on friday morning at 4am, i arrived safely in tel aviv. entered without any problem. the questioning through the boarder police wasn't that bad. i took a shuttle-bus to jerusalem and met the director of the goethe institute, ramallah, farid chris majari. after a lovely breakfast in the american colonie hotel (east jerusalem) we took the street to ramallah, passing the checkpoint in the land-rover of the goethe institute was no problem at all. i was two days in ramallah. the mood of the people was relatively relaxed, almost null military presence. meeting with farid (goethe) and our project-partner from the a.m.qattan foundation, ziad khalaf in the beautiful house of the qattan foundation in ramallah.
walking through ramallah on my own. everybody gives a warm welcome to me, no hostility at all - but in my head is the sense people would think i would be an israeli undercover agent... roaming through the streets, watching intensively (thinking about my sculpture-project in the public space and where could it be realized...).
live on the streets is very busy - even after it got dark.
since some ten days the gaza-strip is completely sealed off (closed) for foreigners. therefore we had to decide to alter our plan. instead of doing the horse in gaza (khan younis) it is planned to do it in jenin, an area which is heavily attacked and put under permanent curfews for a long time. last week they had a two day curfew again. and tanks and armoured patrouls, arrests if not killings and shootings are almost a daily reality.
today farid and i made the way from ramallah to jenin, through the jordan valley, passing the dead sea... and about four checkpoints. privelleged we, on a proper land-rover with the goethe-logo on its doors and a german flag on the back (so we are clearly not from the army...) and with german passports: we could pass without any bigger problems... the palestinians can't go this way, they are not allowed to travel their own country. only very restricted or via the fields which often is very dangerous.
we started at 8am and arrived at 11.30 at hussein's house, our jenin-partner and local scout who can speak german very well. he already spoke to the head of the jenin youth-centre and to the local authorities to promote our project and to ask for support. we met at 12 with sharek, and a member of the jenin council. they both gave us a warm welcome and are happy to collaborate on this project. together we then went to the major and where cordially welcomed by his deputy. he gave his okay to support the project though the technical workshop of the municipality, so we can use the welding or angle grinder machine and prepare the project in their workshop. and we'll get a lorry for any transport etc. that's wonderful!
then we checked a flat for me - and were lucky again through hussein's help. it's quite expensive though - rents are not cheap here. and then we got a wondeful dinner at husein's house. palestinian cooking is really great. i enjoied nice lamb, chicken, vegetables, salads, etc... whow..., and the arab coffee was offered a floor below at hussein's parents flat in the presence of some 12 well established, wealthy men... we were told they are the local judges and advocates etc. who had a gathering there. quite patriarchal... but again we were warmly welcomed from everybody. in the evening we met the representative from the UNWRA for the jenin refugee-camp to ask him if he would like to join the project with some 5 or 6 participants from the camp. it seems to work out and we will meet together tomorrow morning with all 12 participants, coming from the town (youth-center) and the refugee camp (through the UN).
and now i tried to set up my e-mail in an internetcafe. hope it works so that you get my message.
and we just learned: today ramallah and some other towns are under curfew - some friends in ramallah were taken by surprise when the army entered the town and got stuck in cafe's or shops or or or... so they keep on putting pressure on the daily live of the people - but talk publicly about easing the restrictions. it is redicoulous. it's not true. it's just propaganda for the bush trip to the middle-east this week.
so far - all the best
Note: Text by Thomas Kilpper from Jenin