17 May, 2018

A School of Continued Hope

Here are more stories from the students I serve at the Evangelical Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, Palestine. This is a continuation of my last post "A School of Hope", and will be the final post from my time in Palestine. Throughout the year it has become increasingly important to leave space for these students voices. To listen. Their stories are a testimony of the larger Palestinian story, and will carry with me as I return to the United States.


“My name is Tala I am sixteen years old and I go to the Lutheran school of Hope, where I am in grade 11. I am the oldest child in my family, which not very big- I have three brothers and I haven’t any sisters.
This school year is not easy, it’s a critical year that make me nervous all the time because I must plan for my future like what would I study in the university or where to work and I have a lot of different ideas about what I would like to do.
As a Palestinian girl who doesn’t know freedom, I think a lot about how I can touch this feeling and it’s the main motivation behind the dreams I have for my future. All I know about my future is I hope to help myself and the Palestinian people to feel freedom.
Our dreams are occupied because our land is our hope in life; it’s a source of life for the Palestinian people-  whose work depends on planting the land and selling crops.
As a result I see my future includes struggle and hopefully one day the freedom to be like every Palestinian girl- strong and steadfast. It’s the reason why we are still here.”
-Tala, grade 11
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“I am Ra’ad, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy living in Ramallah Palestine. My life is met with many challenges as I navigate all the laws imposed on my by the occupation. I would like to study abroad in the field of medicine. I belong to nobody but God. My dream is to live in my own country side-by-side with Israel. This act would bring peace to the Middle East.”
-Ra’ad, grade 9
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“I’m a normal citizen named Maen who suffers from the Israeli occupation. I want to become a businessman. I belong to humanity, and I want to provide the opportunity of education to the people in Palestine in order to combat illiteracy. I hope this will provide stronger opportunities for the youth in Palestine.”
-Maen, grade 8
_____________

“My name is Rama, and I’m a Palestinian child. I live in Ramallah but I am from Hebron-Yatta, South Palestine. In the future I want to work for the police in Palestine because I love my country and I want to defend the safety of the people here. I want to change the world because everyone deserves to live in a place of peace.”
-Rama, grade 8
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“I am nobody,” they tell us. “I am nothing,” when they torture us. I am Majd, a Palestinian boy whose land is being completely erased. This war can be explained by some words: blood, poverty, mind-control, soldiers, prisons, checkpoints, and stones… I wish to become a neurosurgeon to help my people when they are injured in war.”
-Majd, grade 8

15 May, 2018

A School of Hope

The students at the Lutheran School of Hope are exceptionally articulate, informed and engaged in discussion about politics and peace, and have welcomed me into their school with enthusiasm frequently sprinkled with teenage sass and comradery. I have enjoyed sharing stories with them and listening to them share what their lives have been like in the West Bank. They speak openly about their frustrations and sadness, and also love and hope for life. I’m constantly impressed by their self-awareness, steadfastness, and faith even though life under occupation can be extremely difficult. I could go on about each of the classes I work with, and each of the students… how they have shared their stories about growing up in Palestine and the way it impacts every aspect of their daily lives. Please meet some of my students, as they share their hopes for the future, and thoughts on where they live:



“I am a 13-year-old boy and I am studying in the 7th grade at the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, Palestine. I would like to be like every single child around the world- to live freely without fear. I wish I could travel easily between the cities in our country, but I can’t because the occupation disallows Palestinians to move. The occupation can be brutal and cruel, and Palestinians sometimes suffer from gas bombs, and bullets. I dream to be a journalist because there are a lot of ways to fight the occupation, but I’ve found the most effective way is by my pen. I want to express our pain and the complicated conflict to make others aware of the political situation here and bring change.”  
-Anton, grade 7
_____________________

“I’m Leen, a 10th grader at the school of Hope in Ramallah.  I want to be an architect to reconstruct the demolished  buildings in Gaza. I decided to do this after seeing children sleeping on the sidewalks.
The  mosques were destroyed the Christians used their churches to shout the Azan(call to prayer). I want to build  new mosques and to honor the Christians for their help.
I also want to be an architect because I want to rebuild my grandfather’s old house because when I was young I went there and I saw the house,  but it was taken by the occupation.  When we went back to visit, I was surprised that our house was destroyed and a large building was there instead.”
-Leen, grade 10
________________

