"It’s scary the difference between what we’re told and what is really going on." Abi Andrews writes about Amos' Summer 2016 Palestine Experience trip and the time she spent in Arroub refugee camp.
What is meant by Justice? Building a wall between your land and mine? And what exactly is Peace? The absence of conflict? A quiet place in the desert or a still water? A desperate prayer in the middle of the night?
And Freedom? The chance to say what you think? The ability to be lost without being found? The chance to move without being followed? The chance just to be without being questioned?.
Since going out to Palestine with Amos Trust, these are all words I’ve come to question and reevaluate. My eyes were opened to the real life of refugees. Is a refugee a helpless victim, someone far from home or a potential terrorist? When we think of a refugee camp, do we see tents, a shambles of lost people or a dangerous place?
Now I know this sounds obvious and something we should all be aware of by now but it's scary the difference between what we’re told and what is really going on.
This summer, I had the privilege of visiting and staying in Al-Arroub refugee camp and meeting some incredible people. Not helping the needy but walking with friends. I cannot even begin to explain how much I learnt. First of all, and possibly most importantly, I learnt that the media is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Now I know this sounds obvious and something we should all be aware of by now but it’s scary the difference between what we’re told and what is really going on. We all know about ‘the conflict somewhere in the Middle East’ but not the extent of the oppression and injustice around the world that is simply hidden from our eyes.
While we were in Arroub, we were just part of one big family; whatever work they did, we did with them, whatever fun we had, we had together. Visiting Arroub was the first thing we did in Palestine and as I hadn't met anyone else on the trip before I left the UK, I had pretty much known my Arroub friends for as long as I’ve known my British ones – and there’s no difference between them.
While we were in Arroub, we were just part of one big family; whatever work they did, we did with them, whatever fun we had, we had together.
On that note, everyone in Arroub does appear to be actually related. The rules of the road might be slightly questionable, the amount of sugar put in tea almost concerning and the language difficult but the hospitality and welcome was literally overwhelming at times and I wouldn’t have changed any of it for the world.
I learnt that I was a lot freer in their country than my friends are in their own country. I’m free to go wherever I want and talk about whatever I want. I’m free to go home and boycott the products that they depend so heavily on and yet simultaneously inhibit their own progression and take away their independence and freedom.
I was amazed by the people that I met and the things that I saw and for a people with so much to hate, they are all such a people of peace. I shared tea with people that had been shot multiple times and danced in the streets with people that have seen their friends and family killed and still only long for peace.
I got the chance to go an awesome culture, arts, and justice festival in Bethlehem and visit a lot of the Holy sites around Jerusalem and Israel which was incredible, but the times I felt most safe was the time spent with my refugee friends, because to me, they aren’t refugees, they are just my mates.
Even when things felt a bit tense on the street we were on, I always felt safe with my friends. And sadly, I came to the conclusion that I was safe simply because I am not Palestinian, or Israeli for that matter. As a Westerner, I am free to walk around their streets, safe in the knowledge I will not be harmed, free to sleep soundly at night in their country.
I got the chance to go an awesome culture, arts, and justice festival in Bethlehem and visit a lot of the Holy sites around Jerusalem and Israel which was incredible.
I don’t necessarily know who has theological claim to this land but I know that God never intended people to be treated this way. I’ve heard so many harrowing and heartbreaking stories, I’ve seen walls built between real people, I’ve shed tears over the people I’ve met and above all, I’ve learnt that these stories need to be told.
I’ve seen that Justice isn’t just wiping your hands clean of the powerful and the powerless but acknowledging people have been wronged. I’ve seen that Peace can be loud cries or passionate and vibrant graffiti. I’ve seen that Freedom doesn’t just come to the powerful but even those in power can be trapped.
It was my most amazing experience to date and I would thoroughly recommend going out there to anyone. I do strongly believe that this is one of the situations you really need to see to appreciate.
We're currently planning next Summer's trip. If you would like to travel to Palestine with Amos Trust, please email firstname.lastname@example.org