In the famous words of Bertrand Russel “War does not determine who is right – only who is left” This can be said for the conflict going on in Palestine. I must admit, when I think of that war means , I think of grown- ass men fighting like kids with deadly weapons. Just STUPID! It makes me so angry to think that after years of technological advancements and finding cures for diseases, our leaders condone this barbaric behavior…
But this article is not about how I feel, it’s about a young lady’s decision to pack her bags and travel to Palestine to help the refugees. To protect her name as she is deciding to go back, we have called her Miss Smith. I had the great opportunity to meet this amazing young woman and managed to ask her a few questions about her experience while being in Palestine….
Name : ***Miss Smith (Age 23)
What made you decide to go to Palestine?
I’ve always wanted to volunteer in Syria after the outbreak of the civil war that is still currently raging on in the war torn country. Going to Syria was not likely to happen anytime soon and then I decided to go to Palestine. Palestine has always been a place that is close to my heart. Having seen the effects that apartheid has caused in South Africa, I was better able to identify with the struggles being faced by the Palestinian people. I have never suffered through Apartheid myself but I was able to witness the effects of it and thus going to Palestine in order to volunteer seemed like the easiest decision in the world. I literally packed a bag and moved into the holy land.
What was the process from when you decided to go to actually getting there?
Research was done in order to see in which way we could make an effective contribution to the Palestinian people. My friend and I decided that we would be able to teach english after having conducted research on the internet and inquiring about the various organisations in the area. Applications were filled out and interviews were conducted. Finally acceptance letters were sent to my friend and I at midnight on a Saturday night and I was overjoyed. Tickets were booked a month later and plans were made for our trip. Everything that was done, was done by my friend and I as you can only apply by the organisation but you book your own tickets out of your own pocket and you basically pay for everything because you are doing volunteer work. So it is up to you to do your own research, find a project, and do everything that you can to get there.
What did you do there?
I taught English and summer school in refugee camps and small villages located in the west bank region.
How long were you there?
Almost 3 months
You stayed in the West Bank Palestine and not the GAZA strip – could you give the readers the difference between the two? Is West Bank a war-zone as well?
Gaza is an open air prison where there are currently no exit points. The west bank is a larger area but movement for Palestinian people is severely limited. There are numerous differences which can be written into several long papers so it would be easier for someone just to do a bit of research on it. The viewer should read papers on the history of Palestine, why the land was taken from the people and what are the differences being to places where Palestinians are allowed to reside for the time being. You can read up about it here.
Was there a moment where you were scared for your life?
Being a foreigner passing check points were easier but there were points where we got very frustrated with soldiers, as it is clear that they were unwilling to help you. Things are worse for Palestinians as they can be arrested and locked up at anytime and held in prison without being charged with a crime. I never feared for my life but there were encounters with soldiers where things were not going well. I was in Jerusalem the day the Palestinian youth were burnt alive and then the situation in Palestine hit world news. Before that, the news failed to mention how many other youths were arrested and killed as a result of the three Israeli settlers that went hitch hiking and then went missing from Hebron, but that’s an entirely different subject and viewers might not like that comment
What was the scariest experience you had while being there?
Knowing that soldiers were coming into our town and various other Palestinian villages every night and shooting and arresting youth.
What was the most heartfelt experience while being there?
Knowing that I was fulfilling a purpose greater than myself. Teaching the children in the refugee camps was such a pleasure because even though things were so bad for them they would still come to class and they would actually learn what you were teaching them because they understood that through education they could better their lives and the lives of those around them.
If someone reading this would like to help out by doing what you did, who can they contact?
They can literally just google something that they are interested in and then inquire as to whether it is a legitimate organisation.
Could you describe your living conditions while there?
I was with two friends and we were lucky to have our own little flat that she shared with two other international volunteers. It wasn’t a 5 star hotel but it was comfortable. My friends and I shared a room and we didn’t actually expect much. Obviously it depends on which area you are in so places in refugee camps would be a lot different to places inside a village or in a city centre.
How many expats were there helping out? Predominantly from which country?
There were volunteers from all over the world from countries which include the US, Brazil, and Malaysia.
What are you currently doing now and how will you continue to support Palestine
Currently I am just involved in protests and making people more aware of the situation in Palestine.
Would you do it again?
Definitely, there is no doubt that I will go back, not to the same organisation but just because Palestine has occupied the biggest space in my heart and I will go back in a heartbeat if I could.
If there is anything else you would like the viewers to know about Palestine and the current war going on over there that I haven’t covered in my questions?
People should become more aware of the situation by doing research to find out the exact history of Palestine and the hardships that the Palestinian people have faced and are currently facing as a result of the occupation
XOXO Miss Smith
To find out more about how you can help , try looking into a few of the websites below and their suggestions.
***names have been changed
Images obtained from google images and Miss Smith