Parting Ways With Palestine

Amanda teaches her class 'K is for Kite!'

As an Assyrian American from Chicago, I thought I had virtually no ties to Palestine. The homeland of my mother and father is in Northern Iraq. I came to Palestine to learn how to teach under pressure and to strengthen my professional skills. The more time passed, the more parallels I began to find between Palestine and my own life. The women here are strong-willed, not afraid to speak their minds – much like my mother, my aunts, my cousins. The people here feel a strong attachment to their culture and heritage despite being displaced – so much like the Assyrian people. There are Muslims and Christians living together peacefully, side-by-side, much like the childhood my mother describes to me while she was growing up in Iraq. The food, the music, the sense of humor – all of it resonated with me and the life I have lived up until this point.

This land is a part of me now. These people are not people I can just say goodbye to and forget about. They will consume my thoughts and find their way into my days far after I’ve left here. They will eat away at my heart, make me laugh and cry. Maybe I’m just a really emotional person.

You can’t know until you’ve been here. You can’t understand until you’ve seen the little girls and little boys screaming “Khalto! Khalto! Khalto!” – Auntie, auntie, auntie, the university students eager to learn as much as they can from you, the women dancing Zumba to their heart’s content during the few hours they get to themselves. Having iftar dinner with the local staff. TYO has been a place where I could truly be myself. I will sincerely miss this land and these people and am extremely grateful to have had the chance to share my summer with them – so much so that my words seem meaningless or empty even as I write them. My mother asked me today, “Do you feel like you actually made a difference? Like you helped any of your students?” I told her I had no doubt that I did, but if anyone was the student here it was me.

-TYO Intern, Amanda