“My name is Mohammed. I haven’t decided yet what I want to be in the future, I am still 12 and exploring the world. My family is from Jerusalem; the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict. My school, however, is in Ramallah(25 minutes away), but because of the checkpoints it takes me about an hour to get to school each day, and two hours to go home. To change the world, I want all weapons to be destroyed and disappear, so kids can grow up in a safer place.”
-Mohammed, grade 7
_____________________

“I’m Talia, a teenager who belongs to this world and lives in Palestine. Our world is not perfect, and will never be but working for a better world must always be our goal. I want to become a mathematician, as math has always been a fascinating subject for me. I like when I am given a problem to solve by reasoning and logic. I wish this type of problem-solving would be applied in the real world.”
-Talia, grade 9
_____________________

“My name is Marcel, and I am 12 years old. I am studying in the Evangelical School of Hope in Ramallah. I’m in the 7th grade. Since the time I first opened my eyes, I’ve known that I live under an occupation in my country. It is impossible for us to live lives of freedom. I live in Palestine, the cradle of heavenly religions, which should be the land of peace and love but unfortunately it has become an occupied land without love or hope for the last 70 years. I want to be a lawyer in the future to hold the case of my country, show the world what is happening to us, and ask the international community to end the occupation. They need to provide support and safety for the Palestinian people. I want to change the world from war and destruction to love and peace and provide all the strength and support I can for my beloved Palestine.”
-Marcel, grade 7
_____________________

“I’m a normal student with a future and dreams I wish to accomplish. I hope I can always be myself in my career. I hope to become a policeman in the children’s branch to help kids as much as I can and to protect them. I belong to help and to give love and change the world through helping others.”
-Dana, grade 9
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“My name is Wadie. I'm a young Palestinian who lives in this world and belongs to its people, and who will finish school next year and go on a new journey. 
I want to become a pianist(both performer and teacher). I believe that music is what brings calmness, clearness to the mind and soul. It is a source of joy and relaxation, as it lets you imagine and dream freely without any restriction. When I'm performing I feel peace and can transfer it to the listener; when I'm the teacher, I can teach my students to find peace in their own way.
Good exists in the world we live in, bad too, just like the white and black piano keys. Our responsibility is find ways to make a good changes and positively contribute to this world.”
-Wadie, grade 11
_____________________


“I am a girl with a dream for when she grows up. I am a girl from Gaza, who still hasn’t seen her city because of the occupation. My dream is to free Gaza. I’m only 12 years old, but my dream is the same as many Palestinians- to unite and help each other to solve the conflict of our people. The conflict isn’t shown to the rest of the world in a way that shares our people’s story, and I wish this would change. People think Palestine does not exist and never did, but this is simply not true. My dream is to end the conflict by showing the world we exist.”
-Malak, grade 7
_____________________

“My name is Laith and I’m a 16 year old teenager. I’m a Palestinian refugee from Deheisheh Refugee Camp. My family moved to live in the camp after the war of 1948 “Al-Nakba,” after the occupation forced them to leave our village “Zakaria.” I was born in this refugee camp and saw the misery people have, but my father got the opportunity to move to a better place where we live now. I have dreams and would like to see them fulfilled in the future. I want to become a doctor and a businessman at the same time. A doctor because I’m really tired of seeing dozens of Palestinian kids and teenagers injured across all the Palestinian cities, villages and camps. I want to be a businessman as well, to help families in the refugee camps, and in particular Deheisheh Camp, because it’s the place where my father was born and raised. Those refugee families deserve a better life than what they currently have and they need some support to fulfill their dreams. I want to give these families the opportunity to have a nearly normal life, because there is no normal life under occupation. This is hard but not impossible to achieve. 
I wish to live in freedom and to go back to my father’s lovely village as part of a free Palestine.  Education is the main weapon for me, and I want to succeed so I can serve my community and the people who sacrifice their lives to achieve the national aim. We are a nation who respects life but have been denied a free life; no one talks about the security and the dignity of the Palestinian people. For this we need the support of the free people worldwide who can support our cause and should not let us down. We need to give hope back to the young generation; this was lost when our people stopped trusting the world and reached the conclusion that they have nothing to lose anymore. My role is to build a network of international free world supporters to achieve new hope and support in our case.”
-Laith, grade 11


29 April, 2018

Vulnerability: “It’s not weakness, It’s space for growth.”


We ought to free ourselves from expectations to find ground in reality. This is where I have personally found genuine and open experience. Easier said than done…. This reality often exists in a space of vulnerability, and it’s hardly ever “comfortable” by familiar standards.

