A Volunteer’s Impression of Palestine
“A local volunteer said to me, “What’s wrong? Why are you so sad?” I responded, “We saw a sad film, you know…” And, her answer was: “We have enough sad faces here, we are not in need for more.”… Well, what was the meaning of solidarity then? Why had nobody explained it to me?
Wasn’t it showing your feelings of despair, rage and anger or was it to hide them and to show consideration instead, giving the Palestinians what they are in need of? Are the Palestinian people more in need of the smiles that we can share with them? More than the tears, despite the fact we are not in the mood to be easygoing and to have fun, when we see things that make us scream, shout and cry inside?
Plans were changed everyday, work was cancelled due to the invasion, no way to go out, because it was too dangerous, clashes in the Old City of Nablus, and the frustrations were growing. What were we there for? We came to Palestine to help Palestinians, to show solidarity, not to watch the bad news and discuss politics! We were volunteers and we had only three weeks. How can we stay in our flats because of the curfew? Expectations were unfulfilled. Motivation turned into frustration. Inactivity and the feeling of being useless grew in me. What was it for? Why did it happen to me? But, really it didn’t just happen to me. Suddenly, I accepted and understood the situation, it was the situation of Palestinians, too. It was the feeling of being helpless, bored and not able to do anything. This was the reality we had to accept.
I realised how fast we lose our patience after some days, even if we know that we can leave whenever we want, while thousands of inhabitants can’t leave. They cannot do anything. They are forced to accept this inactivity and all the difficult circumstances that destroy any kind of motivation and growth. Aggressions and depressions, hope and despair, that is not only in the political situation, but also reflected in the everyday life and relations of the people. This is another lesson I had to learn.
It is a big mistake to have any kind of expectations for the success of plans, expectations of changing everything, by working and making fast efforts in order to feel useful. We were not really useful, but our experience was how it feels to be a Palestinian, caged like an animal, humiliated, afraid and reduced to think about food while the Israeli tanks do not let you even sleep at night. There was also the boredom, frustration, feeling useless, powerless, helplessness, getting into troubles and living life with rumours about the withdrawal the whole time.
I shared these feelings with Palestinians. Now, I think I understand the meaning of real solidarity, a completely different kind of solidarity, than we all had planned in a different world, where people are free and responsible for themselves.