Bearing Witness

My first day in Nablus

Well I have arrived in Nablus and could not believe the difference from Tel Aviv. I flew for 24 hours half way around the world to arrive in Tel Aviv, a city that was very much like Sydney. Then yesterday I drove for two hours to arrive in Nablus a city that is completely different. The people, the landscape and the culture all which bear no resemblance to Tel Aviv.

After I got over the initial culture shock and the realisation of how bad my language skills are, I have settle in quite well. The local staff are amazingly positive and incredibly Patient with my limit arabic skills, not to mention my very thick Australian accent. The international volunteers have also welcomed me warmly and been very supportive. While the few locals I have meet that are not connected to Project Hope have been very friendly and welcoming. The city it self is a wondrous place, especially the Old City which has amazing markets and a really historic feel.

I have also hit the ground running, work wise, going through my induction today and tomorrow I am assisting another international volunteer to teach English. Then on Friday I am helping with the olive harvest, which I am really excited about, as I am keen to experience traditional Palestinian life and the lady who owns the olive grove is going to cook for the volunteers a traditional Palestinian dinner as a way of showing her gratitude. Then hopefully next week I can organise my schedule for my music classes.

The city of Nablus has only two entrances/exits, both check points manned by the Israeli military. In addition to this the city is also in circled by Israeli military out posts and watch towers on the hills above, as Nablus is situated in a valley. The residents of Nablus are only allowed to travel to certain parts of the West Bank with permits issued by the Israeli’s, not to mention Gaza and East Jerusalem which are generally completely of limits to West Bank Palestinians. These permits which more often than not are only granted after a lengthy and arduous process, if at all, are still no guarantee of access. As even when granted these permit holders can still be turned around at the check points on the whim of the soldiers manning them. This travel permit system has resulted in many Palestinian families being seperated from one another. Reconstruction also requires permits from the Israeli’s, which are also near impossible to obtain, meaning that many buildings that are destroy during incursions by the Israeli millitary are unable to be rebuilt. Incursions are a daily occurrence in the West Bank, especially in the refugee camps, these incursions are rarely reported in the western media.  The water supply, which is also controlled by the Israeli’s, is in sort supply and on my first day the water had run out by the time I arrive. This is due mainly to the fact that 80% of the West Bank’s water is diverted to Jewish settlements, even though the settlers only account for around 10% of the population. With most of these limitation on Palestinian life coming into effect during the so called “Peace Process”. With this in mind is it little wonder Yasser Arafat walked out of the Camp David peace talks. As he was not offered, as was widely reported, East Jerusalem as the capital and 90% of the West Bank and Gaza. What was on the table at Camp David was 10 enclaves similar to Nablus today and no part of Jerusalem. In addition to this the Israeli’s would still control the boarders, the population register, the water and the airspace – not to mention keeping most the fertile farming land in the West Bank. Far from the viable state the Palestinians desire and deserve. But even with all this the Palestinian people, mostly, still manage to maintain a happy and friendly disposition. Even joking about the generosity of Israel, “we asked for one state and they offered us ten”. 

Well time to get off my soap box and get some rest.




November 5, 2008 - Posted by | My Thoughts, My Travels | ,

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