I am very guilty of setting up expectations- I can be obsessively type A about it….  Last year I wrote an entire blog post about my “expectations for accompaniment.” I’ve been thinking(laughing) about this post a lot lately. Really, I can’t blame myself for having expectations for a year in the Holy Land- I was so excited in anticipation for the experience. I’ve found myself chipping away at and releasing these expectations, both of myself and my Palestinian community. I’ve found the reality to be a place of deep reflection and growth through vulnerability- something I could have never authentically anticipated, anyway.

Prior to deployment I was extremely anxious about articulating myself… as I thought I needed to say certain things to meet the expectations of my sending community and serve the highest ideals of global mission and YAGM. (note: I’ve since realized I can serve this ministry through sharing and writing in a very authentic way based on my experience.) I even asked my “writer friends” things like, “How do I decide what I should write about? How do I intentionally and authentically write about justice and experience? How do I become a writer? How do I write?”

Really, what does that even mean? These are all questions that have answered themselves this year, and I appreciate my friends non-response as a kind way of saying “we don’t have time for this crap.” Two key pieces have helped articulate this experience: context and vulnerability.

The West Bank used to be an abstract idea and not yet a reality simply because I wasn’t HERE yet.  I used the opinions of others to shape some expectations that are completely different from what I’ve found during my time in the Holy Land. Sometimes the stories I’ve shared have been well-received, and other times not so much. I’m blessed to be much more informed(but still learning) about the complexities and conflict here.

I don’t regret or change anything said in my first blog post about accompaniment. In fact, it has been a great tool for reflection on intentions, and framing in terms of connection with defined yet often-times intangible/relational concepts. I’m grateful I’m still processing and connecting to these ideas- just not in terms of setting expectations.

How did I get to this place of vulnerability?

In American culture, we are taught vulnerability is weak, and there should be a plan or a dream or a goal behind everything we do because anything less than this is a failure.

At the time, I did come to acknowledge there was a lot (see:everything) I didn’t know, and this is something I still acknowledge DAILY in my placement. It can be liberating, but also frustrating because of the culture I was raised in. In Palestine, almost everything is unknown. Sometimes it’s little things like or the bus schedule, and sometimes it’s much bigger...  like if the checkpoint will be open or if my students will have access to water for the week or if my Palestinian friend will receive special permission to visit Jerusalem.

As many of you know, for the larger half of this year I have been training for a half marathon. For months, I ran away on a treadmill in the basement gym of a hotel up the street from my host family. My intention was to run a half marathon because I thought it was something I was supposed to do as a YAGM volunteer. Don’t worry- we can all laugh about this in retrospect. It was a goal motivated by a shallow expectation. For the past two years, the volunteers before me ran the half marathon so I was going to be a “good YAGM” and run it, too. Even though I hate running. Even more specifically, I hate running for long distances… I was miserable. Months of shin-splints, knee injuries, and frustration led me to race day because that’s where my expectations said I was supposed to be. I believe this “expectation” to be true, but to experience a different “reality” and once again rethink my space of vulnerability.

Please humor me with the following (very real) example:

Expectation: “I’m finishing this race in solidarity with Palestine and because I’m a good YAGM volunteer.”

Reality: A ton of variables(closed checkpoint, late start time, hot day, shin splints, an anxiety attack in the middle of a refugee camp, I could go on….) that led to a very frustrating afternoon of beating myself up about not completing the distance I wanted to.

Vulnerability: Letting go of what I think I’m supposed to be doing by self-comparison and self-deprecation. Acknowledging other ways I’m contributing, succeeding, or growing(this specific experience being one).

That’s right, I didn’t finish. I spent the day beating myself up over it. And acting really cranky towards everyone else around me. Then I told a bunch of people I finished when I absolutely did not run a half-marathon(sorry if I straight up lied to you and you’re finding out the truth while reading this post). The truth is, there were a lot of odds not in my favor on that particular day. So I acknowledged this was the case and stopped. I walked a 10k with my country coordinator and acted like a jerk about getting a participation medal and now it’s in a box under my bed. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with “the race” and I’m finally in a space to do so. And it’s okay I didn’t run a half marathon. I’m not a bad YAGM, and I don’t regret stopping because it’s what I needed to do that day- both mentally and physically. Spiritually, this experience has opened an opportunity to process parts of my year in terms of expectations, and let them go. It has helped recognize expectations I had been holding onto within my community, and better serve through intentional vulnerability. Really, this is a better outcome than simply running a half-marathon, and I think the space of vulnerability I’ve found will last for a much greater distance.

