رابطة توأمة نابلس دندي
Newsletter Winter 2015
News from Dundee and Nablus
Welcome to the winter issue of our Newsletter. In November we celebrated our 35th Anniversary with a film at DCA. If you missed the film there is a review on the back page. The Association is supporting a project for children in Nablus. Below is a report on the fundraising appeal for this project. Inside you can read about Nick Steff's experiences on his recent visit to Nablus.
Alister Rutherford, Editor
Helping children of Nablus to recover from trauma
Nick Steff visits Nablus
Words:Walls film event
DNTA Website comes alive
A big thank you to everyone who turned up recently, on a cold, snowy Sunday to help us celebrate the 35th anniversary of the twinning of Dundee with Nablus, Palestine. We had chosen to mark the day with a screening, in partnership with the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts), of the film Words : Walls. We also had the pleasure of welcoming its director, Gregory Metcalfe, who lead a post-show discussion and answered questions from the audience.
The film, described by Gregory as, "part road movie, part performance video, part travelogue" follows a group of Scottish artists as they find out how Palestinians deal with making art under dangerous and difficult conditions.
Helping children of Nablus to recover from trauma
Many children in Nablus are suffering trauma because Nablus has been under military occupation for many years. There are effective ways to help and our association is sponsoring a programme developed by Dr Ian Barron who is a member of our committee.
Ian is an Educational Psychologist at the University of Dundee and has been working on ways to relieve trauma and related conditions for many years. He was invited by Palestinians to deliver training to schools counsellors. Dr Barron uses techniques developed by the Children and War Foundation of Norway.
Our project will enable schools counsellors in Nablus to help children to better deal with their traumas and grief.
School counsellors with Dr Ian Barron having completed an earlier training programme
The counsellors already know the children and Ian has previously trained them to handle other childhood problems. The training will be delivered early next year and will be followed by a period of evaluation to ensure that the project is as effective as previous ones.
Dr Barron's time and other elements have been donated but we still need to raise £2,200 to cover the remaining costs. So we are fundraising in various ways to collect this sum. We welcome donations: Donate here
If you would like to help with this fundraising please get in touch.
Read more about this project.
DNTA member Nick Steff visits Nablus
A group of DNTA members recently visited Palestine, including Nablus. Below are Nick Steff's reflections on this trip, as recounted to Kathleen Gray.
This was my second visit to Palestine and there was a different focus, for me, on this trip. There were four of us, all members of DNTA, and I was hoping to establish links with people and organisations and I was keen to see Nablus, our twin city and more of the north of the country. I was looking for possible links with Dundee and Angus College which is where I work.
We made a brief visit to Project Hope before our reception with the Mayor of Nablus. We enjoyed a social night with the international volunteers and were pleased to meet Greta Viltrakytė; DNTA had helped to fund her work there. Greta was very positive about her experiences with the project. The volunteers were teaching English, drama and music.
We caught up with Rami Issa who was our main host throughout our stay. Rami Issa and Rafiq Zein Eddin visited Dundee as part of the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the twinning of Dundee and Nablus. Rami was a brilliant guide who took us on a tour of the old city in Nablus and invited us to his home for some amazing food. Rami was the perfect host who really couldn't do enough for us. A special mention to his younger brother, Ahmed who showed us around too and entertained us.
Our next stop was Yanoun village, just outside Nablus. It is an isolated place which is being increasingly encroached by settlements. FONSA - Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas - a Scottish charity which supports Palestinians with practical projects such as house maintenance and repairs has been involved in helping here.
We met with some ecumenical observers who said things had been quiet although, after our party left, we heard that some settlers had harassed the Palestinians there. There always seemed to be connections as a Swiss and a Swedish observer had both been to St Andrews. It's a small world indeed. Rafiq then picked us up for another marvellous lunch before we helped him and his family to pick olives.
We also met Naseer Arafat, the renowned architect, who has turned his family's soap factory into a base for a number of community and arts projects. He is a strong advocate for strengthening the twinning links between Nablus and cities such as Dundee and Stavanger.
On our final night in Nablus, we had a wonderful visit to Hadi Hamadi's home to meet his wife, their 2 daughters and 2 sons. Earlier in the week, Hadi took us around in his car and we visited Balata refugee camp which is adjacent to Nablus. It was established in 1950 and is one of the largest refugee camps on the West Bank. We met a friend of Hadi's there and saw some wonderful views from the hills of Nablus by night.
The visit to his home was accompanied by the usual delicious food and interesting conversations in which everyone joined in. The whole family are very cultured, musical and well read. We were particularly moved by the children singing us Palestinian songs. Hadi, is a lecturer at An-Najah University, Nablus and visited Dundee last summer, 2014, as part of his PhD research. It was a real pleasure to spend the evening with them.
The highlight of the trip for me was connecting with the people. It was a privilege to engage with the Palestinians and I will never forget these experiences.
