As half of your time in Palestine is behind us, we decided to do a mid-term evaluation together. The process of creating this post had two parts. First, we individually wrote down questions we wanted to ask each-other about the first half of our EVS. Secondly, we both answered both set of questions, and finally merged all the questions and answers into one post. This way, we ask each-other the questions that really matter, and we find the answers that really reflect how we feel.
Hence, this post is us opening up and being fully honest about our current feelings.
What is the best food you tasted?
Ida: The hummus. I don’t have words.
Tea: Knafa. Cheese in a dessert, super heavy stuff, but mixture of so many flavours. I cannot resist it and I want to eat it every day
What is your favorite word in Arabic?
Ida: Yalla – it means “let’s go”, and here you go somewhere all the time, so we use it more than anything else.
Tea: Sababa – because I feel sababa here, it represent the local slang and it shows enthusiasm.
What colour describes this environment and why?
Ida: Very light sandy beige. All the buildings are beige, there is barely any vegetation and the bright sun makes everything look lighter than it is.
Tea: The mixture of white-beige with yellow- because of the very strong sun and white buildings, sometimes it is so bright you cannot even see.
What’s the most beautiful place/city you’ve seen here?
Ida: We went to Jerusalem, and it is a mix of old and new, of different people, religions and cultures. There are many open spaces (like green parks!) and we saw the sunset there, and it was breathtaking. I hated that I loved it.
Tea: Bethlehem, with its narrow streets, paved with stones, typical architecture and design of the buildings with turquoise doors and with its historical atmosphere…
What does Dheisheh refugee camp smell like?
Ida: Inside the houses it smells like coffee with cardamom, and outside it smells like garbage.
Tea: Like a mixture of a hot asphalt and water. But this happens only every once in awhile, when the water comes and they clean up the streets.
What did the kids in the refugee camp teach you?
Ida: Many bad words in Arabic, how to properly eat roasted watermelon seeds and how to be confident in the streets of the camp.
Tea: How to say bad words, when they are fighting and calling each other names and acting childish. And then on the other side, how to cope with this environment, not showing fear, acting as grown up, brave people. And over all, how to be patient with them, keeping in mind they are still just kids.
What did you teach the kids in the refugee camp?
Ida: That Angry Birds was invented in Finland.
Tea: Not as much as I would want to. I am trying to teach them that violence is bad and it is not the only solution. But sometimes it seems useless.
What has been your biggest aha-moment so far?
Ida: When I realised the amount of symbolism and history behind throwing rocks – and that the rocks they throw in the camp are not even stone, but small parts of the pavement. They literally throw parts of their own streets and houses, well aware they don’t stand a chance against actual weapons.
Tea: Realising, how I am changing, how situations here are pushing me to directions I’m not sure I want to go.
A moment you wanted to scream?
Ida: No moment. In many situations I faced I see how screaming could have been the appropriate reaction, like when I saw a person being beaten up. Apparently my panic reaction is a very calm one.
Tea: When I haven’t had a good sleep for days, it was super hot, I was tired, stressed because of the work, it was so much things happening in the house, music playing outload, people everywhere, bothering you…and I couldn’t find a place and a moment to be alone and do my things.
The moment when you were most afraid?
Ida: When Tea really wanted to go and experience the Friday protests at the wall, that we knew were going to get very violent. In the end we didn’t go, because our family convinced us it was too dangerous.
Tea: The night after the soldiers came to our house. The night before they woke us up in the middle of the night, searched the house, looking for a young boy with their machine guns pointing at us. And this was for sure one of the scariest things I faced, although maybe at that time I didn’t even absorb it completely. Other thoughts and reactions took over at that time. And the next night, there was a sound in the middle of the night, I woke up, my heart was beating like crazy and I thought its happening all over again. And since then, these feeling happens almost every night. And I am afraid not knowing what will happen and how it will end up the next time they come.
When did you feel like crying?
Ida: A mother cried because she missed her child who is in jail. I wanted to cry because the whole broader situation here made me both furious and upset and there was nothing I could do to comfort her.
