Last week, I returned from participating in ICAHDas summer camp and I am still finding it hard to adjust to life back in England. During my few days there, my emotions went to such extremes, reminding me of a piece of elastic being stretched in every direction, so that even now I feel thin and worn and in danger of snapping and breaking.
Details about what happened during the camp can be seen in the daily reports that are posted on ICAHDas website, www.icahd.org. They provide snapshots on the progress of the rebuilding of what turned out to be two Palestinian houses and the extra activities ICAHD staff organised from tours to talks, panel discussions and films, all attempting to bring greater understanding to the internationals about the complexities of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One report, by a young American woman, expressed it well when she wrote about how impossible it is to really translate the feelings that one has about being there and all that we were exposed to. And for me, a regular visitor to the area, there is the added frustration of seeing the situation on the ground continuing to deteriorate while those in power, who could call a stop to this insanity, persistently turning a deaf ear to the implementation of international law.
This time, I actually witnessed a quite new four-story apartment block being demolished. The IDF tried to prevent us from viewing this violation of the 4th Geneva Convention but we found a way to get a glimpse of the three bulldozers a work. And while at the camp, news reached us of a British woman, married to an Israeli Palestinian from the village of Ein Rafa who had her house demolished in what is Israel proper. I learned more about how demolitions impact on family life, especially the women, and the desolation, anger, powerlessness and fear that result. Some families never recover as the demolition of a home becomes the demolition of a family.
And yet there are now some Palestinian women learning to raise up to challenge the displacement which they experience and the systems of domination and militarization that are being imposed over them. They need us to help them tell their story. Let us hope that we will find more of British society willing to listen.
The camp finished with a dedication ceremony at the site of the new Hamdan family home. There was an exciting, energetic performance by the Anata Dabka dance group, who hold their regular practice sessions at Beit Arabiya, thus ICAHDas peace centre is providing yet another service to the local community. During the speeches, I spoke about how through ICAHD UKas contact with British politicians, ICAHDas work and the issue of house demolitions is being spoken of in the Houses of Parliament as we work here to raise awareness, calling for the end of the occupation and a just and sustainable future for both Israelis and Palestinians.
To celebrate the end of the camp, a lamb was roasted in true Palestinian tradition. Campers gathered in the dimly lit tent to share their reflections on what proved for many a life-changing experience. One of them, a Jewish Canadian, ended by singing his rendition of _I am the Very Model of an ICAHD Camp Participant_. Descriptive of our time together, it made us laugh but then brought tears to our eyes as we realized that we are truly part of a growing movement that seeks to change history.