The Ministry of Education had arranged a visit to schools in Nablus which were hoping to twin with Dundee schools. These school visits were an inspiration. We went first to a girls' school which was incredibly high achieving.
The Head of English asked her students, 13-16 year olds to do presentations for us. Their English was perfect and they spoke openly and eloquently about their struggle and their hopes of becoming lawyers, translators and doctors, to help their country. There was a great atmosphere in the school. We saw dabke dancing and visited an infant class who were learning the Arabic alphabet.
Another enriching experience was the boys' school where we talked with groups of teenagers. They were very enthusiastic about the possibility of contact with Dundee schools.
We also visited the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem and the Lajee Centre for children and young people. We have twice hosted young people from this camp in our home in Dundee. Sadly, there was news that a 13-year-old boy had been shot there the previous week.
I would have no hesitation in visiting Palestine again and would encourage others to think about a visit.
Throughout this trip there was heightened tension and at night we could hear gunshots, although it didn't seem to bother the locals.
This was juxtaposed with the call for prayer in the early morning. The way the Palestinians were treated - like the unnecessarily threatening behaviour of armed Israeli soldiers against innocent passengers on the buses we travelled in - showed the continual experience faced by people going about their daily life.
An example of this is at the Hawara Checkpoint which is south of Nablus and is particularly fraught on Fridays. We travelled through this checkpoint at dusk and witnessed young Palestinians venting their anger and frustration by throwing stones at occupation forces. The response from the soldiers is disproportionately aggressive through the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.
It all comes back to the people again. I was at the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, when I noticed a small group of women and thought that one of them looked familiar. So, I said hello, and it turned out to be Nour whom I'd met through the Al-Maktoum Institute in Dundee, and who had lived in Dundee for a while. Nour was delighted to see us and straightaway took our group on a tour of the area and made sure we had something delicious to eat. It was another example of the spontaneous and generous hospitality of the Palestinian people and again, shows us what a small world we live in!
It is my hope that more and more people come to understand the importance of Dundee's twinning with Nablus and how much it means to those living under the Israeli occupation.
Words : Walls - A review by Kathleen Gray
"I can't believe the world isn't up in arms about this."
This quote, from our Makar, Liz Lochhead, was recorded during a visit, along with fellow poets, writers and a Gaelic singer, to Palestine, in 2012. The film, Words : Walls, documents this cultural exchange of creative ideas.
The artists were welcomed to the Aida refugee camp, the Lajee Centre, the House of Poetry, the Freedom Theatre, and our twin city Nablus, to share and "bear witness", as Leila Khaled, a veteran of the resistance movement said, to the varied forms of cultural opposition to the Israeli occupation.
What shone through was the beauty of the country, the hospitality of the Palestinians, and the dignity with which they tolerate petty harassment, home demolitions, aggression and violence, as part of their everyday life.
As a member of a farming family myself, I found the struggles of the shepherd families in the Jordan Valley profoundly moving and would echo the poet William Letford's comment about their bravery in the face of such adversity.
Praise, too, for the courage of the theatre group who were determined to continue despite the arrest, in the middle of the night, of their innocent director. It was a delight to hear the Gaelic singer, Gillebride MacMillan, sing and watch the Palestinian actors tap and clap along with him and then to hear the reply, sung in Arabic.
For me, frankly, "the wall" part of this film was too painful to watch with the indignities at the checkpoints; the heavy handed response of the Israeli military to the peaceful protests on the Palestinian side and the blatant disregard of internationally agreed boundaries.
The follow up of this cultural exchange is, A Bird is Not a Stone, a book of contemporary Palestinian poetry loosely "translated" into English, Scots, Gaelic and Shetlandic. It is published by Freight Books with profits returned to Palestinian-led creative projects.
"There are lots of ways to fight; with theatre and rap music, with photography and story..."
Website comes alive
We have given our website a fresh look and a responsive feel. It now serves a wider range of people and devices. There is news and events of recent interest, information about DNTA and panels encouraging visitors to join us.
With people now using their mobile phones and tablets, our new website automatically adjusts for these different screen sizes. So on the PC you see three columns side-by-side but on a mobile phone you see them stacked one below another in a single column. More readable and with images scaled to fit the screen width.
We hope the fresh look will encourage more participation. Next we will load our newsletter articles and topical information.
We would love to hear from you
Matters related to the newsletter: DNTA Editor.
Anything relating to the work of the Association: DNTA Secretary.
If you would like to join us please contact: DNTA Membership Secretary.
Our postal address is:
Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association
9 Broad Street
TAYPORT, Fife DD6 9AH
Views expressed in this newsletter might not represent those of the Dundee-Nablus Twinning Association
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We provide speakers for local community groups. Several topics and formats available.
Friendship and Understanding
We promote friendship and understanding between the people of Nablus and the people of Dundee.
Friends of Nablus and Surrounding Areas
A Scottish charity which supports Palestinians in and around Nablus.FONSA