Fourth Week: Classes, Clippers and Clouds

After four (and a bit) weeks we’re finally running English workshops!

We met last week with several enthusiastic department heads at the uni, got notices sent to students and accumulated lots of Facebook fans. After a very well attended couple of initial meetings with about 150 students, we’ve canvassed for suitable times and have run our first two days of workshops this week. We had about 90 people come each day, split over two sessions yesterday and three today.

We’ve been slightly taken aback by how good the level of English is — it’s hard to gauge what people mean by ‘beginner’ without meeting the students! — but are trying to tweak the workshops accordingly. We should now be able to tackle some meatier discussion topics than we’d first thought.

The very helpful guy in the Careers department also helped me find good places to get haircuts and (separately) burgers, so a pretty successful week all round.

Taybeh

I’ve not ventured much beyond Ramallah, partly due to Hebron travel being declined while the area is unusually volatile, and to my struggling slightly after celebrating a fellow volunteer’s birthday at the weekend — so the photos here aren’t entirely up-to-the-minute! Our project page will have some pictures from the English workshops though.

We fit in a visit to another legal NGO — Al-Haq — this week, some of whose work is related to the uni’s Right to Education campaign. They examine human rights abuses by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and along with their reports maintain an active Youtube channel (there’s one really good video in the links below). We talked a bit about the motivation and practicalities behind uni student strikes, and some interesting cases of corporate abuse of the situation here. In particular they mentioned the huge profits made by the cosmetics firm Ahava, through siphoning highly valued natural resources from Palestinian parts of the Dead Sea while operating with Israeli military protection.

Taybeh

More generally, it’s pretty amazing the extent to which Israel controls Palestine’s whole economy and business interests. The news this week that the Palestinian Authority is backing a boycott of some Israeli firms may appear to be a strong move, but when you consider that it’s in response to a punitive freeze of their entire tax revenues, it hardly feels like a level playing field.

It seems a bit boring to include the weather but it’s possible we will get sandstormed off tomorrow. We’ve had some slightly yellow clouds and spots of very strange weather, but so far Ramallah’s mostly just cold, a bit dusty and very windy.

This weekend is shaping up to be interesting with some educational and leisure trips, providing the storms clear in time! All being well I’m hoping to see the Yad Vashem museum, stay with the Jerusalem volunteers one evening, go to Jaffa, and be shown around Bil’in, a village that’s known for its anti-wall protests and is the setting of 5 Broken Cameras.

Jerusalem

More light reading

Hundreds of rabbis from around the world call on Israel to halt demolition of Palestinian homes — “In the past three days, 77 Palestinians, over half of them children, have been made homeless”.

Israel’s road signs policy ‘erases memory of place’ — “There’s an Arab village here, but I can’t remember its name, because there are only Hebrew signs.”

The Bullet — Al-Haq video

Why I’m ‘giving’ my vote to a Palestinian in Israel’s elections — “The fact that millions of people live under Israeli rule without representation or basic civil rights is an affront to the very idea of democracy.”

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