March 30, 2017

nother very rich and honored day here in Nablus with the company of this warm and dear delegation. Truly a group of curious, delightful, and caring individuals.

We started our day off going to Pioneers School. A truly remarkable staff and student body. Just walking down the halls, the school environment was rich with creativity, many forms of visual art, wire art, writing, animal rites drawings, and media throughout the environment.

This school is an English Immersion School, and a college prep school. The students take SAT tests and two of them recently received full scholarships~ one to Northwestern University, and the other to University of Rochester. Other students also received big scholarships to Universities in England, or to the Local university of An Najah.


We were impressed by various presentations given to us of multi-level media that was designed by this student body, engineering designs, different writing, and visual arts. The director of the school, a former New Mexico resident, now living in Palestine, was a vibrant and intelligent force to be reckoned with. The school deals with multiple levels of challenge constantly with a changing and shifting staff, and with issues of deportation of various teachers at the borders that can happen suddenly. They however manage to keep their students afloat, and roll with these challenges as best as possible ~ always rectifying the situation, and moving forward.

We next returned to An Najah University ~ this time with Essrea Cherin lecturing about Restorative Justice, with Anastacia Dadashpour supporting the talk This was a Very inspiring hour! It was touching to see how instinctual the work was to the people in the room, and how universal our sense of justice really is. One principle of Restorative Justice is to understand the context of both people inside of a “crime” situation=E2=80=A6 to understand more deeply the ‘victim’ and the ‘perpetrator’ as people, and the circumstances that led to the actions and responses of both parties.

When Both experiences can be honored and heard, and held without judgement ~ this can lead to repair, true responsibility taken, and to healing. The possibility that justice and healing can go hand in hand is the possibility of Restorative Justice. This breaks open the traditional (punitive) justice situation and offers many more possibilities.

In the later afternoon we had the honor of visiting the New Askar Refugee Camp here in Nablus. We were greeted in the street by their many children smiling at us, and telling us “welcome welcome”. They showed us their community center, drum troupe, and escorted us around their homes.

While these children have seen many levels of struggle, in their indigenous Dabke dance they are brilliant with their rhythm, expression, and they shine so bright! It is a dream of many of these dancers to travel to places like Europe and the United States, and show others their Dabke dance, and experience cultures that are free from the struggle of war and occupation.

The director of New Askar really touched me with his huge heart, dedication, and commitment. He has lived in New Askar his whole life, and inherited his father’s home there. His support of women’s rights not only supports the women in New Askar, but extends even into other villages, offering computers to the women there so that they can attain tech skills.

New Askar did not receive funding like other camps until 2007, even though they have been in existence since 1964. Still they kept their commitment and vision and created a village of 7,000 people in one square kilometer of land. And now they have health care, more education, and are in the process of building a new theatre and other facilities.

Thank you New Askar for the warm welcome, a delicious dinner, and the honor of being in your homes. While there are certainly many levels of need to be tended in maintaining the structure of your homes, and the care for your families ~ We also witnessed the vital relating, the play on the outdoor carousel, and the connectivity of this community.

You, the Palestinian people have taught me over and over again about holding the broadest range of life experience I can imagine, tremendous loss and struggle, and yet you also show me more about resilience on the deepest of levels than I can possibly imagine. A deeply inspiring and unforgettable time being with you and your tremendous humanity! Thank you New Askar.

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