Getting to know each other in the old town of Jaffa
After much preparation and anticipation, our journey finally began with an early bus ride, during which we collected the participants, either from their home towns or from convenient meeting points. This part of our journey didn’t last very long, only half an hour or so (since this is such a small country), but it was wonderful to finally meet everyone and we were all very excited to be together.
On our arrival to Jaffa we settled down in our neat little hostel and went straight to work. Our first step in the order of business was to get everyone familiar with one another. For this, we played ice-breaking games until we gradually got acquainted. We also took the time to introduce the program and ourselves, the guides, to the participants. Once that was done we wrote out our expectations from ourselves, the group, the program and the guides so as to make sure we were all on the same page. We finished off this session by reading out different rules and guidelines which were meant to ensure that we felt safe, supported and well taken care of with each other.
After a short break, we went inside (the heat and humidity were quite unbearable) and continued with the next part of our activity. We asked the participants to draw the place from which they came, and then each participant had time to share and explain their drawings to the others. It was great to get to know a little bit more about the places we all came from and it was interesting to see how the same places were explained quite differently by different participants. We then had a short break and time to prepare for our next activity - a special tour of Jaffa.
Jaffa is an ancient and beautiful port, which functioned as the main gateway to our country for most of its existence. It was the Palestine’s main port, and one of its wealthiest cities. However, after the war of 1948 and the establishment of the state of Israel, much of it was destroyed. Its former population was driven out and new Jewish immigrants were brought in to live there. Nowadays it is under the same municipality as the modern city of Tel Aviv (Israel’s largest metropolitan city), and its population comprises both Jews and Palestinians.
Abed Sattle, our guide, is a local Palestinian; a nurse by profession and a representative of the Arab council of Jaffa, a longstanding organization aimed to represent and improve the life of the city’s Arab population. Abed shared with us his deep knowledge of Jaffa, including its rich history from the time preceding Napoleon’s conquest up to the present day. We heard various stories about the city, visited an ancient mosque and saw where one of the movies of famous actor Jean Claude Van Damme was shot. We also learned about the expulsion of most of the Palestinian population of Jaffa during the 1948 war and the discrimination that the remaining Palestinian population faces today.
In the evening we sat in a circle on the beach, which was a very soothing and fitting way to end a very hot (and exciting) day. Not surprisingly, most of the participants mentioned the heat as their biggest difficulty. This was our last formal activity of the evening and we called it a day. At least, we, the guides, did - the young participants were just getting started…).