In November 2015, Horizons organized another trip to Palestine with over 30 international participants. Please read their inspiring stories below!
I would like to conclude quoting a sentence someone read me once: “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.” – Daniel
Gilberto (Finland/ Brazil):
Going to Palestine was the most intense blend of feelings I have ever felt.
It was cozy, and I felt like home faster than I ever thought it would.
It was inspiring, the people were so strong and self-aware that it made me realise how unprepared I am for life. They taught me a lot about life.
It was revealing, the view I had of that place was so poor, ignorant and one-sided. Christians, Muslims and Samaritans still coexist in the West Bank peacefully.
It was bittersweet, knowing that an extremist minority, or some who see no other way, commit crimes and that has given Israel motives to oppress them even more.
It was nerve-wrecking to see how unfair it is that most people go by daily humiliation in EVERY aspect of their lives on their way to university or work, on their access to water and electricity, in their economical growth, everything.
It was empowering to see people in the worst case scenario one could think of, and yet they believe in freedom.
It was weird, considering my Jewish background and my religious experience and then acknowledging injustice to those people being justified.
It was a bucket filled with cold water dumped on my head: History repeats itself, the world is cruel, people with power do whatever the heck they want, voices are not equal and a lot on the situation there is explicitly going downhill. But I believe, i do, that one day we shall be building bridges instead of walls.
A few weeks have already passed since the day my trip to Palestine was no longer a crazy adventure but an everlasting memory. A few weeks to look through the photographs, to cry for out of anger, to smile out of hope and, in the end, to start reflecting upon the events that have taken a piece of me to place it far away from where I’m writing this now.
Still, I have hope in the future, justice has always been made, and, as History proves, higher walls have been erected and have fallen. As Martin Luther King said: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
Safae (The Netherlands):
It has been weeks since my trip to Palestine but sometimes it seems like my soul is still on this trip. From time to time a smile or tear appears on my face when all the emotions of the trip come back to me. It is hard to sum up the whole trip in a single conversation, paragraph or essay. However, reflecting on this life changing trip is very important to me.
When I tell my story to friends and family, it is hard for them to understand that I am not the same person as I was before the trip. Seeing that amount of injustice cannot leave a person unchanged. The news talks about the situation in Palestine in facts and statistic bringing the news of violence as if it is normal. However, when you walk the streets of Palestine, talk to the Palestinians and become aware of the daily struggle and pain caused by the occupation, you learn that this violence is far from normal. This reality check was a wake-up call for me and my fellow participants. As members of the international community we have the responsibility to speak out against injustice in the world.
The sadness I have seen over the course of the week is not as powerful as the love and strength I have witnessed of the Palestinian people. The word “sumud” has been used a couple of times during my trip. Literally translated it means “steadfastness” but it is more than a characteristic. It means that even during the darkest of times, the hope for justice will not be lost. Sumud symbolises the strength of the people. It gives me hope that one day I will visit my Palestinian friends in times of peace and justice.
I would like to end this very short reflection of my trip with a couple of notes. This trip has changed me and my fellow participants because of our humanity. Sometimes when we are talking about this conflict we forget our humanity. Therefore I encourage everyone to visit Palestine and Israel because seeing it with your own eyes is different from reading it in an article or even watching it on the news. Lastly, I would like to end with a quote by Nelson Mandela that keeps going through my mind: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians…”
Beyad (The Netherlands):
Thoughts on Palestine
“They want to take our land, so we need to defend ourselves.”
“Teargas is not harmful.”
