By Faris E.

It was yet another early start today as we eagerly made our way towards the day’s activities, starting with Ramallah. We began with a visit with Dr. Ahmed Majdalani, the Minister of Social Development. He emphasized the importance of teamwork and togetherness in his work with the community of the city of Ramallah, a message we find can be easily generalized to all of Palestine.

Following our meeting was an informative visit to the Ramallah municipality, who detailed many of the challenges the Israeli occupation poses to one of Palestine’s central developmental city. As we’ve learned, Ramallah is arguably the business center of Palestine; however, the municipalities struggle to establish basic facilities such as a solid waste landfill or liquid waste treatment plant. Divisions between other Palestinian cities that face their own distinct challenges at the hands of the occupation make negotiations difficult, and not having control over their borders makes importing necessary machinery a grueling endeavor.

Despite all this, the municipality inspired us by outlining Ramallah’s tremendous willingness to house refugees and integrate them without the establishment of refugee camps, and left us with the comforting certainty that they will continue their best efforts to develop their city despite the challenges the occupation provides.

Next, we made our way to another municipality constantly struggling because of the occupation in Jericho. The leaders of Jericho shared the many challenges in employment and deploying educated youth in yet another Palestinian city cut off from resources and outreach. We were first given the opportunity to meet the deputy governor whose genuine, forthright nature when talking to us allowed for a compassionate dialogue. Her admiration towards the desire we in diaspora have to rediscover our place of exile and identity touched all our hearts.

Later, the mayor of Jericho invited us for lunch where we asked about Jericho’s history, the situation with city’s unemployed population, and his time in an Israeli jail. He tackled each of these topics with sincerity, and I cannot even begin to describe the horrors the mayor described that he survived in the Israeli prison. Needless to say, he left us speechless.

We were then given the opportunity to further experience Jericho’s rich history through the ruins of Hisham Palace. The ancient stones defy time with their patience, and show us that although nothing is forever, history leaves its mark. And we Palestinians are resilient and made to survive.

Finally, we wrapped the day at the Rosana Festival in Birzeit. Your eyes don’t need to wander too far to discover something of interest during this beautiful celebration. Street performers juggled flames, marching bands united crowds, and the winding alleys were densely populated with restaurants and stalls with so much to shop for and taste. The town was alive with community and celebration, and it was incredible to witness and be a part of their celebrations. We bought drinks, sweets, souvenirs, and whatever else we found of interest with a constant underlying goal: to help support our Palestinian community in Birzeit.

Afterwards, we returned to our guest house and wrapped up this eventful and impactful day with our debrief reflection.