Jose Ghazal came from Latinx-America to do solidarity labor with the Palestinian people, improve his Arabic, and teach English, Spanish and French in multiple communities in occupied West Bank. He is currently finishing a B.S. in Business Administration and Information Systems in Boston University, yet he clearly branches out from that field. He can also speak Yattawi.
How did you engage with Palestinian people?
I lived two months with a host family in Dura, a village in Hebron, so I underwent a very intense immersion into the Palestinian ways. I like experiencing places in their truest forms, and therefore I try to live like the locals do. Thanks to a combination of talking in slang Arabic and the fact that I’m quite racially ambiguous, I managed to pass for a Palestinian in countless instances. Sometimes, you would find me sitting next to a bunch of shabaab (younglings) for hours as they ranted about stuff in Arabic and no one would ever assume I was a foreigner.
To experience this place to the fullest you have to say “Yes” to invitations and really allow the locals share their lives with you. Oh, the places you’ll go! The people you’ll meet!What inspired you to work with Palestinians?
The main reason I chose to work here is because I knew the extents to which the occupation hinders the opportunities of Palestinians, including the ability to study foreign languages and interact with outsiders. It’s a humbling opportunity to be able to meet and truly befriend people here, and hopefully help them in their path to becoming the best versions of themselves. This is an exchange of languages, cultures, ideas, and our narrative: I’m so happy I’m leaving a big part of myself here, and taking back with me their many stories, and their voices which we need to amplify.
What did you see while in Palestine? Which sites would you recommend to visit?
There will be so many layers to every place you go here. I specially encourage everyone to get out of the popular areas and go to the far away villages that not even locals frequent. Here is where you will get a good taste of the Palestinian people and their culture that is not pre-packaged and tailored for tourists. Go to Dura. Go to Yatta. Go to Bir Zeit. Go everywhere. Who knows if you’ll be allowed to come back.
What are your best memories in Hebron?
You can go from extreme happiness, to sadness, to anger, to love, multiple times within one single day, and it’s very overwhelming. In a way that’s the beauty of here, the fact that people undergo unimaginable hardships and pain and still manage to smile and find happiness in the little things. I think my best memories indeed are composed of “the little things”. From playing hand-games, teaching salsa and playing guitar with little kids, to peeling almonds, having coffee/tea, and doing chores with the shabaab and the adults.
Definitely the most beautiful memories are those “in-between” moments, when people are not self-aware and have dropped their pose and their defenses. The moments when it doesn’t matter that you aren’t from the same culture or speak the same language… because everyone can understand and laugh about something, and all the context that matters then is that we are all humans. We really are.
That’s the thing I will continue to repeat beyond exhaustion. Not because they also have a snapchat account and find joy in the dog filter, or watch international soccer, but because they also have dreams, they have hopes and aspirations, and fears, and just like you and me.. they fall in love. We’re all part of our collective liberation.
Special shout-out to every single Palestinian girl and womxn, because they are the most resilient people I’ve ever met. They are without a doubt the core of the Palestinian resistance and prosperity. My most love, respect and admiration goes out to every single one of them. Solidarity.