Two years ago was I was accepted as a Palestinian volunteer speaker for Solutions Not Sides; that one email not only filled my heart with indescribable excitement and delight but also opened a brand new chapter of my peace activism journey. Travelling to another part of the world, telling my personal story to school students, breaking the stereotypes that the media has created of my people, and brainstorming possible solutions for the gigantic conflict in which I live was the kind of new experience which I’d been looking for. Getting to watch Macbeth at the Globe Theatre would be a happy coincidence!
Well, 2020 had a little more excitement for me than I had planned...
I landed in London on the 12th of March, excited to start my two-week school tour. I was preparing for the sessions and having a great time in the capital before the COVID-19 crisis started shutting the world’s airports. One day before my sessions had even started, I had to once again pack my suitcase to go back to Jordan, where I will cross the borders to my airport-less country; the sessions were cancelled for me then. My disappointment was too huge to describe; I had been preparing for this for two years! Then, to top it all off, I was quarantined in a hotel in Amman, Jordan for 15 days before I managed to make it home to Palestine. Life was dull, going by slowly through my screens. But somehow, I had to cope with the new lifestyle I was thrown into whether I liked it or not – and this is something everyone is doing now, to a greater or lesser extent.
Fast forward to two months later, I have finally managed to do the school sessions! I met with curious British pupils, presented Palestine through my personal story, and had a fruitful discussion about alternatives and solutions. The only difference is that the sessions were online! I was not that excited at the beginning to do them online, missing out on being in the same place with the people I am talking to, but it turned out that travelling was not the exciting part at all.
The UK is a place of diversity and through SNS I’ve been introduced to pupils of different religious, socioeconomic & political backgrounds, and they have different attitudes and thoughts about the conflict. Every session I take part in, I get access to the ‘Palestine’ in the heads of others and I it makes me love it even more for what it is and how it reshapes after the sessions. Seeing my country as a major axis in the discourse just makes me proud to be an ambassador.
There is a sense of accomplishment that comes when you tell your story to others. Looking deeper into that which we take for granted, and realising how heinously abnormal our situation back home actually is. Through these workshops you don’t just let the audience get to know you but you actually get to know yourself better and discover more about oneself. Narrating my life with its many hardships and obstructions and my willingness to change them is not easy but is worth every second of my journey as an activist. I have done four sessions so far, and I’m looking forward doing more in October. I do miss the possibility of going to the Globe, but I am so happy that I didn’t miss my school sessions after all, and the great experience of it.
Mais, is a English Literature graduate, and a Palestinian Fellow with SNS from Nablus, is continuing her role as a volunteer speaker connecting with classrooms in the UK remotely, and will hopefully return in-person for a tour of UK schools soon.