This is no sentimental story of a pilgrimage to Bethlehem but a story of a Geelong young woman who spent five weeks very recently teaching English to young people as part of a Youth program. The story was in the Geelong Advertiser, but I met her last night at Peceli's Grovedale Rotary Club dinner meeting as she was the guest speaker. Young people are inspiring at times when they volunteer for dangerous tasks such as this one.
Breaking down the wall of war
JORDAN BROWN GEELONG
ADVERTISER FEBRUARY 18, 2014 4:03PM
Refugee children play in front of the
Separation Wall at Aida refugee camp, under the shadow of a sniper watchtower
which was set alight by Palestinians. Source: Supplied
GEELONG’S Jordan Brown has completed a five-week stint working in
Israeli-occupied region of Palestine. After dealing with fellow interns getting
shot and tear gas attacks, Jordan writes of the work to replace violence with
my mother’s hopes otherwise, interning in Bethlehem, Palestine, for five weeks
hasn’t deterred me from entering a conflict region. Rather it has inspired me to dare to explore
beneath the gunshots and tear gas to where ordinary people vehemently resist
a vast majority of the Palestinian population is young and highly educated, the
Separation Wall between Bethlehem and Jerusalem has strangled the economy
within the West Bank, forcing many youth to perpetually search for jobs.
a result, the Student Forum Institute, for which I interned for, is dedicated
to improving the political, civil and economic participation of young
Palestinians. Throughout my time in the region, I worked with students in
developing skills to increase their employability.
my most valuable experience was witnessing first-hand the Israeli occupation
and the joint efforts to instil peace.I arrived in Palestine to the news that a
fellow intern had been shot in the hand by an Israeli soldier for taking a
I personally never had a gun pointed in my direction, there were occasions in
which I unexpectedly copped a mouthful of tear gas and had a few pebbles lobbed
at me. They were not pleasant experiences but incomparable to the clashes,
night raids and child arrests that the Palestinians are confronted with on a
refugee camp is a particular hotspot, with 45 Palestinian children being shot
by the Israeli Defence Force within the last three weeks of my stay. Yet, the
Al Rowwad Centre that is situated in the camp is still adamant about a peaceful
opposition. The centre encourages children to choose not to reflect the hatred
and violence of the occupation. Instead, they believe in creating a “beautiful
resistance” by providing opportunities for refugee children to freely express
themselves through theatrical performances.
other members of the community are also passionate about taking a nonviolent
a result, photography has become a prominent weapon, with many organisations
providing popular courses for children and youth. As such, international photo
exhibitions in conjunction with social media have allowed Palestinians the
ability to capture their reality to be witnessed by the world.
has also ignited a new-found passion and audacity. Nancy, a young woman from
Aida, is now cheekily taking photos of soldiers when they invade the refugee
camp while dreaming of becoming a documentary director.
an alternative manner, the first intensive yoga instructor course for men in
the West Bank has been recently completed with 12 participants, two of which
were Israeli. The course, provided by a Canada’s Olive Tree Yoga Foundation,
aims to empower the Palestinian community by improving mental wellness,
relieving stress disorders and instilling a sense of inner peace.
of the program’s instructors said the results have been unbelievable and she is
excited to see the future outcomes once these men begin facilitating yoga
the other side of the Separation Wall, there are many Israeli groups that are
also dedicated to preventing the injustices that are occurring throughout the
West Bank. In particular, Breaking the Silence offers tours by ex-Israeli
soldiers and Rabbis for Human Rights plant olives trees with Palestinian
farmers to replace those that were destroyed by Jewish settlers.
the Palestinian youth continue to retaliate to their conditions by throwing
stones at Israeli soldiers, the momentum of an armed struggle has subsided to
be replaced with a more creative and positive approach.
Israeli and Palestinian humanitarian groups are working to educate the
community to come to a common understanding and to empower individuals to live
the life they are worthy of.