Tea: Lately, every single day. The first time I felt like this was 10 days ago, on a way from Ramallah back to Bethlehem, after the shooting in Jerusalem, when I was sitting in a car, just watching through the window, observing the landscape and the road, accompanied with the wall, thinking about this land and the situation. Since then, and because I am realising I’m already at half of my stay here, I can’t stop thinking that too soon I will have to go back home and leave this place behind. And all the people I’ve met are going to stay here- with this amazing land, but surrounded by walls and unstable future.
What are you hiding?
Ida: I am keeping many opinions, values and lived experiences to myself. These relate to feminism, love and violence/conflict.
Tea: My true feelings about many things, hiding them from different people. I want to spare my family and friends, I don’t want them to be scared for me and sometimes am trying to hide my thoughts also from myself, as it can be too much to deal with.
What was the weirdest situation you faced here?
Ida: The first week, me and Tea were sitting in our room, reading different discussions on an online forum about how to use the bathroom in the Arab world. Very educational but slightly weird.
Tea: Talking with Ida when I thought she’s awake, but then realising she sleeps with her eyes open.
How do you feel when seeing a gun?
Ida: I hate guns more than before, but because they are everywhere, they now scare me less.
Tea: Even after couple of weeks, the image is still in front of my eyes. Seeing so many soldiers, with their guns, entering your room, in the middle of the night, pointing a gun at you and occupying the whole space, hunts me over and over again.
Who was the most interesting person you’ve met and why?
Ida: The guy who worked in a bookshop in Ramallah, and who we ended up spending a full afternoon with. He told stories that were different from the ones we hear in the refugee camp, and it was eye-opening, especially in understanding the variety of experiences and opinions within Palestine.
Tea: The father of our host family, who I can talk with about so many different things, that are not so common to all people here. He is open minded, very realistic when it comes to important decisions, but still everyday he is daydreaming about paradise where he wants to live. One of the most important things for him is education, exploring new things and providing good life for his family, and now when we are living with them, also for us.
If you would bring one item home, to explain your time here, what would it be?
Ida: I bought a pair of long pants in Bethlehem, and I would bring them home to say – yes I wore these even in 40 degrees celsius.
Tea: Nothing can explain my time here, although I guess I’m trying to do this with this blog. But for sure I’m bring home zatar.
What do you miss from home?
Ida: The feeling of being in a place where human rights and the rule of law are practiced, and where people are protected by institutions and laws. I didn’t know it was a feeling before, because I took it for granted.
Tea: Sitting in a bar, just chilling with my friends, being and feeling free to do things that I want to do.
Has your own perception of “home” changed?
Ida: When you have a home, a safe-place, and access to your roots, it is easy to not to feel attached to it. On the contrary, if your home is taken from you, it becomes all you want.
Tea: I should probably start appreciating it more. Cause it’s not something that’s given. At least not to all the people, because for people here, home was taken from them.
Let’s say you come back to the West Bank in 30 years. What is the first place you will revisit?
Ida: I would go to the Walled Off Hotel, the hotel built by Banksy next to the wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem. In 30 years I would love to see how the hotel is in an open space because the wall is gone.
Tea: Dheisheh refugee camp- which at that time will be called differently as it will not be a refugee camp anymore. So maybe I’ll go and visit my host family in their real home- Zakaria.
What would be the title of the book you publish about your time in Palestine?
Ida: “Knafa,coffee and kids”
Tea: “Where do we draw the line?”
One thing you will miss?
Ida: The kids. I can’t believe I am writing this.
Tea: Ufffff…. A lot of things: people, the land, Ida,… this feeling, when every day is something new and something that shakes your mind, perceptions and understandings that you had.
Is there a solution for the Palestine-Israeli conflict? Are you more positive about the solution, or negative?
Ida: Everyone here says there is no solution, and even though I want to believe differently I don’t see how right now. A solution needs to come from a place of (a lot of) compromise, forgiveness, non-violence, trust, compassion and secularity.
Tea: There must be one. Although everybody we spoke with said they don’t see it and they don’t believe in it. And after getting to know the conflict more and more, I see how complex it is, its dimensions and how difficult would it be to resolve it. So, I am getting more and more negative about it. But I refuse to believe there is no solution. There must be one, I’m trying to convince myself.