AS A STUDENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS…
…we had looked at the Israeli-Arab Conflict in University to a certain extent, my interest for the situation was big and I was very much looking forward to getting to see for myself- an image untainted by media, opinions and stereotypes. However, nothing could prepare me for the intensity of the experience. After spending 5 weeks mostly in the Westbank, I have the feeling that I only started to grasp the different layers of this conflict and its implications for individuals, generations and the world. The awareness for the nuances of the conflict, a strong intolerance of injustice and the admiration for the strength and resilience of the people has permanently altered my view and will stay with me for years to come.
After diving deep into the different topics surrounding the everyday life as well as the conflict during the first week, I got the chance to work with children and youth from Refugee Camps in and around Bethlehem. My internship consisted of the support in an afterschool Music Program, where the children could choose to learn an instrument, played in an orchestra, sang in a choir and participated in Art Lessons. I helped the Social Workers, supported the Choir and the Art Lessons and also taught English classes. I further supported the Organization in administrative tasks such as writing their Newsletter, editing Videos and searching funds. I also got the chance to plan and execute a garden in front of the Organization, a creative task for which we used recycled car tires which we decorated and reassembled together with local artists. Next to giving the children a safe space for creativity and individual expression, the organization also encourages their autonomous development regardless difficult conditions in the refugee camps. Through studying an instrument, the children acquire important skills like working hard to reach a goal, taking responsibility for the instruments and engagements like concerts as well as pride for their accomplishments- all things which are not obvious under occupation.
This experience has been deeply humbling for me in many ways and has led me to realize different forms of privilege. My understanding of the term “internship” has always been that of learning, of listening, of cooperating and sharing knowledge and I have learned tremendously from the internship and the deep bonds which I formed with the children, the teachers and many other friends on the ground and in the program.
When I return to Bethlehem, I am looking forward to seeing the Flowers bloom, that were planted in the tires in front of the Organization and hope to sit down in solidarity and just peace with my old friends to enjoy some tea with mint from that garden..