My Films

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A refugee camp in Jordan

Jordan. I have barely begun to understand the depths of the Palestinian Israeli conflict and I am no position to say who is right or who is wrong. But my time in Jordan has given me first had experience of the life of a Palestinian refugee and I cannot deny that my heart goes out to them. I visited a refugee camp called Baqa'a just outside of Jordan's capital city Amman. The camp began in 1968, after the second wave of refugees fled Palestine in the Israeli-Arab conflict in 1967. About 80 participants from Peace Boat stayed overnight in the camp with host families to experience the daily life of a Palestinian refugee.I felt welcomed and comfortable from the moment I met my family. Five participants and I stayed together in a three story concrete dwelling.
Since I've come back to Japan, I went to see the film Ghada about a Palestinian woman. What the film showed me was that how in my short time in that refugee camp, I had experienced so much. I met with extended family member after family member ( I certainly lost count and how everone was connected rather quickly) The immediate family that I lived with had 13 kids, the youngest being 23 and the oldest 40. With exception to the 23 year old, all of the siblings already had three to five very young kids. They spoke little English and we spoke zilch Arabic and so we mostly played with their kids. They served a huge plate of rice with whole chickens (there must have been a dozen or so chickens) at nine, and we dug in hungry. After dinner, a family friend and the two eldest brothers took us up a mountain to see the nightlights of the camp. We shared a traditional sweet tea with them, customary to be given to guests before saying goodbye, as well as trying the Arabic coffee. We slept in the guest room, the large space next of the bedrooms, on coushons propped agains the wall that we had earlier sat on.
I think I got a real sense of their situation when I met Ismail Suboh while I was walking around the camp. He was an English teacher at one of the schools in the refugee camp and spoke at ease with me. He shared that his daughter had married a man who lived in Palestinian, and left the camp to live with him in Palestine seven yeasr ago. After the seond intifada and border control tightened, he has been unable to visit them. He showed me pictures of his grandchildren, four of them, on his cell phone. That's all he know of them since he has never met them. He wasn't angry or a suicide bomber plotting a revenge, just a concerened grandfather. He told me that he desired a free Palestine, like the one he remembered from his youth, and all he wanted to do was play with his grandkids. You can't deny the pain.
One of the first generation refugees spoke the following day. He said, " If someone came into your home and took it away from you, wouldn't you try to defend it?"

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