With the spare time I had today I thought I would start an online blog to write about my experiences and adventures in Palestine. I will be spending 3 months here so have plenty of time to be writing. For those of you that don’t know me already, I am originally a Palestinian from Jerusalem but I have spent my whole life in London. I am what people would call a ‘Westernised Arab,’ I’ve taken the nice aspects of both the Arab and English culture and found a happy medium. I am also one of those really annoying people who throws in the words “Wallah” and “Khalas” into every other sentence and has probably got over 100 parking tickets in my life. Why you ask? Well I am an Arab. In my head, I can park wherever I want, whenever I want and I do not need to follow rules. Rules were made to be broken were they not?
Anyway this isn’t my first time in Palestine. I actually came two years ago where I worked as a counsellor at Go Palestine Summer Camp. I also stayed in Ramallah then so I knew a bit about the area before coming. I find Ramallah (the “bubble” of Palestine) to be a little like Amman. It’s young, vibrant and is the in place to be. Every week a new coffee shop or restaurant opens hoping the young Ramallah crowds flock there and bring them business. These crowds of people range from 17-25 years old and move in packs. It is very normal to go to a café or restaurant and have to spend the first 20 minutes saying your hellos to almost every table and chitchatting before you are able to sit down. (Good for me since I don’t know anyone here!!)
Of course you’ve got the usual places where these people go, during the day coffee shops like Pronto and Zamn (where I had an incredible coffee this morning) and at night most of the young crowds are at Beit Aneeseh or Orjuwan – bar/lounge type places. Nothing like the ones in London but for a Middle Eastern country they’re still good fun!
These young people live in what is commonly called the “Friends School” bubble. They come from a certain class of society and attended the American Quaker School “Friends”, one of the best schools in the West Bank, which also happens to be the school my mother attended when she lived here. These people that I seem to see at every cafe, bar and restaurant are different generations of Friends school kids who all know or know of each other.
Now what I found most surprising about them is how open they are. The girls wear short skirts and dresses when they go out, most of them drink alcohol and love to party, marijuana is out in the open and most smoke pot regularly, they go to forest raves and festivals – at times I felt like what I was seeing wasn’t even real!!
I mean before ever visiting Palestine I had an idea of what to expect but didn’t think it was like this. (Ok mini confession: before my first visit here I thought Palestine was this barren land with run down houses and poor people walking around miserable living under the Israeli occupation. I thought it wasn’t safe to walk on the streets for fear of being shot by Israeli soldiers and the whole place was basically a deadly war zone.) Little did I know what life was really like for a person of my age in Palestine.
But then is this what life is really like? Because for me it seems more of a façade. This can’t be what its like to live in Palestine. This can’t be the same place we hear and read about where there is injustice, instability and inequality. In the words of my brother, “you are going into the most unstable country in the world!!” So what is life really like to live here?
Until next time.