important religion is for everyone that was there and I was really happy to be able to visit the mosque. I’m happy to be tired because we did a lot.
The trips to Bethlehem and Jerusalem were amazing experiences, in fact my dream came true to see so many people active in spirituality was really beautiful. Visiting the river Jordan and the place where John the Baptist was active many years ago was a huge moment of reflection.
To participate in the wedding parties, all of the lovely food the dancing, the welcoming nature of the local people was wonderful.
One evening we went for dinner at the home of one of our volunteers, Muhammed. He and his family gave us an exceptional dinner experience and we discussed with them their perspective of life through the lens of the occupation. Their kindness and generosity were humbling.
The Mahmoud Darwish museum visit in Ramallah on the 10th anniversary of his death was touching. I can’t wait to get home and read his poems. I have so many things to say but I’d like to finish with the moment when the sun set over the desert – what a great morning – absolutely unforgettable.