This year saw another hugely successful trip to Palestine with staff and students from across the school of social science. The group were mostly social work students, but included some from Social Policy, and Childhood and Youth Studies. The 17 students and 4 staff were hosted by families in the Tulkarm Refugee Camp on the West Bank after spending a day and two nights in a hostel in Jerusalem. We toured the sights of the Old City including the Al-Aqsa mosque, where some students took part in prayers, and the Yad Vashem or Holocaust museum before heading through the checkpoint to Bethlehem and the West Bank.
The focus of the visit was life under occupation in the West Bank. The programme organised for the students was a full one. We visited towns and cities where various themes were explored, giving our delegation a detailed picture of both the personal experiences of the Palestinian people and the wider developing social problems becoming increasingly acute across the region. The group visited Hebron, Jenin, Jericho, Safit, Ramallah and Bethlehem, where we met with Governors, Government Ministers, refugee camp committees and community projects highlighting social and economic challenges faced in each community. One common theme was the impact on economic and social life of restrictions on personal freedom of movement and economic development within Palestinian communities confined to Governate zones throughout the West Bank. Problems with illegal settlement were also emphasised leading to water and sewage issues in agricultural areas, increased tensions between Palestinian young people and settlers and the detention and imprisonment of young people without adequate legal regulation or redress. The physical barrier of the wall and the social division it represents both physically and emotionally was a constant reminder of the deep divisions and the military apparatus of state control throughout.
In Bethlehem, we met the Minister for Tourism, who insisted we visit the Banksy Hotel and museum, which we did. The Minister holds a key role in the Palestinian quest to bring outsiders into the West Bank. This was not only for economic reasons, but also, to enjoy the hospitality and culture of the region and counter narratives of danger and threat from the Palestinian people.
The field trip programme now established over 6 bi-annual visits and the strong relationship of solidarity between the School of Social Science and Tulkarm gave students a detailed insight to the bigger picture in Palestinian society but at the same time we all were overwhelmed by the hospitality we received from the people of Tulkarm. New friendships were made and old ones renewed as we socialised and enjoyed the warmth of our welcome from young and old.
Let’s hope we make it back in two years.
Research Staff member from Field Trip 2018