Tuesday 2 May 2017

Abu Dis Girls' School

The highlight of our volunteering experience so far has been meeting with the girls from Abu Dis girls school. They are so bright and intellectual yet innocent and charismatic. They all have a unique spirit and are extremely welcoming. They put a smile on your face instantly.

When we first met with them they were so excited and literally bombarded us with questions about who we are, our lives, how long we are staying etc. They were intrigued to know about our culture and heritage, they wanted to know about the similarities and differences between them.

So far we have had an ice breaker session which was really fun and engaging and we just got to know the girls one by one. The following sessions have been on culture and life style, dance, so Dabka and traditional Pakistani dancing. We have also spoken about the girls aspirations for the future and how the occupation limits these. Similarly we spoke about their opinions and feelings about the occupation. We had in depth conversations about their experiences with Israeli soldiers and also about arrests and deaths within their family.

The girls inspire us to do more and be more! There is something innate within them. They want to succeed they want to see the world and will not let anything stop them. Meeting with them is more an honor for us then they will ever know.

Palestinian Prisoners Mass Hunger Strike

At least 1600 Palestinian Prisoners have started a mass hunger strike. They are protesting their conditions in Israeli jails. They face torture, poor medical treatment and restrictions on contact with their families. Israeli practices of mass arbitrary arrests and detentions without trial are major attributing factors to the hunger strike. These consistently violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

The hunger strike is a way of expressing freedom for the Palestinian prisoners. It is used by the prisoners to really show the free world what is happening to them. They stand against the actions of their occupier. It is an effective way for them to defeat the occupation. They feel that having empty stomachs is only a small means to an end. They want the international community to recognize that Palestinians are freedom seekers and are using any options available to them to do this.

"Our chains will be broken before we are" Marwan Barghouti.

Here in Abu Dis, there has been on going support for the Palestinian prisoners. The support has been demonstrated through protests, strikes and tents of solidarity in each city or town. However, this has resulted in many clashes between the locals and the Israeli military camp. We have experienced the effects of the daily tear gas bombs, the deafening sounds of shootings during the night and not to mention people screaming and running. There have also been several night raids which are essentially terrorizing the locals.  This instills fear within the community as each night is a unexpected series of events.

The soldiers have also been arresting children from Abu Dis Boys' School claiming they have been throwing stones. They asked teachers to empty the school within ten minutes and ordered that if any of the boys look at the soldiers in the eye they will kill them there and then.

We also had the chance to meet with a local who had been released from prison after four years, he was arrested at the age of 14. This young man has lost out on the most crucial years of his youth, where he would have developed many skills, finished his education, missing key family events such as weddings, births and even deaths. The damaging effects of prison are apparent in his reserved and timid behaviour.

It is so inspiring to see the community fighting for the rights of the prisoners, even amidst struggle and occupation the passion the Palestinians have is something each individual living in the free world should learn from.

Resistance is the key to freedom.