– Post by Aydin –
15.10.2018 – Day 19
Today i joined the YALLAH! Club guys to the Basic Boys School in al-Am’ari to observe a little bit how the YALLAH! Club interacts with the kids and what kind of workshops they do, how the kids react and whether they are responsive and interested or not. Arriving in the school we first met a teacher whos teaching the class and where we are going to show and introduce the Calliopes.
A little bit later the director of the school joins, he seems to be a nice guy, dressed all in black, a massive moustache and a deep voice. He welcomes me as a “newcomer” and I introduce myself. He thinks I am Arab, but Renad tells him that im a turkish guy born in Germany. He replies while pointing his finger to his head that turkish folks are stubborn. I reply “it depends” and laugh. The YALLAH! Club splits up. Some of us have a coffee in his office, while the other guys are preparing the Calliope class for today. I’m amazed by his “command center”. He has two big screens where he can track and watch the children, there must be a lot of cameras installed. Furthermore, he can directly speak to the children everywhere by speaking into his microphone and can give them commands when the kids are misbehaving.
After the coffee, we went to the classroom, where everything was already prepared by the YALLAH! Club members. The class is mostly led by Renad and Razan, because they are able to communicate with the kids on Arabic. Both do a very good job. You can see that Razan did these kind of classes very often. Sometimes strict, but also knows when to soften. She speaks up very loud and clear. No way that the kids can overhear her. The children are very responsive. She motivates and encourages them to get going and asks a lot of questions. The boys are clearly interested and most of kids are very focused and to my surprise easy to handle.
After the workshop was over we drove back to the Old City (Tahta) of Ramallah and went to Angelo to eat some Lasagna. The food was pretty good, but was different from what we know. So we shared our Lasagna to have Bechamel and Tomato Sauce at the same time. After we finished the guy told us that we could have the “Normal” Lasagna with tomato and bechamel sauce. Good to know, thanks! 😀
We also got an email today from Amira (she is working in the Goethe Institute) and proposed to us that we could take part in the Science Days in Ramallah. The Goethe Institute will take part and offered us a stand where we could also join and prepare to show and promote the Makerculture. The main theme of this year’s Science Days event will be „Food Revolution“. So we thought of doing some edible cutlery. Today we will do the first prototypes and see how things will work out. We also plan to do more workshops on the sundays with the Bibliobus. Most likely we will go again to the same school in Eizariyah and try to find out what will work out best.
In the evening we watched a documentary all together. Extremely interesting, because there is always a lot to talk about and discuss. I really enjoy being, working and having discussions in the group. It is always interesting to hear about the views of the other participants and how they feel about the situation here, because it helps to reflect on your own thoughts and see things from a different perspective.
The VR Team and me actually wanted to sleep earlier today, because tomorrow we want to leave the apartment at 5am to Akka and Haifa. But discussions usually consume more time than expected and so we get to bed pretty late. So another day without enough sleep, but we are getting used to it. As Frank Underwood from House of Cards said: “I’ve always loathed the necessity of sleep.“ There is so much to do and time seems to fly.
16.10.2018 – Day 20
I woke up around 4 am, got ready and made coffee. A bit later Julian joined me and Majid as well. Together we went out a bit early and grabbed a fresh juice from the juice store. (Yes, it is open at 4:45am. Crazy, but good for us.)
Later on Samer picked us up and together we picked up Omar as well. If you want to travel to Haifa and to Israel in general, you first have to cross Qalandiya Checkpoint and another Checkpoint, which is called Ni’lin / Modi’in Illit. A crossing point in the Separation Barrier, which is staffed around the clock by the military and private security companies. Closed to Palestinians, except for holders of entry permits to Israel. As an Israeli, who lives in nearby settlements you dont need to cross these Checkpoints. There are special roads for Israeli citizens only, so settlers don’t have to cross Checkpoints like Qalandiya to get to Israel.
It took us around 45 minutes to cross Qalandiya Checkpoint, because it was so crowded. Cars everywhere and you see people crossing the Checkpoint by foot, so they can wait for a bus on the other side to get to their work with special busses, because cars with a Palestinian plate are not allowed to travel to Israel. But Samer and Omar both have a Jerusalem ID, which is pretty rare and bound to several conditions and requirements which must be proven in regular intervals. Samer also has a car with an Israeli plate, so we are all able to travel to Israel. Otherwise this whole trip wouldn’t be possible at all.
After we finally got through the checkpoint and entered Israel, it was a very weird feeling. It was my first time travelling to and through Israel (except getting from Ben-Gurion airport to Palestine) and the first thing that I felt was, how easy and stress free it is to travel in Israel in comparison to Palestine. There are no checkpoints, no soldiers who check your stuff or IDs in almost every occasion. No checkpoints or roads which are closed. Actually you see nothing, which is more than uncomfortable in Palestine.
