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Fulbright Scholar Returns from An Najah University

Dr. Deborah Young, Early Childhood Education expert,
received Fulbright to An Najah University, visited Nablus in October 2015

 

Dr. Young’s interview with KGNU radio in Boulder is available here.

Following is an excerpt from a report about her first week of work:

The work with An Najah, I am loving. We had our first workshop yesterday and it went super well. Also we had an IEP (a child with disabilities) meeting with case worker, psychologists and teacher.

The people in Nablus are super kind. Women stop us in the streets (even though they do not speak a word of English) and talk with us for 20 minutes or so.  They share freshly made bread, just squeezed juice, and loads of smiles and chuckles.  Women passing in cars shout out welcome as they pass us.

We are meeting women’s groups, doing home visits in 3 camps and in the old city’s poorest areas, visiting the UN schools as well as public schools as part of our work with the Child Institute and An Najah. Our leader is the only woman dean at the university.  The women I work with are leaders, confident, strong, and humble. Their husbands totally support the work they do. Almost all of the women have studied outside the country on their own. Two of the women I work with are from other countries – Italy, and US-Guatemalan. The women I work with do not want to leave Palestine. They continue to come back and work to create a better country. Their resilience is strong and seems to be based upon their strong identity.

Dr. Young

Dr. Young

I reflect a lot with the other areas in the world I have worked. There are several differences. One the unwillingness to fall into dependency. I believe this is due to the Palestine people’s strong identity they hold close to their hearts. They are a very collective society. The individual coming second to the community. The identity is deep and profound, based in their knowledge of antiquity, reverence for those who have come before them, and the hope they have for the future. Of course there is tradition – both positive and not so positive. However, many people seem to be willing to move from the less positive traditions so that Palestine can continue forward in the present. It seems that people understand that they cannot hold onto all the “old ways” and still survive the occupation as an intact nation with healthy people. It is really an honour to learn from them. My understanding thus far clearly comes from a small sample of the population, however, it seems to run through all of those we have spoken to thus far, all genders included.

It would be nice if I could speak Arabic, even marginally, and everyone is happy to help me learn. On one of my first bus rides, the women next to me wrote words for me and we practiced for the 90 minutes we were together. I am still using those 15 words (and that’s about all of them at the moment).

Riding the bus – so men cannot sit between women nor a women between two men, (non-conforming gender conversations have been difficult to have since I do not speak Arabic and most people’s English is minimal so far). People seem to have move to accommodate. The first time I had to move I felt I was playing musical chairs not understanding why people were asking me to move from seat to seat. Then an ah=ha moment flashed (felt a bit ignorant for sure). There was an older man who sat next to me – and asked if I were married. I have also heard this is a very common question as an opportunity for a “ticket” out.

When it comes to the children – I am learning that many of the children are not suffering from PTSD. In fact, it seems that their nervous systems are wired to have normalized the occupation. For instance, when a young woman stood up to the military taking her father, she knew they would come back at night to take her. So she slept with her coat on, put her shoes next to her bed so that at least she would not be cold. She prepared herself for this. Family members supporting the preparation. And yes, the Israeli soldiers did come for her and take her away. PTSD typically occurs when trauma is temporary, 2-3 years is considered temporary as in the case of soldiers who return from turns in war. The Palestine case is different, in that the situation has been going on for generations. So more to reflect and study.”

October 2, 2015

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