These were the words of a recently graduated young Israeli soldier to a European tourist. I wondered about the extent of censorship in his education and his confidence of expressing the bureaucratic absurdities of an oppressive military occupation. His words played in my head endlessly and took me back to our visit to Nabi Saleh, a small Palestinian village of approximately 550 people, located northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
We gathered in the house of Bassem and Nariman Tamimi and their beautiful (grown up to soon) children. Bassem, an activist of grassroots nonviolent resistance, organizes protests against land seizures by settlers and the takeover of the village’s well by the settlement of Halamish. While we sat in their living room filled with torn memories, hearing about all the violence these children have to endure and watching their daily life struggles flash before our eyes, some of us cried and some sat in silence full of anger. Watching the group break their hearts over the whole situation proved that a whole different level of control and attitude exists in this part of the world unlike anything we have seen and heard of in our home countries. How essential is it to come here? To understand what is going on outside of the particular bias reporting of our own country’s media and away from the strong perspectives of our peers, which can easily sway us.
“It is narrow-minded to take one side” is something I have heard a couple of times lately. Of course, hardly any of us are historical or conflict resolution experts. But then again, what should I expect from my rational mind when I walk through a devastating refugee camp or when I am standing in front of the 8m tall separation wall and the street sign reads ‘Apartheid Avenue’? Tell me, how can I be fully objective when I walk through the teargas airy street of Bethlehem from morning clashes and put my emotions aside when I am standing there with my eyes and nose having a burning, watery sensation from the air and a beautiful, green eyed little boy comes up to me smiling. All I could offer him in that moment is a box of chocolate and I felt anger for that. I felt useless. Later I found out from a shopkeeper that the Israeli soldiers have taken his father and his mother has passed away during clashes. He sleeps at a place made available by the municipality and wonders the streets during the day. Two hours later I was back in Jerusalem. As we were driving into the holy city, the taxi driver pointed to his left and showed us a high walled prison. I thought about the beautiful, green-eyed boy and wondered if his father was behind these walls.
I bid a sad farewell to Palestine, feeling as if I should have known this land longer than just a week and grateful that the insight here was not full of extreme hatred. Instead, I found my heart grow bigger through the wonderful people I have crossed paths with. Politics confront them at every turn, yet they remain tall with their head high and true to their heritage. I feel obliged to do the same.
The land and history of Palestine has seen conquerors and civilizations of various kinds come and go, but throughout all of this have survived a core identity of Palestine. Thinking today about the fact that if cycles of violence and hatred are to be broken, it will only be through sustained acknowledgment that there is far more that binds humanity together than divides us.
Inclusion over exclusion; always.
When I look back I realize that what at the beginning seemed to be crazy has become today in one of my best experiences. I still remember the afternoon in which I started –with a friend- to record the presentation video in a field located nowhere, and specially when all hope about going to Palestine was lost I received an email saying that I was in the programme because of the cancellation of someone (that person doesn’t know it, but has a friend in Spain forever, hahahahahaha).
I shall admit that at first, I felt excited but also frightened: “God, where am I going to! Palestine? I will get myself killed”. My family and Friends didn’t help me to get better thoughts: “You have never travelled by plane before, and the first time you are doing it is to Palestine! You are crazy!”.
Nevertheless, what I found there was way more different than I thought. Yes, I found a land consumed because decades of fights, injustice and death; but I also saw the wish to keep fighting for what belong to them. During the second day, someone asked the bedouin we met that if he prefered to live being free in other country or to keep living in Palestine (the land of all his ancestors) and accept any consequence of doing so. He didn’t doubt; “I want to stay and fight to be free here”. And that was preciselly what surprised me the most: during all week, it didn’t matter where we go, people allways said the same; “we just want to be free, we don’t want to keep suffering more injustified arrests, demolitions of houses and violence”. Freedom. I don’t think that’s demanding too much.
Other thing I found out in this travel were the wonderful people who live in that land. I would like to say all of them, since the ones who accompanied us to the ones who opened their houses to us, thank you for all the affection and hospitality you showed us. I also don’t want to forget Charlotte, Ninna and Roel, whose work and enthusiasm made possible this unforgettable experience, and the rest of participants, who are an example of enthusiasm and solidarity. Never change.
I would like to conclude quoting a sentence someone read me once: “If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”