We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Well, that’s it. My classes are finished, my bags are packed, and my stomach is stuffed full of goodbye dinners and gifts of sweets. It may be cliché to talk about how quickly the time passes, but it’s only cliché because it’s true.
My experience in Palestine has been a whirlwind of people and places, and I have seen many different sides of the culture and history. What has impressed me the most, though, is my student’s drive to learn despite the many hardships they face. Their stories have humbled and inspired me, and I am honored to work with them in the pursuit of knowledge.
There is the story of Ahmed and Zolfa, two of my students at the Edward Saed Conservatory of Music who use their talents to amplify their young voices. They write music together and perform it in concerts and at protests, crafting eloquent messages and harmonies.
Then there is Samer, who spent nine years of his life in prison for participating in the resistance during the second intifada. He was released three months ago, and spends his days studying English and working with his father. In one month he will leave Palestine to study in Spain.
There are Roolah and Khoolood, two mothers who study English to help their children with their homework. Both of them were married before age 20 and were not able to complete their university degrees, but they are determined that their children will succeed through education.
And there is Moaz, a journalist who calls for social justice and political responsibility through his television and radio programs in the West Bank. He is studying English because he has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to travel to Washington D.C. and continue to work in journalism, and he wants to exchange thoughts and ideas with his international counterparts.
These people fill my classroom with their motivation and energy, and they have taught me as I have taught them. Palestine is a beautiful country filled with dignified people, and I hope to return again to work alongside them towards a better world.