A Day in Khalil
Living in Nablus, I find that my day almost always evolves in ways that I would never even imagine when I wake up in the morning. Such was definitely the case with today's outing to Hebron, or Khalil, a large city in the southern West Bank, named for Abraham, 'the friend,' who's said to be buried there.
I headed south with two colleagues this morning to visit the Palestinian Industrial Fair. Ahmed (the wonderful director of the Small Enterprise Center, our likely partner for a project with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women) had kindly invited me to nominate a small business from Nablus to participate. He also suggested that we come see the display the embroidered products that one of our volunteers makes, as well as the rest of the Fair - a large annual event designed to showcase Palestinian products, from food to cleaning products and paper goods to traditional crafts and housewares.
We met a colleague who's originally from Hebron at the University: an attractive and bustling campus of about 6,000 students (69% ladies, by the way!). He introduced us to some leading administrators, and we had a brief tour of the campus. After a delicious lunch in the brand new cafeteria, we were shown the impressive facilities of Radio Alam 96.1, the student-run radio station. Before we knew it, Ahmed (from TYO, not SEC) and I were being interviewed about TYO, including extremely eager suggestions that we expand to Hebron. I'll post a link when they air the interview!
We arrived at the Fair much later than planned, but still in time to see the vast array of Palestinian businesses. We were also very proud to say that our volunteer's booth stood out as having the most modern and tasteful embroidered goods. We wish her luck, and hope that she sells a lot in the four days of the Fair!
I had heard how intense Hebron's Old City is because of the extreme proximity of Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents in the city. But as so many things in the West Bank, it is hard to believe until you see it. For this reason, I insisted on walking through at least a bit of the Old City (we couldn't get to the Abraham Mosque because today was Saturday). And it was intense indeed.
I won't detail everything we saw, but do want to share the single moment when I knew we would do everything in our power to extend TYO services to Hebron. My colleague Ahmed stepped between two young boys whose disagreement was clearly becoming physical. As he cooled them down, I observed the larger context of their argument. About ten children (probably 7 - 11 years old, boys and girls), were rummaging through dusty piles of toys and toy parts on the street, left behind after the day's business in the market (see photo below). The two boys were fighting over what must have been a particularly valuable item.
This incident illustrated all of the reasons that I know TYO's work is so important in at-risk communities everywhere. The extreme poverty would be enough, but with the added factors of omnipresent violence, political tension and instability, tempers flare high and frequently, presenting a real obstacle to healthy development (read more from Harvard here). Children need a safe space and loving supervision and guidance. They need to learn healthy ways of expressing themselves. And they need to have fun sometimes.
Tomorrow morning, I'll get up (even earlier than today) not quite sure exactly how the day will evolve, but working with our team in Nablus on developing the knowledge, resources and partnerships that we'll need to ensure TYO is achieving these goals for children. And that we'll be able to do it for Khalil kids soon too!