Fifth Week Reflections


For years I listened to my Palestinian friends talk about how important the land is and how olive trees are symbolic of the rootedness Palestinians (even in the diaspora) feel toward their homeland, but this concept means so much more after taking part in the olive harvest.  The entire process is a communal effort.  It's time consuming to hand pick all the tiny olives, tree by tree, so the social aspect is particularly important in both lightening the work load and creating a pleasant experience.  There is something about interacting with the physical landscape that creates a real sense of pride and ownership.  It’s no wonder that every village claims to have the best olives.  Anything produced by the fruit of one’s labor is clearly more satisfying than something acquired with ease.


Soccer, the world's favorite sport has historically been a man's game. I have been fortunate enough to watch it emerge at home and abroad into a game for both genders. Growing up in the post Title 9 wave of women's sports had a profound effect on me. I was encouraged and valued for my participation in sports by my community and my society at large. You can image what this does for a teenage girl struggling with confidence and her place in the world.
Imagine, a young women in Palestine. She steps out onto the field, one of the few times a women has done this. She looks up into a sea of teenage girls all screaming and yelling, excited that she is there to represent them. She is about to play a friendly match against the world champions, Japan. She is about to play in shorts, without a hijab, she is about to play a man's sport. She is about to change that.
Those teenage girls go home, curious about soccer, about seeing women play it. Excited that they are included in their society, that they are a part of representing their nation.
The potential that this has for the empowerment of girls in Palestine gives me chills. Pele, the father of soccer and still considered by many as the best soccer player in the world put two women on his list of the top 125 greatest living soccer players, Mia Hamm and Michael Akers (USA Today).
When I was playing, they said soccer was a man's world and women should remain on the sidelines. All I can say is that I'm glad I never had to go up against Mia Hamm.
As women's soccer emerges on an international level it evolves the women's role within their society and creates role models for next generation of girls. I feel privileged to have witnessed this in Palestine, as the beautiful game transcends beyond the sideline.


Unsurprisingly, living in this part of the world gets you thinking a lot about what links people to land. One of the most traditional ways of answering this question is through the lens of farming, especially subsistence farming. The quotation here is from one such farmer called Abu Adnan Abed El Salam, of Faqu'a, who was interviewed by Vivien Sansour for Canaan Fair Trade (based an hour north of Nablus). The context of Abu Adnan's exclamation is his passionate belief in organic agriculture, a practice that has been cherished by his family for generations as they have each 'served' the olive trees in Faqu'a. During my last year of college in York, UK, I shared that same awe for the land - nothing would excite me more than cycling to our local allotment with a bucketful of veggie peelings and scraps, only to return with a bucketful of freshly picked potatoes, zucchini, apples, spinach, tomatoes and the like. My twofold reality check is that Abu Adnan reminds me 'local and organic' isn't a groundbreaking new fashionable pastime for the peri-urban hipster, and secondly that genuine rootedness demands far more commitment than the transient whims of college kids digging at a patch of ground for a semester. Nevertheless, I can't wait to take back his story (and the myriad others of the Canaan Fair Trade Producers) to share with my food co-operative community in York, as I know it'll put big rewarding smiles on their faces. As will his olives.


So four weeks of teaching are over already, quite hard to believe really!  It seems that each week brings new challenges and joy in equal measures and this was certainly true this week.  In the children's drama classes we explored the principle of giving stories structure (with a beginning, middle and end) and they really took this on board with their sketches becoming even stronger and more entertaining as a result!  Although some children struggle with short attention spans I never fail to be impressed and overjoyed by the respect and positive attitude that they display almost all of the time! They are so keen to learn and try new things that I know with the support of myself and my fantastic volunteers/translator, they will be able to achieve so much together over the course. Staff/Community English classes have also been brilliant and I love having the freedom to try out new techniques and creative games and activities each week. I am also thankful for the students who bring an incredible amount of enthusiasm and humour!  It was also a real pleasure to join my colleagues olive picking on Friday and to understand more about the importance of this part of Palestinian tradition and heritage.  I've even got a few small scars on my hand as a proud reminder of that glorious day!