How Do Palestinians Live Their Daily Lives? Many people who visit Palestine wonder before they come how people who are under ‘occupation’ live their daily lives. International people who come to Palestine and stay with a Palestinian host family quickly discover that life here goes on normally just like in any other country in the world. The only things that differ are that the people are restricted, controlled, and observed. This impacts all aspects of their daily lives but it does not prevent them from continuing to live a normal life, nor does it prevent people from enjoying their lives.
Palestinians are the most educated people in the Arab world with an illiteracy rate among the lowest in the world. Most young Palestinians go to school or university daily. Palestinian public servants are at their workplaces every day at 8:00 in the morning, just like anywhere else in the world. In Palestine, many commercial shops, malls, and companies operate their businesses every single day. There are many companies that import international products and deal with foreign corporations from all over the globe, such as stone factories and companies selling clothes, shoes, household items, and building materials to name a few. Hebron, for example, is considered to be the backbone of the Palestinian economy. It is famous for its local industries that export to international markets. Taking all these factors into account, Palestinians are achieving an enormous lot despite the difficult circumstances under which they live.
Regardless of the difficulties and obstacles imposed by the occupation, Palestinian life goes on quite naturally and people here do the normal things that anyone in another country would do on a daily basis. International media outlets frequently portray violence in the West Bank, and some people when they hear the name “Palestine” think only of these TV images of war and turmoil. Internationals may come to Palestine with apprehension that they will be living in an active war zone, and many other potential volunteers may decide not to come altogether based on these fears.
This is not the full story though! Palestinians travel normally outside Palestine irrespective of the policies of the Israeli occupation which can hinder the movement of passengers across borders. Every year Palestinians travel to enjoy their holidays with journeys and tours around the world, discovering new things and getting to know other people and their cultures.
Here are a few of the stories of Internationals who have come to Palestine to visit, intern, or volunteer. Some of them have had the opportunity to stay with a host family and got to know what living a Palestinian daily life looks like.
Lauren Souz, who came from the United States, expressed her experience in Palestine by saying: “It is easy to trust the people of Hebron, and visitors can generally walk alone on the streets without concern for theft or potential problems, I feel incredibly safe in Palestine”. She continued: “I actually feel much safer than in America…I’m never harassed, and never have any problems. I have been bothered by the attention at times, but have never felt unsafe.”
Cara from the United States volunteered at the Excellence Center in Hebron and spent her time here with a Palestinian host family. She described her experience by saying: ” I was able to stay with a wonderful family while in Hebron. They welcomed me into their home and cared for me like I was one of their own children. They washed my clothes for me, worried about me if I was out late, and even surprised me with a birthday cake. I was able to practice my Arabic with them every day, try many Palestinian foods, and truly immerse myself in the culture. I have been so blessed by their kindness and hospitality, and feel like I now have a second home and family in Palestine.”
Jose from Mexico said: “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. “
Despite the hardships that Palestinians undergo due to politics, they still manage to live enjoyable and mostly normal lives. Volunteers who visit the Excellence Center will get a chance to experience life as a Palestinian and foster relationships with Palestinians who work every day to build a good life for themselves and their families.