Phelim from the USA: What Drew me to Palestine

IMG_5033I’ve been studying the Middle East for the past two years at Pennsylvania State University in America.  I’m majoring in international politics and history with minors in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, I’ve taken several classes covering the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in spite of all of this I never expected I’d be given the opportunity to spend a summer in the West Bank.  Being able to work here this summer is a dream come true to me, a dream with origins reaching back as far as last summer when I first visited Palestine.  This trip was obviously different, and more touristic in nature, but I instantly fell in love with Palestine, the West Bank, and the people living there.  While I’ve been fortunate enough to spend extended periods of time studying in the region I’ve always done it in the context of a tourist or student.  Working in the West Bank will help in giving me a new and different experience in the region, doubly beneficial because I’ll be giving back to a place and people which I’ve grown so fond of during the relatively short amount of time I’ve spent here.  I think it is also important to note that I only really decided that I wanted to work here for a summer after spending more extensive time in Palestine, and with Palestinians.  In fact I actually applied to the Excellence Center on a whim following a particularly good day over spring break, from Birzeit, and I couldn’t be happier about making that decision.  

In addition to this I’ve become infatuated in learning as much as I can about the plight of the Palestinians and the conflict as a whole.  An infatuation born out of an intense curiosity, one where I consider how people can be so resilient in the face of something which negatively impacts their daily lives so direly.  It is also an intense belief of mine that when trying to learn about something it is important to gain firsthand knowledge and experience with it.  This is because what we read in books and the media is so often out of touch with what is actually happening on the ground, and with special regards to the conflict, biased in one way or another.  I believe this is also very important from my perspective as an American because of how easy it is to fall in with one line of thinking.  Especially considering how much the American government supports one side of the conflict.

Throughout my time in Palestine, specifically Al Khalil, I hope to improve not only the English of the students there but also my Arabic, something I have been studying and working on during the past two years.  I believe this experience will be especially useful in that regard because I have been studying Palestinian dialect in particular when focusing on spoken Arabic.  I hope to infuse my devotion to learning Arabic with my desire to teach English and give back to the Palestinian community to make me a more impactful teacher.  Not only a teacher but someone who can build connections and relationships which will survive long past the end of this internship.”