Sunday, May 17, 2015

Red Nights in Ramallah

Welcome to Ramallah

An insight into the West Bank from the eyes of an International.

An overwhelming feeling of total immersion has so far been the stand out experience of the West Bank, an area of the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  From clouds rolling low over the surrounding hilltops, to clouds of smoke creating curtains within the plentiful coffee and shisha shops, wherever you are, the essence of what it means to be Palestinian is unmistakable.

“Welcome! Welcome!” or “What is your name?” or “Where are you from?” are the sentences most often heard in the market of Ramallah. From this, the friendly and approachable nature of the people is very noticeable.

It’s a place that’s impossible to understand from the outside.

Previous ideas of what it is like here are immediately cast aside, as even those who think they know what it’s like, don’t. The disparity displayed as you first drive or walk through the Qalandia check-point creates a feeling that is almost impossible to forget.

Smooth tarmacked motorways change to rough uneven roads. Carefully arranged houses separated by decoratively placed palm trees change to a higgledy-piggledy selection of buildings, and lights with fruit and veg spilling onto the street from the front of local shops.

Cultural Resistance is the key

Resistance is ingrained deeply in everyone here, and takes many different forms.
“The IDF don’t just kill us physically, they aim to kill our minds. That’s what I won’t let happen”, Osama, a 24 year old from a refugee camp in Bethlehem explained. Osama is a member of the Freedom Theatre based in Jenin Refugee Camp, a cultural resistance project that has blossomed into a college for drama students from all over the West Bank.

The inspiring forms that the resistance to the occupation takes, are a breath of fresh air from what is published and available for the international audience. The longer you spend inside the walls and the more you embrace the locals, the more you learn about the inspiring and resilient nature which citizens here must maintain in order to keep their culture alive.

At the end of the day, we are all humans

Wherever we live, the belief that we are all humans is key. It is easy to cast negative aspersions on what people who live under occupation are like, but that could not be further from the truth.

Living in the western world we have the luxury of making the choice to be politically aware, however here that is not the case. Resistance is as much a part of their everyday lives as popping to the pub might be for us, yet this does not mean their lives are miserable.

It’s a different way of life that’s for certain, yet when you get past the cultural and religious differences, the occupation and normalization of it, what stares you in the face is not dissimilar from when you look in the mirror.

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