06 March, 2018

Baptism

I can’t believe it is already the “back half” of this YAGM year. Time has flown by, but I truly believe the best is yet to come. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t freaking out a little about “what’s next” once I’m back stateside. A wise friend and YAGM alumni told me to stay present in every moment here and focus on this community. I’m finding the deep importance of this, and hold onto these words and as my mind wanders to the future, I have been much more intentional about focussing on what my eyes are seeing in the present. Leaning into community continually reveals more about the complexity of this Holy Land, and deepens my understanding of love through the people who have welcomed me into their lives here. I say with confidence that my experience here in Jerusalem and the West Bank will drastically shape my future.  Again, I am deeply and abundantly grateful for this community and those in my sending community. I am blessed to be here alongside our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and continue to listen and carry their stories close to my heart.
Our midyear retreat to Jordan took place during the the last week of February. While leaving my community was more difficult than anticipated, I am so grateful for the privilege of visiting Jordan. It is a beautiful country, and home to a flourishing and diverse Arab society comprised of Jordanians, and a majority of refugees from Iraq, Syria, and Palestine (according to the Lutheran World Federation) . As a YAGM group, we spent the week exploring sites in Petra, Amman, and Aqaba. Petra, a wonder of the world, was one of the most incredible places I have ever visited in my life and I am still attempting to wrap my head around how it was built over 2,000 years ago. I’ve been very vocal about how cool Petra is, and my YAGM cohort has enjoyed (lovingly) mocking my enthusiasm. As my roommate and fellow volunteer Katharine put it, “I have never seen you this excited about anything, ever.” Wait until she sees how excited I am to go back to school once we’re back from retreat… because that definitely tops Petra.
The devotional theme of the week was “Baptism”, and it was intentional for the setting and time of year. We visited the recently excavated Jordan River baptismal sites one afternoon. It was a surreal experience. At one point we had the chance to walk down to observe the current site of the river(it’s a meandering river and has moved as time passed). Between the banks and in the muddy water stood a flooded police barricade and caution tape. Our group peered through the reeds at various groups on the Israeli-monitored baptismal area. There was a group actively being baptised, while a Jewish group sang and read devotions, and further down the steps along the shore was a group of Muslims- sitting and standing.  In the background were Israeli soldiers and surveillance cameras. We took our chacos off and stepped into the muddy waters from the Jordanian side. We made jokes about remembering our baptism as we splashed water on each other. I found a pair of eyeglasses. It could be a metaphor for the muddy waters of the world and the lens of our vocation as revealed through the vocation of baptism. It seemed heavy at the time. I left them in case the owner returned.
Thoughts and metaphors like this popped up all over the place as we continued to listen as a group and explore the meaning of vocation, discernment and how this year has already invited us to listen and see where God meets us in the world. I am so thankful for this time of reflection. One question on my heart is “where does trauma fit into this?”- trauma of people, trauma of an individual- I am challenged in my thinking. Is this part of God’s plan, or is it a reminder that the world is imperfect and we need baptism? Perhaps this is where God meets us, rather than where we meet him- in the mess. He finds us in these muddy waters with glasses- a reminder to have two big eyes as we explore vocation.

_________________________________________________________

One of the places God continues to meet me this year is at school. In the spirit of gratitude, baptism, and vocation, I would like to share a running list of some places God has met me through my students over the last few months:
-when they say hi in the hallways
-when we laugh about inside jokes
-when they ask me to help them
-when they interrupt class to tell me there is an impromptu basketball game happening outside and they want me on their team
-when girls began participating in basketball because I was there supporting them
-when they want to tell me more about themselves, and their families
-when they keep copies of things I’ve written
-when they come to another class I’m leading during their off-periods because “the one earlier today was a lot of fun”
-when they help me struggle through Arabic phrases
-when I help them struggle with English phrases
-when they show up to class early to talk
-when they ask me to be in their snapchats
-when they insist on sharing their snacks with me
-when they make weird faces at me and dance around
-when they challenge everything I know
-when they frustrate and disappoint me
-when I frustrate and disappoint them
-when they forgive me despite my shortcomings
-when they smile at my bad jokes
-when the walls come down and we talk about frustrations, and if peace exists
-when they share their experiences with oppression
-when they’re sad to see me go for a week
-when I can’t wait to see them the next day even though today isn’t even over yet
-when we sit in silence, together
-when they teach me more than I could have ever imagined or will ever teach them
-when I feel my heart and mind growing in accompaniment with them


15 February, 2018

Mutuality, or "oh sh*t I don't want to leave"

I promise I am not emotionally unstable- moody, maybe… expressive… sensitive, definitely. I’m pretty comfortable owning how I’m feeling, though.

