How, Not If

Nada smiles with her Women's beginner IT class TYO is a non-political organization positioned in a climate of endless politics. Discussing my time here without mentioning words like “occupation” or “checkpoints” has been challenging - but if use of semantics in a blog has troubled me so, I can only imagine the massive effort which goes into balancing TYO away from political rhetoric in a land built on a foundation of political rhetoric.

Thoughts of nightly raids, arrests, and the sound of F16s all melt away as the faces of women approach each other in greeting. They range in age, but their unifying characteristics are comical banter, a curiosity and will to learn, and above all the wish to leave politics at the doorstep and enjoy each other’s company. TYO is where women come to forge connections, learn new skills, and take advantage of opportunities they’ve never had. I had the privilege of teaching the beginner’s computer class, which was rewarded daily by the pride women displayed at performing simple tasks like as copy & paste -- which, considering many had never used a computer before, was a remarkable achievement.

Whether it was Beginner IT classes or assistant teaching at the honor’s college at An-Najah University, I was consistently surprised by the Palestinian people’s good humor and ambitious attitudes in the face of difficulty. My students at Najah were eager to engage in dialogue in both PR and Leadership classes, the overarching theme being, “How can we improve our society?” What was remarkably surprising to me was that it was never a questions of if they have that power, but how they can utilize themselves for the betterment of society.

I was most impressed by the drive present in TYO’s Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East project, a program which actively seeks to incubate female entrepreneurs in Palestine. The women in the program were driven by a remarkable passion for independence. Constantly seeking to improve their services and products, to expand beyond the confines of locale, they stand as a touching portrait of hope and empowerment in a land where the economy is less than hospitable.

By remaining respectfully a-political, I believe TYO it is doing something important for Palestinian society: nurturing a positive outlook. Rather than wallowing in the feeling of defeat, Palestinians are asking the questions, “How can we get back up? How can we improve?” -- and TYO seeks to help Palestinians answer that question through empowerment.

-Zahi Khouri Fellow, Nada