Training program for foreign Students in the area of social service.
Training program for foreign Students in the area of social service- Lilac Center.
In regard to social service filed, Lilac center conducted a research training for two foreign student Eeime and Malin from Linus University in Sweden in the sake of develop knowledge among social service students. The research was about a family in Dehesha camp and it included interviews with three Nakba’ generations. The two students completed the research in April 2015. in addition, the search results will take a place for discussion after Eime and Malin return to their homeland, there will be conferences related to this research.
These programs are fall under the framework of education activities that Lilac center carried out. Lilac center works with many local and international universities, like Al-Quds Open University and Washington University in America.
To exist is to resist
While you are driving your car to work, a Palestinian is forced to illegally cross the border in order to reach their own cultivated land. While you are stuck in traffic and complaining about the congestion charge, a Palestinian is waiting in line at a checkpoint in order to show their ID and travel permission to an Israeli soldier. While you are able to vote for an extraparlamentarian party without facing any reprisals would the same action mean exclusion from the labour market for a Palestinian. While you are able to participate in a demonstration, a Palestinian is getting shot by the Israeli military for the same action. While you can criticise your government, a Palestinian is imprisoned for indefinite time after protesting against the Israeli occupation. These are two realities that co-exist and are both equally ordinary. The only difference is that their reality exists without your knowledge.
Approximately 7,4 million Palestinians falls under the category “forcibly displaced persons”. This number constitutes 66 % of the total 11,2 million Palestinians existing over the world. The term “forcibly displaced persons” contains both Palestinian refugees and “internally displaced persons”. The latter means that a Palestinian has been forcibly displaced within what is now known as the State of Israel or within occupied Palestinian territory. According to international humanitarian law occupation is only permitted during an armed conflict. During an armed conflict the occupying power is prohibited to deport or forcibly displace civilians from or within the occupied territory. In this case the term “forced displacement” involves more than physical force; it may also involve threat, fear of violence, oppression, discrimination and power abuse. Israel is violating international humanitarian law when they forcibly displace civilians in the occupied territories. In the same time Israel claims that there is peace between Israel and Palestine although Israel occupies most of what, according to the Oslo agreement, is Palestinian territory. This contradiction represents an illogical paradox.
To get the opportunity and the privilege as social work students to do our practical placement in Palestine has been an essential part of expanding our knowledge about the situation for Palestinians. During our one month long practical placement we have lived in Dheisheh Camp, outside of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Among other activities, we have during our stay in the camp had the opportunity to meet the Abu-Aker family, refugees since three generations back. We meet the family in their home in Dheisheh Camp. We have the chance to speak with the grandparents Naeem and Malka, their son Rafat and their granddaughter Dalya. We ask Naeem to tell us about his memories from his original village, which is the village he and his family lived in before the Nakba in 1948. Naeem tells us about how they escaped from the village Ras Abu Ammar in 1948 when he was five years old. The inhabitants of the village had no chance to defend themselves against the Israeli military. They were afraid of getting killed if they stayed in their village. This was right after the massacre in Deir Yassin and they were afraid that the same thing would happen to their village if they stayed. Naeem and his family escaped to a village just outside of Bethlehem and stayed there for three years. Later on the family moved to Dheisheh Camp, which at that time only was a camp of tents. They lived in the tents for ten years. Naeem tells us about the difficulties during the
summer when it would get extremely hot inside the tents and during the winter when it was freezing cold. There was no electricity and no running water in the camp, and only a few toilets that many of the families had to share. When UNRWA became responsible for Dheisheh Camp they started to hand out food provisions such as rice and oil. Gradually UNRWA started to build permanent concrete houses that, with our references, barely can be called houses since they only consisted of four walls and a roof. You can still see this form of housing in the camp today. Naeem explains that he lived with his family in a house like this for fifteen years. Due to the Six-Day War in 1967 Dheisheh Camp was facing new challenges. Many Palestinians were by the Israeli military forced to leave their homes. The military used trucks and buses to remove Palestinians from the West Bank. They even forced Palestinians to sign documents that stated that they were leaving their homes voluntarily. By the end of the war Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. More than a third of the Palestinian population in these areas was forcibly displaced after the war. As a result of this the number of refugees in Dheisheh Camp increased rapidly. For the families in Dheisheh Camp this meant that they had to build bigger houses to make room for the new refugees and their own growing families. Naeem and Malka met in the camp, got married and had six children. All four of their sons have been politically active. They have all been injured by the Israeli military and they have all spent time in Israeli prison. In 1988 their son Muhammed got shot during a demonstration. The bullet exploded inside his body and caused damage to several organs in his stomach. This type of bullet is prohibited for Israeli military to use and the doctors predicted that Muhammed would die immediately. Despite this Muhammed survived and lived for two more years, until he was 19 years old. Muhammed was during the last two years of his life known by the name “the living martyr” and is still known by that name to the refuges in Dheisheh Camp.
The experiences of the Abu-Akar family are proof of what can happen to you if you are a political activist in Palestine. Naeem and Malkas sons Rafat and Nidal were both arrested for the first time when they were 13 years old. Since then they have been sent to Israeli prison numerous times. At the time of the interview Dalyas father Nidal has been in prison for ten months. Hassim who is the fourth son of Naeem and Malka was shot in the eye by an Israeli soldier at the age of fifteen. While the family is telling us their story it becomes clear to us that the political activism is something that unites the family. Malka tells us an anecdote about when she met the former president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and publicly presented him with a kaffiyeh (the traditional Palestinian scarf). Naeem stresses the importance of telling the stories of the Palestinian families to make the world understand what is happening in Palestine. It is his great hope that we will be able to help him send this message.
