Experiences from Palestine by Katerina Antoniou

I recently had the opportunity to visit Palestine, through an exchange program organized by Youth Power. Although I had visited Palestine before, my visit was once again unique and full of new information, both for the Palestinian territory, as well as its people. I had always been interested in the study of the Palestinian conflict, particularly with regards to human rights. Nonetheless, it is much different to visit than study about it: many factors that you can see on the ground are often unnoticed or neglected when you read an academic report about it.

 

Our visit included staying in Ramallah, a vibrant city with liberal youth, cafes, restaurants, international banks, fancy hotels, clubs and many organizations, both local and international. The city receives a lot of international money for new investments, development projects and governmental initiatives, turning Ramallah into an economic capital for Palestine.

 

The flow of money coming from donors shows concentration in certain areas and inefficiency in others. The example of Ramallah shows a city that has not managed to generate its own sustainability, while there are examples of inefficient projects in rural areas.


We also had the chance to visit East Jerusalem, where its Palestinian inhabitants live in entirely different conditions from the rest of the West Bank, since this area is under the Israeli authorities. Although East Jerusalemites have easier access to both Israel and the West Bank, they remain marginalized from both and try – despite the human rights deprivations they face – to uphold the Palestinian character of East Jerusalem. Would it be the case that more development projects would be effective here?

Partition and the security regime has made it hard for Palestinians to visit Israel and Jerusalem without permission, while there is a minimal number of Israelis visiting the West Bank.

The lack of contact contributes greatly to the lack of awareness for both sides, with each demonizing the other and diminishing any hope for common ground, cooperation and contact.

In an attempt to put thoughts, emotions and experiences in order, one thing seems to be clear: the more communication there is between people, the more awareness and understanding can prevail. And there could be no better agent for breaking political and psychological barriers, than the youth.