So I've been back in Blightly for a week now, and my head is still spinning with everything I took in. Lots of people have asked me about it, and I've struggled to know what to say. My standard response has been that it was amazing, mind-blowing and very emotional. But that isn't really doing it justice, and isn't sharing the stories we heard. Luckily, I already have a few talks planned, hopefully I'll work out what to say by then...
But one of the main things I've realised came from a discussion I had on Facebook with an old school friend while I was out there. I commented that our hotel was out of water, and he responded saying that he hoped I wouldn't be 'one of those people who blames Israel for everything.' He then spoke a lot about the history, how Palestinian's had done things wrong, etc etc, all the usual arguments.
I responded with some of the stories that we had heard; of limited water, forty year legal disputes over land ownership, and how a boy saw the Wall go up in Bethlehem in three days, and hasn't seen the other end of his road since. Suddenly (in my mind), the issues surrounding Palestine were no longer the geopolitical issues, or debating different historical perspectives that they had been for me before, as I studied International Politics in a lecture theatre in mid-Wales. It is now a series of personal issues. I've met people who spent months in prison for taking part in peaceful demonstrations, people who want to move out of Palestine for a better life, people who refuse to move because it is their home. I've met people who (it appears to me) have been misled by their governments, who live in fear, and who believe that their pasts give them a right to force people out of their homes.
The issues have become about justice, peace and freedom, rather than statistics, resolutions and borders.
When I do my talks, and when I'm asked about it, I will tell the personal stories, talk about the groups we met, and hopefully allow people to make up their own minds.