I am returning to San Francisco on August 8th, after spending 14 months in Palestine. My plans kept on extending, mainly because of the people of Dheisheh refugee camp, among whom I have lived for the past 6 months.
A year in Palestine feels like 5 years in the States for its intensity and density. Looking back at myself a year ago, I realize how far I have come. I have witnessed and learned so much, nothing like times before in my life.
The people of Dheisheh took me under their wings, and allowed me to see, and at times to take part in their 52-year-old struggle for freedom. It was during walks at night that I learned the landmarks of deaths and losses from 14 year old Mohammed as he took me through the labyrinth of the camp. It was over a cup of Turkish coffee on a rooftop that my neighbor Miyasar shared her longing for the lost village of Beit Itab, while we gazed over the entire camp in evening breeze. It was during the clashes in May that I clinched my fists as I saw my teenage friends running up against Israeli soldiers, unprotected and armed only with stones. I felt and understood with pain their urge to do so, even if they were directly exposed to a rain of bullets.
Dheisheh embraced me with its people's humanity, warmth, and generosity. I wondered, on countless occasions, how they were able to keep up with such profound dignity while continuing to endure injustices and deprivation in every corner of life. They are resilient people who know how to cherish and enjoy the preciousness of life, and are able to draw strength from the smallest things.
I am sure that my learning from this past year will enable me to achieve where I want to be in the work of human rights, and I owe it to the people of Palestine, especially the children, youths and families of Dheisheh.