By Decca Muldowney (Samah's buddy)
This morning began at 8am, with people emerging slowly from bed. At 9 am the kitchen team produced a full English breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, veggie sausages, toast and tea. There were mixed reactions from the Palestinians- they seemed particularly divided over the baked beans.
After clear-up we all sat down for an induction meeting, talking about our hopes, fears and expectations of the project. Many of our hopes were the same: to learn more about each other, about our different lives and political situations. We were worried about things like miscommunication and misunderstandings and things like cultural differences. The consensus in the group seemed to be that it is important to talk about differences rather than pretend they are not there. (Incidentally- this is something I believe is essential to any solidarity work: no two political situations are the same and our unity can be based on acknowledging the difference of our struggles. Strangely, I’ve found that it is often by discussing difference that similarities are found! This really came true today on the walk when we were talking with Esraa. She said that in Palestine it is always society- rather than law or religion- that determines how women are treated and expected to behave. I think this is true much of the time in Britain too.)
After our induction me and Samah, my buddy, were on cooking duty. I am also acting as a buddy to Fatmeh, whose buddy isn’t here yet. We chopped lots of vegetables together for the butternut squash soup. It was really lovely as I was able to learn more about Samah and Fatmeh. They both have big families (by my standards as an only child!) and live in the towns where they were born. Although they are younger than me they are both already engaged. Both of them are planning to get married after finishing university. I told Samah about my boyfriend Noah, who I’ve been with for 2 ½ years. He comes from a Jewish family in the US. After travelling with me in Palestine last year he became really anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian, I got the feeling that Samah hasn’t met many anti-Zionist Jews and I would really love to be able to introduce her to Noah.
Then we all went on a walk into the forest and encountered a lot of mud and a very friendly New Forest pony. He licked our hands- but the Palestinians seemed quite frightened. That didn’t stop them all taking pictures with him!
When we got back we put the finishing touches to lunch. Samah and Fatmeh helped me make bread roles from the dough- and they came out really beautifully! Everyone was starving and the mountain of bread rolls seemed to disappear very quickly.
During the post-lunch lull, the Palestinian women told me all about the makeover they want to give me- Samah wants to pluck my eyebrows, something I have neve, ever done. But I think in the spirit of cultural exchange I’ll let her do it.
Samah and Fatmeh then sat down to work on our story with a femal heroine. Fatmeh told an amazing story about her aunt which we decided to use. She also told me another story about her own mother, who has two sons in prison. One of Fatmeh’s brothers is in Israeli prison for 10 years, with 3 more years to go. Another brother was in prison for life, but was sent back in the Gild Shalit prisoner exchange. I told them that Shalit’s father had told the press that if he was a Palestinian fighting for freedom he would kidnap Israeli soldiers. They had heard nothing about it and were very surprised.
We spent the afternoon making puppets and sets with Natalie and Esraa. It was really lovely working with them- my only worry is that sometimes things get lost in translation and I think they are too polite to say sometimes!
We ate a delicious shepherd’s pie for dinner and then apple crumble. After dinner we put on our puppet plays, which were all very different and very beautiful. It was interesting to see the different ways people found to talk about the strength of women.