...Which is why none of you will be shocked to hear that I cried.
Yeah, again.

It wasn’t a feeling of homesickness- in fact that hasn’t really happened, much to my surprise. (sorry mom- it’s not that I don’t miss you)
It was the opposite.


Staring out into the Palestinian landscape during a school break, I felt a deep sense of dread and kinda “lost it”.
Don’t worry- nobody knew.

The trigger?

“I don’t want to go back to America.”

Shit.

It’s a rock (more like a boulder) in the bottom of my stomach.


Time is working in a strange way. August feels like a year ago, but July feels like tomorrow. Yes, it’s only February, but I guess the sentiment here is pretty simple: I don’t want to leave, ever, and thinking about it hurts. I want to hold onto every single day a little longer and all I want is more time. I love this place, and the people here.


Processing this year is already more complicated than I have words for right now, but I suppose I’m writing because this particular realization is a small glimpse of accompaniment. Building relationships has been messy, awkward, and a lot of work. It’s uncomfortable putting yourself out there in any situation, especially not knowing if it will be a failure or success. Add elements of a new culture, being slightly shy/awkward/not knowing what to do with my hands when talking, and a language barrier… and we’re beginning to paint a picture here.


At some point, things shifted. I am still navigating this community every day, but I’m also starting to feel a little relief and think “hey this is getting somewhere- beyond how are you I am fine.” People are sharing stories, thoughts, experiences, and DETAILS. The best part? I get to LISTEN and LEARN more. The stories my community shares are frequently heartbreaking, deep, thought-provoking, confusing, upsetting, uplifting, positive, inspiring, frequently hilarious, and an honor to carry wherever I go next. And I want to carry them, but the problem is I don’t want to leave. Maybe I was crying because this is what mutuality feels like.


19 January, 2018

18 January, 2018

Jerusalem

On December 6th, Donald Trump made a major announcement regarding the status of Jerusalem. He announced the United States will be moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This is viewed by many as a controversial decision because of the political implications concerning the status of Jerusalem and peace agreements. President Trump then said Jerusalem was the capital of Israel. In a two-state peace solution, Jerusalem would serve as a capital for Palestinians(East Jerusalem) and Israelis(West Jerusalem). Both groups of people have deep religious connection to the city. The Palestinians in my community were saddened by the decision of the United States. A lot of Palestinians aren’t allowed to travel to Jerusalem, even to worship and visit holy sites, due to militarized control. The United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as part of Israel would further prevent Palestinians from visiting the city.

Over the next few days, my students made comments like:
“Bashar has never been to the ocean.”
and
“Izzat will never go to Jerusalem.”

It is difficult for me to understand what it is like to never leave a city. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve a community halfway across the world. My privilege is apparent every day: I am able to cross through a checkpoint and visit Jerusalem at will- something which isn’t even an option for many people I care about here. This entire year abroad is a privilege, as I have a freedom of movement many Palestinians don’t have.


The response from my community was confusing. I felt the need to apologize for a decision the president of my country made, seemingly out of nowhere. I felt, and still feel a deep sense of guilt. The community I serve responded by trying to comfort me, and let me know it’s okay. Many of the students said they understood it wasn’t a decision I personally made, so it doesn’t change their view of me. When they could have responded with anger, my Palestinian community responded with forgiveness. When they could have blamed me, they instead comforted my guilt. Why then did I direct anger and blame on myself? The best answer I have is I feel shame for the political decision that was made- seemingly without the people of my community, whom I love, in mind.

As a result of this announcement, many Christmas and New Years’ festivities were toned-down or cancelled. The Christmas tree in Bethlehem remained unlit for a few days in response. Protests spotted the landscape of the West Bank- I haven’t felt unsafe since arriving in the Holy Land in August, and even during this time of political unrest, I feel very safe and supported by the Palestinian community I serve.

