The Indigenous Youth Delegation to Palestine is a project of a collective of grassroots groups in the U.S. and Palestine: Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG), 7th GIV, Palestine Education Project, Huaxtec, MECA. We are committed to connecting Native and Xicano youth in the U.S with youth in Palestine by creating a forum for us to reflect together, connect our experiences, share stories and skills, and make lifelong commitments of solidarity. This first-ever cross-continental exchange is an opportunity for youth to learn first hand from each other by sharing tools of empowerment and education. Our journey to Palestine is part of an ongoing process of connecting the shared experiences of Indigenous peoples across the world. Below are some of our reflections from two weeks in Palestine. Look for more reactions in the Connections section.
To request any of the delegates to provide a report-back about the trip, or an interview, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. To view Arabic writing from workshops, click on http://balatacamp1948.wordpress.com/ and to view a blog created from a photography workshop, click here: http://tadamon194.wordpress.com/.
WRITING FROM WORKSHOPS:
After a day in Jerusalem I am exhausted. We started in Dheisheh camp, got an early breakfast and left all our Pali friends behind because they can’t get through the checkpoint just 6 kilometers away into Jerusalem city. We spent the morning with youth and community group leaders at Shufat Refugee Camp which houses 25,000 Pali refugees and is 1 km. It was dope to hear that they have a women’s cooperative that produces traditional Pali fabric and crafts which they primarily sell to Europe to subsidize the cost of the feeding their families, they also have a women’s support program and a program for the disabled. Their biggest issue that was brought up by Dr. Salim, one of our workshop leaders, is the two checkpoints on both sides of the camp, they deal with constant harassment, and the barriers separate them from Jerusalem City, which is just 4 km away.We went into the depths of the oppressor crossing the checkpoint into Jerusalem city. It was a struggle to think that our friends in Shufat have to experience military presence in their homeland everyday. Seeing all the settlers move around freely reminded me of home. How indigenous peoples in the Americas are overlooked and the occupation of the Americas is so normalized that it is common practice to desecrate our lands everyday.
Nonetheless Jerusalem City was mad beautiful – the buildings built from stone date back to first human industrialization, it’s amazing to be in a place so historical. We stayed in the Arab quarter where we saw a house that was taken over by Ariel Sharon by military force. It is the only home in the Arab quarter that was taken over by settlers and just a few years ago belonged to several Palestinian families.After our time in Jerusalem city we went to Lifta where we heard the story of elder Palestian man who grew up there as a boy and remembers the day he was forcibly removed by the Isreali military. Watching the Israeli settlers walk around in Lifta which was a Palestinian village in 1967 reminded of me watching the American’s as they use our various parks from Olompali to Point Reyes, (which both have California Native ceremonial roundhouses) for camping and recreation. I watched as Israeli settlers swam and used the Palestinian village as a park. It was difficult and made me feel sick and angry.
As we stood in the remnants of the mosque and Yacoub told the story of how when he was a youth, he remembers going to school there in the mosque and how it used to look. I made me think of the schoolhouse in Kashaya where my great grandma went to school and is now on privately owned land. I felt really connected to the experience and the many stories that were told at Lifta. I’ll always remember the elder saying, “I will never give up hope, I spent 17 years in prison fighting for our freedom, I hope that one day you will be able to come to my land under different circumstances.” Watching him address the crowd I know touched us all deeply.
The next morning we left our grimy hostel in Jerusalem early to cover a lot of ground in the north. We headed out of Jerusalem through Rammallah to the countryside and the northern hills. I felt at peace leaving Jerusalem. We picked up Jammal Jumu’a along the way and he would be our tour guide for our trip north. When we arrived in Qalqilia we saw a big monument with hundreds of names on it honoring the Palestinians who have been slain by the Israeli military. Qalqilia is a city of 41,000 Palestinians surrounded by a huge apartheid wall on 3 sides. There is only one way in and out.
In September of 2000, resistance movement started and 300 Palestinians died resisting occupation forces. As we made our approach to the wall, you could clearly see the snipers in the huge tours hovering above the wall. We pulled up to the wall in our bus that was about half full with mostly our US delegates but also a few youth from Shufat Camp and a few from Dheisheh. As the bus slowly turned around we heard a loud explosion, I looked to the left side and I saw a cloud of red dust as the air from one of our tires was released. We pulled forward and Ora and several other group members told us that we had been sound bombed. A sound bomb is a loud explosion, used to intimidate. She mentioned also that many of the children in Gaza have gone deaf because of these. The Palestinian folks among us immediately got out of the bus and began to pick oranges on the side of the road an act of defiance showing the snipers that they will not be intimidated.
We went to the wall from there and got a full on escort at one point we had two Palestinian authority jeeps packed with soldiers, a youth on his horse and another on his mountain bike. The Israeli forces had apparently called the PA and asked that we leave this area. So our time at the wall was cut short. We heading in for lunch and got into a discussion about hope, Jamal wanted to know if there was hope for indigenous peoples in the Americas. The Natives in our group spoke and it was very emotional for all. It was the first time a tour leader had asked us about our experiences and I think that folks were ready to talk about our similarities and differences. It was a good time to process a lot of what we had seen in our first few days in Palestine.
Writing Workshop in Olive Grove in Jenin
1. About myself
My name is Wafa Harb, I am 16 years old and I live in Balata Camp which is the biggest camp from a people number. The situation in Balata Camp is very difficult but for me I find it well, not very good and not very bad. But for the people who live in the camp, the life in it is very hard. There is no space between the houses in the camp and the houses itself are so small. Also, there is a house the sunshine dont enter it. But for me, I live in the 3rd floor so it is high for the camp and my house not very small and not very big. Also my father and mother work, so we can live well although sometime we heve some problems but we can pass it and this is for me and for my family, but for the others it is so harder because there is a house no one work in it, so they just can living by the helping from the other.
About my daily life, I am now in a holiday, so in the holiday you can do what you want. For me I go to many clubs which can help youth to spending the good time, by many activities they give it to us. Other things I do is going with my friend so I can have a good time with them or I can stay in the house with my family in my parents holiday. But in school everything will be different cause I have to stay in the house to study cause the learning in Palestine is very hard. But I can study hard and face all the problems.
2. About my life and my camp
Secondly, I live in Balata Camp, I explained before about the life in it is very difficult. In 1948 the Catastrophy in Palestine made the Palestinian went out them houses and from the own and lands. So most of them went to many country outside Palestine like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and most of them stay in Palestine. But in the West Bank, so when they find place they first left in camps which made by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) in 1952, and the UNDP made the camps to approximately 4000 in 1km and now the populationin the camps is 25,000 in the same space (1km). SO the fast increasing of number made the life in the camp very hard, and these things make many problems like health problem, education problems, and employment. So there is a lot of men and youth dont have a work. But about the helping, the UNDP giving many things to make the camp much good- it built schools, health center, and it give support to the families who need the help, for example the family who have prisoner or who have someone killed by the Israel army. So this is a small summary about the place where I live.
3. About what I love
Thirdly, for me my life is not so bad, in fact no one love to live in the camp with all these problems but I love my everyone live near me in the camp cause for me, everyone in the camp love the other. So the people are so good with each other and this is the good thing. And I love all my friend, my family, my teacher, and I love PALESTINE too. And I hope that Palestine will become free and I know that it one day it will get its freedom. So my ambition will become true- we will never get disappointed to stop. I want to complete my learning in university, I want to be an engineer, and help Palestine to stand again.