Final year Liverpool Hope University social work student Carol Robinson reflects on her experiences in Palestine during a trip with the Department of Social Work, Care and Justice.
Why Palestine? Is the question I was asked most.
My reasons weren't religious or political. My reasons were rooted in my social work values for social justice and the need to understand the human story behind the Israeli occupation. To experience for myself how this impacts on health, wellbeing, life choices and also to impart this knowledge in the hope to educate others.
Our trip started in Jerusalem where we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum - this visit had a profound emotional impact on many individuals who were presented with the uncomfortable images of war and genocide. I found this made me really question the current tensions of the Israeli occupation of Palestine – Why as a human race have we not learned to involve instead of exclude? We also visited the Western Wall and other religious sites of interest such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, some of the group chose to visit the stages of the cross and walk through the garden of Gethsemane.
We passed through check points into the West Bank and received a warm welcome by our families in the Tulkarem Refugee Camp, with whom we lived with for the rest of our trip, and formed some very special bonds. We visited key heritage sites such as Bethlehem. Here we ambled through the streets of the old town, which brought to life the day to day restrictions imposed on the Palestinian people as a result of the Israeli occupation. No more was this evident than through the imposing illegal 26ft wall that surrounds Palestinian lands and is still under construction. This formidable wall separates families from their communities, and further imposes restrictions on how often they can access their farm lands to tend to their livestock and crops. It felt extremely liberating to leave our own graffiti messages of solidarity on the wall.
We had the privilege of visiting different social and community projects, such as a children’s centre that offers rehabilitation for children with physical disabilities. The one project that really left a lasting impression on me was the Freedom Theatre in Jenin. It’s a community based project that provides much-needed essential resources. The theatre demonstrates their value of identity, which is forged through art workshops and spoken word as well as offering child care. There is a strong focus on creativity that helps to promote their cultural identity, and build resistance and unity within the community. Furthermore, the Freedom Theatre has taken their numerous productions worldwide, offering the opportunity to connect with a global audience.
Our visit reinforced solidarity to our Palestinian brothers and sisters in the West Bank. I feel it is especially important for the younger generations to know they are not alone, and their voices for social justice and independence will be heard through these established links. I feel I have endeavoured to achieve social change by having an understanding of the key issues and knowing how to amplify their message through social media, and by actively campaigning on Human Rights issues to the world-wide community. This is hugely important to the Palestinian people to achieve the social justice we should all seek.
I would urge anyone curious of how occupation impacts on communities, health and well-being, to join the social work department on this life-changing trip.