Christmas was still a time of joy and community with my host family, school, and congregation. On Christmas Eve, I wandered around the old streets of Bethlehem and Nativity Square. Many people were there for the entrance of the Patriarch, and marching band scouts from near and far communities played carols which added to the jubilant and brisk atmosphere. That night, I attended Christmas Eve church and exchanged gifts with my host family. We shared a meal and spent time playing a few rounds of UNO. The next day, we spent more time together eating and playing even more UNO (it’s a cross-cultural classic).

As heavy as the implications of this political decisions are, the community here remains optimistic and steadfast. Living under restricted movement can be difficult, and I am constantly reminded of how life continues and looks to the future with hopeful eyes, even through dark days. Romans 15: 5  “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.”

Virgin and Child, ink and watercolor on paper, Dec 2017


Peter




I've always felt oddly connected to the disciple Peter- mainly, he struggled with faith at times, as do I. During our autumn retreat to the Galilee, we visited many holy sites- one of which symbolizes the calling of Peter as a disciple.
The site itself is a gray brick church with stained glass windows resembling tree branches, overlooking the Sea of Galilee(it's really a lake....). The weather was warm with a light breeze. As someone who is admittedly almost always underwhelmed by holy sites, I was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere of the grounds of this sight overlooking the Sea of Galilee. It felt easy and in a way I felt a connection I hadn't felt in some time while overlooking the gentle waves on the water.  The audio is taken from my walk back through the grounds- passing various groups from around the world (including Nigeria!), and back to the car. I think it perfectly captures the lightness of the site.



Banksy Interpretation, Ink and watercolor, Dec 2017


Poppy, ink and watercolor on paper Jan 2018


Ayda Camp, January 6, 2018

This afternoon, I spent time in Ayda(Aida), a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Bethlehem. Pictured: A brightly colored street to commemorate a child martyr. It is the street of friend, Khaleel Abedallah.


At the entrance to Ayda is a poster of Aboud Shadi, a 13 year old who was shot in the head and killed by an Israeli soldier. His cousin, Khaleel Abedallah stands next to the place Aboud was shot. A stencil memorializes Aboud at the end of the family’s street. The illegal separation wall is very close to the family’s flat- as seen from the rooftop. Tear gas canisters were littered across the roof, and Khaleel said they often break the solar panels the refugee families use for heat. They also must replace their water towers at least once a month because the gas contaminated their supply, making it non-potable. At the entrance to Ayda is also a large archway with a key on top- the key is a symbol of the Palestinian refugees belief in a right of return to their homes from which they were displaced. It is a symbol of hope and ownership. When asked if they remember the war of 1948 after all these years, a woman working in the Ayda (Noor Weg) school for the disabled replied, “We remember everything, every single day.”





07 January, 2018

Resources for the Holy Land Context



Every day, I'm learning more about the conflict and context here in the holy land. Often times, I am asked questions about what it's like and how my views have changed since arriving. Experiencing the context is shaping me, but so are the resources I've been engaging with for a few months. It's a lot to take in, and there is still a lot to learn. Lately, it has been difficult to find words because there is so much to share and I often times don't know where to begin. Family and friends, you may not be here, but I encourage you to explore the following resources to inform your knowledge about the context of the holy land. Here is a brief list of resources I suggest as a starting point:

There are links at the end of each recommendation to help you access the book or film.


If you plan to read only one book on the context.....
Israel/Palestine, Alan Dowty
- A dual-narrative look at the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict.
Get it on Amazon


If you prefer a faith-based perspective....
Faith in the Face of Empire, Mitri Raheb
-"A Palestinian Christian theologian shows how the reality of empire shapes the context of the biblical story, and the ongoing experience of Middle East conflict."(Amazon)
Get it on Amazon


If you connect with poetry.....
Victims of a Map
-"A bilingual volume of poetry presenting the work of three award-winning Arabic poets from the past forty years."(Amazon)
Get it on Amazon


If you prefer reading something between poetry and journalism....
Absent Presence, Mahmoud Darwish
- "This illuminating book explores the meaning of life, the impact of exile, and an existence spent in companionship with the specter of death. "(Amazon)
Get it on Amazon


If you're into documentaries....
5 Broken Cameras, 2012
-"A documentary on a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army."(IMDB)
WATCH IT ON YouTube


If you have access to Netflix....
Disturbing the Peace, 2016
"A group of former enemy combatants embark on a transformational journey from soldiers to non-violent peace activists." (disturbingthepeacefilm.com)
WATCH IT ON Netflix