Many people often ask me how I am able to live under occupation.Traveling is limited, tackling checkpoints, detouring around roadblocks; and of course there are those pesky concrete barrier walls and electronic fences. Honestly, it’s emotionally and physically draining to face these obstacles day in and day out. But even talking about the obvious restrictions and limitations with each other or the world hasn’t offered much change for our circumstances.
So how do we get by? How do we survive and create a functional life for ourselves and our community?
Community. That’s the answer.
As a community we must always find a way, a way to survive, a way to develop, and a way to increase our mental capacity by educating and catering to our surroundings. We must find a way to achieve better opportunities to improve.
In Palestine, many of us have found ways to flourish, and women have been instrumental in the success of their communities. Today I am sharing with you five productive ways that we have benefited from our community as we live in occupied Palestine.
We get one with the earth together
Farming is by far the best skill to obtain here. Due to closed borders, and other traveling difficulties, it would be hard to export and import fresh produce through out the year. Farming is a great survival strategy, it’s a good source of income, and also provides fresh fruits and vegetables for our family and neighbors. Lastly,we get some good old fashioned physical activity as we get down and dirty with the earth, making sure we stay fit and healthy.
We bake together and support our local bakeries
We all made those yummy chocolate chip cookies as teens, or tried our great grandmothers secret cinnamon roll recipes for fun. (What? She didn’t making cinnamon rolls? That’s so sad!)
In Palestine, there are many female organizations that bring women together in order to practice their divine art of baking. They share their recipes with one another and then sell their delicious creations. I personally know two neighbors who actually opened a bakery in their own kitchen, calling their business “Neighbors Bakery.”
We get involved with local learning centers for children
Every village, town, and city needs a learning center. Centers like this can help children with their homework, advance learning for kids that need the extra challenge, and enhance any areas they are weak in. It’s beneficial all the way around. For example, there are many incidents here in Occupied Palestine where kids miss school days due to roadblocks, among other obstacles faced here. These centers help children stay up to date with their studies until the situation that is keeping them from attending school is settled.
Many women volunteer at these centers, and we are always looking for more people for extra help. It benefits the children, who may not come from wealthy families to pay for private tutors, as it also gives us women something to do with our time under occupation as well.
We learn the art of “tatreez” (or Palestinian embroidery)
Tatreez is no longer limited to dresses anymore. It’s found on paintings, home dressings, jewelry, and accessories. If you have the talent, or the patience to sew, this is a beautiful hobby to pick up. In Palestine, women use this skill to keep themselves busy, practicing and embracing the Palestinian culture through its colors and materials. With limited work for men, many women are using this skill to help provide for their families.
We join a gym where we build a new community together
For me, health and fitness are two very important elements to keep yourself sane in a sometime insane world. I make it a point to write a lot about this topic because I actually feel the benefit of good health through fitness – and I want to share it with the world!
Unfortunately, many people in Occupied Palestine just don’t understand how to improve their well being by eating healthy and exercising regularly. The daily challenges we are faced with here can make it hard to ever feel upbeat or positive. I have found the secret to positivity, though – and that is working out at the gym. Think about it for a second. The gym is a place we can walk into with the weight of the world on our shoulders, and then work our butts off to release all those frustrations. We get rid of negative thoughts and we are able to get physically fit. It’s a place where we can release, relax, and recharge our souls. In 2011, the West Bank launched it’s first Zumba class, and I was able to witness the change it made on my fellow female Palestinians.
Despite all the sadness, massive destruction, limitations, and restrictions we face in Occupied Palestine, we women have found some secrets to keep ourselves positive and flourishing. If we can learn to be the best we can possibly be living under our conditions, I believe you can find ways to make yourself productive in your community as well.
Let me know how your community grows. Maybe we can take some notes – because as we share together, we care for each other!
Contributed by Faten Kased