Experiencing life in the Palestinian Territories

Berina Bukva from Bosnia and Herzegovina talks about her International Study Visit experience.

You can pass. Because you know the rules. Barriers and walls are only in our minds, and here I don't see that.

Ask yourself now - when is the last time you did something for the first time? Well for me it was going to Bethlehem and Hebron.  Two beautiful cities, with a modern sun setting on an ancient history.  We saw part of the old city, the wall, we heard about youth initiatives which are writing some better pages of history and then we visited Al Aida refugee camp, which i shall not forget.

In the camp we visited an organisation called  Laaje, who are working to empower young refugees to give them a better future.  We met with one of their representatives, Muhamed, who has a bitter-sweet story. The sweet part is the playground he helped build for the children in camp, and the educational opportunities he fights for. The bitter part is that he told us he was shot four times and been in jail for about six years of his life for his campaigning. He is only 27 years old.

We also visited Hebron University and spoke with some of the young, educated and active people studying in the environmental faculty. Seeing their project to plant trees to create a green area and stop the advancement of the wall really moved us. It was the most inspiring thing i have seen in the last few days, and it really shifted my perspective.

This whole experience has changed me. It's like, now I don't judge by cover and now I concentrate on positive things.  

For these people have had to learn to deal with the checkpoints and barriers, and that's why they've done so much for their communities.

It inspired me to go deeper and I am now I will empowered to search, analyse and act for the good of my society.  So, as the writing on the wall near Bethlehem said: Now that I've seen, I'm responsible. I believe you have to find inspiration in negative things to do phenomenal things.

You can pass. Because you know the rules. Barriers and walls are only in our minds, and here I don't see that. 

The other side of Palestine

"Whenever I leave my country, I stamp everything that is me on my mind and carry it as a lucky charm". 

I'm a wanderlust, so traveling and exploring is kind of my thing. This experience is not as easy as I thought though. You're away from your local community and your relaxed attitude. People are trying hard to get to know you. Then it starts to happen - faces, names, meanings, chatting, unbelievably pleasant hosts and lots of coffee - we just made a breakthrough. 

Different people, same mission. Different names, same “hellos”. Different backgrounds, same expectations. But while having a first coffee with all participants, being able to share and to talk to people from different parts of the world, made me realise that we all bring different skills and perspectives. 

We came to Jerusalem, thinking that we know the world, its geography and history, but it made us see so much more than we knew before. So many things that we didn’t know are happening at this moment in Sri Lanka, UK, Palestine or Bosnia and Herzegovina. On this ISV we are always learning. 

On the night of the second day we saw some dabkha dance at the Ramallah Cultural Centre. It’s the traditionally dance of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon, but the fascinating thing was that they created a special performance combining elements of dabkha and ballet. Brilliant. Amazed by every single step and sound of it. I consider those dancers from last night the real change agents. 

It is really possible to see the country in another uniform than it’s presented in media and we didn’t expect to see a new perspective being delivered on stage. So, if I expected not to expect a lot, and my expectations have changed in only two days, imagine what the rest of the international visit activities will bring.