When discussing the future Malka shows us the keys to the homes they had to flee from. These keys, she explains, will be passed on from generation to generation until we actually have gained the right to return and when there is peace in Palestine. Malka and Naeem emphasize that Israel do not want peace and the condition of today is not real peace. They wish that the Palestinians someday will experience freedom. ”Against the Israeli military and their weapons we only have stones. But we are strong and one day we will win. We are the owners of this land.”
Dalya, who is the granddaughter of Naeem and Malka, has up until now mostly been quiet during our visit. Now we are interested in her story. We ask her to describe how her childhood was affected by her absent father Nidal. She is seventeen years old and a senior in high school. Dalyas father was imprisoned at the time she started first grade and she is therefore hoping that he will be able celebrate her graduation with her. Due to his political activism Nidal spent long periods of time in Israeli prison during Dalyas childhood. Dalya describes an unstable subsistence with regular intrusions of Israeli soldiers. At the same time she points out that her mother did the best she could under the circumstances to give Dalya and her siblings an upbringing as ”normal” as possible. Her mother is also a political activist and got shot during the first intifada (Arabic for “uprising”). The first intifada occurred in 1987 and lasted to 1991. The second intifada began in 2000 as a result of the collapse of the Oslo agreement and is still ongoing. Nidal is held in something called administrative detention, which means that a person is imprisoned despite the lack of prosecution and trial. This is of course against the UN universal declaration of human rights. Nidal is imprisoned for four months at a time. His time may be extended to up to six more months without any notice. Despite the situation Dalya feels positive about the future because of, she tells us, the strength and the power of Dheisheh Camp and every other refugee camp. There is more than one way of resistance, she says. For example some people resist by violence, others by writing. Dalya herself want to express her opinions through dabke, a traditional Palestinian dance, and short films. She agrees with her grandparents that real peace is what Palestine needs. She talks about a peace that sustains of freedom of movement without any checkpoints, a peace where you don’t need to be afraid in your own house. Dalya is convinced that peace is achieved when every Palestinian have gotten their rights back and when an independent Palestinian state has been established. During our visit in the Abu-Aker house we discuss the term refugee and what it means to be a refugee. Malka and Naeem gives us the same answer: ”They took my land, my house. We have no weapons to defend ourselves. We can travel to the United States but up until today I still can’t go to Jerusalem.” For Dalya, being a refugee means not to have a place and to constantly fight for your rights. But being a refugee also comes with a responsibility to pass the knowledge of the Palestinian struggle on to the next generation. ”Show the world that you exist and that you always will.” We have during our one month’s stay in Dheisheh Camp asked ourselves several times why there is a lack of knowledge regarding the conditions of the Palestinian people. One of the reasons may be the absence of this matter in the curriculum of the Swedish elementary schools and high schools. We request an education that, instead of explaining ”both sides of the story”, tells the truth. There are no both sides to this story, there are only actual events in a situation where one state occupies another state with the military upper hand and with the international support.
Before our departure and during the time we spent here we have constantly been asked about the security situation in Palestine. Friends and family have asked us: ”Palestine, is it really safe to go there?”. As a respond to that question we just want to say that this is the everyday life of the Palestinians and has been for a very long time. By asking that question you indicate that their lives and their safety are less important than our lives as westerners. By asking that you are lacking the respect and the historical background, for there is a reason that their everyday life looks like this. As a white person from Western Europe you are protected by Israel’s good will. For Israel tourism is an important way of maintaining the international support. Therefore you only experience a small fraction of the real consequences of the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Since we are owners of Swedish passports we barely have to show our ID:s when passing a checkpoint. To be able to move freely in Palestine and what now is known as Israel without constantly having to prove your identity is a privilege only westerners hold. This is why we are trying to be aware of our privileges. Instead of stealing preferential right of interpretation we would like to listen to those who own this right – the Palestinians. Unfortunately we have encountered visitors from western countries who take it upon themselves to explain the situation of the Palestinians, even if there are Palestinians present. Even if the visitors have great experiences of voluntary work in Palestine they will never truly understand the reality the Palestinian people are facing.
Another question friends and family tend to ask us is: ”How are you dealing with everything?” This question indicates, just as the previous mentioned question, that our mental wellbeing is more important than any Palestinians wellbeing. We can choose to leave Palestine and go back to Sweden whenever we want. We have the freedom to choose not to take part in this reality. This is a freedom of choice no Palestinian has. Although there is one feeling we have noticed within ourselves – anger. Anger because of the injustice, anger because of the discrimination and anger because of the oppression of the Palestinian people. We have also been feeling a great deal of frustration. Frustration over the unprogressive status of the international conflict management and how this unsolved situation affects the Palestinian people. Despite this, our stay in Palestine has provided us with a large amount of hope because of the strength and the willpower among the residences of Dheisheh Camp. The visit to the Abu-Aker family’s house states as a good example of this. Among the Palestinians in the camp there exists a strong belief that they one day will see a united Palestine that stretches from the river to the sea. The resistance in Dheisheh Camp manifests through the belief that every prisoner and every martyr only will strengthen the Palestinian struggle. To demonstrate this we would like to quote Dalya Abu-Aker:
”If we want to exist we have to resist.”
Naeem and Malka with their granddaughter Natalie, holding up the keys to their former homes
Malka, Naeem, Dalya and Natalie
Graffiti in Aida Camp, Bethlehem