Prior to today’s trip we have been travelling around Palestine and every time we had to take a detour, because checkpoints, roads or a whole city like Nablus was closed and locked down. Majids, but also Samers blogpost describe the whole situation regarding checkpoints and borders in Palestine pretty good.
And all of this is now gone, 10km after the border, which feels unreal and very strange. It feels weird to travel those distances without any interruption, at the same time it’s crazy how small the whole area is and how much is going on. We travelled all the way up to Haifa and Akka, which is more or less near the Lebanese border.
Arriving in Haifa, we check out the Bahá’í Garden from above. VR Team films and documents a lot around that area and we enjoy the view a little bit until we move on to the city centre. More filming and then we take a short coffee break to rest a little bit. There we also decide to go to Akka. It is still weird to drive along the coast knowing that most of our Palestinians which are participating in YALLAH! are not allowed to come here. So the whole trip has a bitter taste to it, which I detest.
Arriving in Akka we see a lot of tourists from everywhere and also people who are openly showing that they are Muslims, Christians and Jews. Living and working side by side. I am confused. What’s going on here?! A few meters away there is discrimination inside of Palestine and other violations of human rights and here it feels like nothing is going on. This whole area confuses me, I had the feeling that I had it more or less figured out, but there is a lot more going on than I thought, on the length of about 500km. My first feeling was confusion and anger, because this place doesn’t show what is happening on the other side. Everything seems perfectly okay and normal, while other people in Palestine, because they are Arabs are mistreated in every way possible. It feels surreal. I don’t know how to order my thoughts, there was so much going on in the past few weeks that I have problems to digest all of these new impressions and experiences, because we have little to no time to process all of what is going on, even though we are talking and discussing things a lot until the morning hours.
Later on, after the VR Team was more or less done with filming, Julian and Majid thought of jumping from the city walls into the water. There were some guys already jumping. After talking about the depth of the water etc. they finally decided to do it. And they did. Grandes cojones!
After that we slowly move back to the car and head to Jaffa. Arriving there, we are already pretty exhausted, but the guys kept on filming and after some shots we decided to head back home and get something to eat. It was a very long and confusing day, but driving back to Ramallah showed us again the reality of people living in the West Bank. Checkpoints, traffic jams because of these and of course soldiers.
I realized that the guys and me were pretty delighted and relaxed, even though soldiers are nearly everywhere. It is not a pleasant sight to see heavily armed soldiers, you always feel threatened in some way or another, also because we already had several incidents and made experiences, which were threatening our lives. Being an ex-soldier of the German Bundeswehr, I know what kind of rights soldiers have, when they are deployed to take action, even if they are just used to show presence in political events to maintain “security”. There is nothing nice going to happen, when something is going on.
I remember when I first came to Palestine, I never really got used to the presence of military forces in the West Bank, but now it somehow happened and I am shocked how fast people can get used to situations like this and how quickly the whole situation becomes “normal”. And people just deal with it, because there is no other way. I am pretty sure that situations like this slowly “kill” people, having this feeling of hope- and helplessness and constant tension in many situations. Most of the times i feel some kind of stress and discomfort, but also a lot of joy. Palestine is a roller coaster ride.
After Majid, Julian and me ordered a Shawarma, we head back home with sleep deprivation, a lot of new confusing experiences and a full stomach.
17.10.2018 – Day 21
Today Marios, the two Sarah’s and me went to the Science Studio in Ramallah, which is organized and led by the Qattan Foundation. The whole place is very modern and there is a lot of stuff and machines so people can realize their projects. Like a Makerspace in Germany, even better equipped.
Samar, a Senior Researcher at the Science Studio welcomes us, we have some coffee and she shows us the whole place and what they are doing. We have long talk about the Maker culture and what is going in Palestine, how people could be motivated to cultivate and build up some kind of love for this movement. We also talked about the education system, how people see themselves and how people generally worldwide see and interpret the maker movement. Samar says that she likes the idea of tinkering and using that word more, because it gives the people more room and a safe space to fail and try things out.
After she showed us everything, we also talked with one of the employees named Omar, who is running and maintaining the machines. Omar also teaches people how to use all those machines and makes sure that everybody is safe while using these. He explained everything, how they first started and build that place up in detail and it was very interesting, because there were also some similarities to Makerspaces in Germany regarding security measures etc.
After the Science Studios tour, we had an appointment with the Goethe Institute to talk with Amira and Nabil about the upcoming Science Day Festival and what our ideas and plans for that day are. The main theme of that day is “Food Revolution”, so we planned to make and bake edible cutlery, because there is worldwide a huge garbage problem, especially here in the West Bank. So we thought it might be a good idea to bake edible spoons which could be used to stir a hot drink and have a snack along the way. To demonstrate one way of how people in makerspaces could create something and also support a good cause. After showing some of the examples, they were very interested in tasting some of the examples we made and we agreed on the idea.
Later on we ate something and organized all of the footage the YALLAH! team has created and filmed so far. Which consumes a lot of time. Apparently.