Saturday, August 1, 2015


We’re now well underway in our ICS placements here in Palestine – and what an incredibly sobering experience it’s been.

Upon mention of ‘Palestine’ you could be forgiven for instinctively conjuring images of unrelenting violence and misery inflicted on an indigenous people. Whilst this may often be the case, it’s not an entirely accurate assessment of life in the occupied territories. The Israeli occupation is seen rather than spoken about; its presence permeates ordinary life like the tear gas that lingers thick in the air, burning slowly as opposed to igniting furiously. So, despite this endless nightmare, Palestinians have adjusted and found normality in the madness; a beautiful nightmare.

The dream begins every dawn with the soothing melodic sounds of the call to prayer as the Ramadan fast begins against the backdrop of a stunning sunrise. It’s here the day starts for the majority of Palestinians, although fortunately for my colleagues and I, we’re afforded a few more hours before our placement at the Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU) begins. Having spent the first weeks acquainting ourselves with the organisation and its objectives, we now feel comfortable in engaging with the challenging tasks that lay ahead. In a concerted effort with our local Palestinian volunteers, we’ve undertaken various roles and projects that range from continuing the efforts of previous cohorts to pursuing uncharted territory in the field of agriculture, the beating-heart of the Palestinian economy. These range from social media management, providing a local and international platform seeking to highlight the plight of farmers, to drafting extensive funding applications to finance projects designed to alleviate the harsh conditions the occupation imposes on the agricultural sector. It can be as daunting as it sounds, and the obstacles – from bureaucracy to the physical impediments the occupation imposes – can often be disheartening. Yet, appreciating the significance of our efforts, and a yearning for some justice, keeps spirits high and minds focused.

Outside the office, there’s an infinite wealth of mesmerising beauty, history and culture that promises to occupy (no pun intended) the wanderer for days on end. I began this journey in the Old City of Jerusalem, a place that truly encapsulates the senses, and quite frankly defies all description.

A melting-pot of thousands of years of monotheistic civilisation stands proud and inviting. Bustling markets proffering the wildest fruits and artistic designs jostling for your attention, intoxicating scents of spices and perfume and cobbled pathways brimming with frenzy. But, perhaps most captivating of all: the simultaneous fusion of the call to prayer from the besieged al-Aqsa mosque, the sounds of synagogue klaxons reverberating across narrow tunnels and the ringing of the church bells, threatening to overwhelm. It’s blindingly clear to see why they call this the Promised Land.  

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