Prepared by Lucia Valente

As mentioned in my earlier posts, when people visit Palestine, or what is called ‘The Holy Land’ – they go usually to Bethlehem or Nazareth. On my trip, these are not the towns I visited. The purpose of my trip was to meet with our team in Palestine and visit with the high schools that are using our educational modules and where two of our team members teach.

On that basis, overall, the trip was successful. It was important to spend personal time with the team.

During my trip I was lucky enough to visit with the families of our team members and share family meals – which is always such a pleasure.

Having spent the morning at Jenin Industrial Secondary School with Khaled, we headed to his home to have lunch with his family. It was such a pleasure to meet his family in person.

How to describe the incongruous experience of meeting Anwar’s family in a village close to Tulkarem and the hospitality, graciousness and great conversation we had one Saturday afternoon? Anwar’s father is a Professor of English Literature – the Romantic Period. When we met he immediately launched into a great discussion of W. B. Yeats’ poetry. Think about it – here I am in a small village in Palestine speaking with an Professor of English about my favourite poet!!

On another day, Malak invited me to visit Nablus with her. It is a booming city with lots of new buildings underway and a beautiful setting with gleaming white and beige buildings growing to the top of the hills around the city. Nablus is an old city – with a wonderful old market that comprises much of the old city. As mentioned, the new city is growing quickly with lots of new buildings popping up everywhere. But the old city is the real heart of activity.

Malak went to university in Nablus and shared with me that she has so many fond memories of her time there. It is great to see so many young people – students everywhere – in the cafes, restaurants and all along the busy streets. I had heard about Nablus on the news over the years, and it was a wonderful experience to visit and see a thriving community.

Life in Palestine, on a daily basis, is just like life in most places, except that there is one key difference. You cannot be there without sensing the overlay of suffocation on the society. There are so many restrictions and hindrances that would be alien in most societies. I was there for a few days – with my focus only on education – and yet I had two experiences that were disconcerting.

On the day I was to visit Jenin, the city was closed and all roads sealed. I could not go until the following day. Therefore, I was unable to attend a scheduled meeting.

On another day, when I was in Qalquilya visiting with Malak, I was unable to leave as the roads were blocked. For me, it was a strange and disconcerting experience, and yet it is life in Palestine.