How are you? Hope you're having a good summer so far. I apologize for not being good at keeping in touch for almost 2 months since I got here in Palestine/Israel. I was initially very consumed with getting my life settled and organized in a place where things take 10 times longer than in the West/Japan, while not having access to everyone's email addresses as my laptop broke down.
My living arrangement has been excellent so far - I'm lucky to have a very nice flat in the center of Ramallah (friends stop by all the time) and a great roommate, Adele. Here they've got the greatest falafels and hommous, but this all-olive-oil diet has REALLY started to accelerate my cravings for rice and soy sauce. But all in all, I am healthy, busy, very tan, and being a 'sponge,' absorbing lots and lots in Palestine/Israel.
I work full-time at the Alternative Information Center (AIC), a joint Palestinian-Israeli human rights organization, as a coordinator for educational tour programs and fundraising. I also help out Ibda' Cultural Center for youth at Dheisheh Refugee Camp a couple of times a week, doing administrative support, while organizing a Middle East Children's Alliance's program called "Volunteers for Peace in Palestine" (if you know of anyone who wants to volunteer here, send them my way!). I commute from my apartment in Ramallah (north of the West Bank) to my work in Bethlehem and Dheisheh camp (south of the West Bank) via Jerusalem (Israeli area), going through Israeli military checkpoints at least four times a day, with Palestinian commuters on a Palestinian transportation system (a very interesting setting to witness the life under the military occupation - more on this later). As you can imagine, my days are packed with work, meetings, events, meeting new people, in addition to experiencing on-the-ground impact of the military occupation and political development.
I would like to share with you my experience and observation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the next several months. My hope is to convey the realities of Palestinian-Israeli conflict from an everyday-person's point of view. Despite the signing of the so-called 'peace process' 5 years ago and the recent establishment of a new 'left' government, the situation here is rapidly deteriorating. Israel's military occupation of the Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) is still very present, and the Palestinians continue to live in humiliation, despair, trauma, and poverty.
It is hard being here and witnessing the on-going and severe oppression, especially when you start developing trust and friendship with the people who are so affected by it. But it all makes it rewarding and energizing when you see the strength, inspiration, commitment, humanity and integrity of the people - both Israelis and Palestinians - who continue to put their heart in the right place and work tirelessly for justice. Those are the things I want to share with you as well.
You will start receiving my weekly email updates on various subjects. The first one will be on the closure (sealing of the territories)- it'll come in the next few days. I also wanted to thank you for the friendship and support you gave as I was leaving San Francisco, and for your continuous interest in my work.
Looking forward to receiving your feedback and to hearing how you are doing.
A big hug from Palestine,
PS: If you want to get off this list, let me know.
PS 2: I still don't have all my email addresses (the laptop is still DEAD!) so I'd appreciate it if you can forward this to anyone who'd be interested in. Thanks!