Written on 24/01/2016 by Ruth Gould in Ramallah, Palestine:
“Two days in and I am in love. Palestine, the place of history, a place of conflict, the place filled with friendliness and a place that can change in an instant – not that I have witnessed this.
I am so surprised by how much I had set ideas – the British Council risk assessment didn’t help but it had to be done (main risks: kidnap, explosion by suicide bomber etc.) but apart from checkpoints and the potential for clashes happening at any time, the place is beautiful. It is like the images I remember from the Bible and seeing road signs such as “Jerusalem” and “Bethlehem” are so surreal. I am here in the Holy Land and seeing real life images that I thought would be long gone – palm trees, clothes of the performers right out of the Old Testament. I am gaining a big respect for the gentle spirits of the people of faith and their rituals.
I have good connectivity here but I can’t get BBC news or other info about what is happening around the world. You can’t come here and not notice the oppression and control from Israeli policies. The checkpoints are scars on the landscape. The fact that water is controlled into Palestine makes for a sword of Damocles hanging over the State – water has been cut off for a month at a time. Many areas, especially around Gaza have not been cleared of mines so the number of people without limbs is notable. Yet the Government numbers say that 7% of the population (4.3 million) are disabled – I think it is much higher.
Last night I was taken to dinner in the centre of Ramallah, by two women who work in the building I am staying in – Anji and Suheira of the Palestine Red Crescent Society who undertake many different social justice initiatives. It is a huge building with hotel, Deaf school, rehabilitation centre and HQ for the Red Cross from around 4 different countries. It was so good getting to know more about their work and just become friends. I was so surprised to find out one of their husbands had been in prison for 14 years just for being active in securing Palestinian rights in University. He was a former Government social rights worker and now can never get a job as a further punishment for being in prison. Yet, as these issues are so normalised in Palestine, people are very open about such things. There is no obvious bitterness or what I would expect, a bubbling anger but a sadness that they can’t go about their daily lives in freedom. No one from Palestine can go into Israel, they can’t fly out of Israel and few get passes to leave. I just can’t fathom that this position continues in this day and age.
Today, I am off to the museum, then doing a workshop with the wonderful Rachel Gadsden. Tomorrow I will be spending the morning in Bethlehem meeting theatre groups before flying home. A short sweet visit but one I hope to repeat soon.”