Thursday, June 18, 2009

Session One Recap

hey blog followers, sorry I haven't been posting regularily, but I realized that I really can't stand blogging.

However, here is a reflection on session of the program that I am doing here.

This session has been in one word intense. A really good intensity. Through my volunteer placement, Arabic classes and cultural nights, it can be easy to slip into a routine where you start going through the motions of the program. However, this program is being held in Palestine, and nothing is routine here. There have been many instances in the past three weeks where a conversation, whether over drinks at a bar or on a tour bus, will shake you to the core of your beliefs, and leave you in a constant state of re-evaluating why you are here, what you believe and makes you realize that the people here are as diverse in their opinions and politics as people from anywhere in the world.

This has been confirmed to us by almost every guest speaker we have had. From the ICAHD tour in Jerusalem to meeting with an Imam in Bethlehem, it is clear that there are many opinions and beliefs and people working for peace and against peace on both 'sides.' However, it is still true that one side is living under the occupation of the other side, and my protest and passion against this is something that has not waived, but has grown stronger and been cemented since coming back here. Though it can get exhausting to become enraged over and over again, and it's easier for me to understand a little more of the tension that the people here live with. We're coming to this situation from the outside. We don't know what it feels like to be Palestinian, we don't know what they have felt and seen and heard over their lifetimes. It's our role here to listen, and to seek to understand. It's important that we don't grasp onto one or two opinions as representing the whole population, and therefore reject all others. It is also important to realize that injustice and prejudice exists within the Palestinian population as well, just like any other.

The 14 of us have really clicked well with each other over these past three weeks. We've managed to keep each other from going insane, unless we're all completely crazy and haven't noticed. Some of the richest experiences I've had so far have been because of the fact that I'm sharing my time here with these 13 other people. It will be interesting as the new participants arrive how the group dynamics will change. And sadly we've had to say goodbye to one participant already.

As a political science and peace and conflict studies student, through being here and working at my volunteer place PNN (Palestine News Network), it's been an interesting case study for studying international politics as they are from the mouth of politicians to what what they mean on the ground. It has been interesting to be here during Obama's address to the Muslim world in Cairo, and what his statements mean here on the ground. Most of the population here appreciated what he had to say about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but they have also become pretty jaded in thinking that anything will actually change. After Netanyahu's recent speech, I am struggling to not become jaded myself.

There is hope though, and I will continue to scratch the surface to find it. I am still left with a ton of questions, like what does it mean to be nonviolent? How do you not hate your oppressor? How do you turn the other cheek? Even though sometimes I feel like the Palestinian struggle is not mine, I remember that an injustice somewhere is an injustice everywhere. As a Canadian, I am technically a settler on lands that were occupied a few hundred years ago. Is Canada's past (and present) really that different from some of what Israel is doing now?

The Palestinians around me are what keep me going, they certainly know how to live, and they have a wicked sense of humour. I love my host family, and I couldn't imagine getting nearly as much out of my time here if they weren't a part of it. I've also had some incredibly amazing experiences, from dancing to the same beat for hours at a graduation party, meeting with a Bedouin community leader, spray painting the wall while being filmed by Al Jazeera to learning (and failing at) Debka. It's all been a part of learning more about the culture and the people, and I have come to realize that that is how we will be the bridge between the Palestinians and the Israelis, or the Palestinians and the people at home.

I'm looking forward to the second month of being here, of attempting to learn more Arabic and deepening the relationship with my host family and my coworkers at PNN. Their strength and faith are what keep me going, and to be extremely cliche in the words of Gandhi "There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."


  1. Wow... That sounds really amazing.

  2. It sounds like this experience is turning out to be something very wonderful Cassie. I can't wait to talk with you about it when it's all done and you've had time to reflect on it :)

    Take care of yourself :D

  3. Wow Cassie, sounds amazing in a life changing way. Sounds to be extremely challenging, yet fun and rewarding too! Keep on struggling with those questions, I can't wait to hear more.

    ps. i like your reflective style, its as if i can see inside your head