In Jenin

Hi readers,

I have more or less succeeded in getting a blog going. I will try to use this blog to keep you posted, but I’m not sure yet as to how often and when.

A short summary of what has happened so far. Departure was on Friday 2nd of April. In Paris I transferred to a plane to Tel Aviv. On Saturday morning at 0:10, I landed in Tel Aviv and I passed the border control without problems (the custom officer was asking questions, but when she began to yawn at my answers, I just knew that I was going to get my visa stamp quickly). I spent Saturday morning in Tel Aviv and in the afternoon I took a taxi van (sort of van that leaves as soon as all its seats are taken) to Jerusalem. Saturday evening and Sunday I celebrated Easter in Jerusalem and on Monday morning April 5th I left for Jenin. After changing taxi vans in Ramallah (don’t ask me how I found my way there, but it worked out) I arrived at around 15:00 in Jenin.

Problems started immediately after arriving. I tried to make a phone call to Yousef, my contact person and also director of the Jenin Creative Cultural Centre (JCCC) to pick me up from the bus station. It turned out however that my mobile phone had no connection in this area. Prior to my departure from Jerusalem I didn’t have any further contact with Yousef, so there I was, alone. The city centre of Jenin was a pandemonium, so I was desperately wondering how to find my way to the JCCC and Yousef. I felt a bit lost and decided just to walk into one of the busy shopping streets. I walked up to the first shopkeeper I saw to ask if he knew the JCCC and Yousef. I was flabbergasted when he said: “Yes of course I do, let me call Yousef for you!” I was thinking to myself: “Oh my, this is going a bit too easy”. He was talking to someone over the phone and after he had hung up he said to me: “just follow me; I will take you to the JCCC!” I asked myself: “Is it wise to follow a complete stranger?”, but I had little choice. So I followed this unknown shopkeeper who claimed to be Yousef’s friend. We walked through busy shopping streets in between stalls and merchandise and shouting vendors and suddenly the shopkeeper walked into a dark alley-like corridor. He stopped at a door at the end of the corridor while the guests in an adjacent coffee shop were staring at me.

He gesticulated with his arm to me and called: “Come…..come over here……come over here then….it’s right here…….this is where you should be”. I thought: “No way man, don’t think I’m stupid.” The point was that I didn’t see any logo or name plate that indicated the presence of the JCCC in this building. The shopkeeper walked out of the corridor towards me and he asked: “Why don’t you follow me?” I said: “I’m so sorry, but I’m not known around here and I don’t know you. Therefore it’s impossible to just follow you, I ‘m really sorry. So the shopkeeper took out his mobile phone and dialled a number. Suddenly a window opened a few floors above us and a man stuck his head out of the window and shouted: “Hi Ruben, come in!!” The shopkeeper looked up at him and by the expression on his face I knew he shouted back: “No, you have to come down, he doesn’t trust us!!” So the man in the window came down. He introduced himself as Yousef and on my request he gave me his family name. He then mentioned the names of a few persons we both know and after that I finally felt at ease. After having apologised a few times to the shopkeeper, I followed Yousef into the corridor and we took the stairs to his office and only then I saw posters and plates with JCCC’s name on them. What a relief: I had arrived at the right place.

Once at his office I was introduced to his secretary and then it was time for a cup of tea, an extensive introduction and the first discussion about our plans for the coming month. Yousef explained to me that there was a need for lessons in English conversation. As the schools in Jenin weren’t out for summer yet, I was going to teach adults. I agreed with everything. “Just put me where I’m needed”, I said.

After this Yousef and I walked into the city centre to buy some things and then……it turned out that Yousef knows everybody in the centre! We had to stop a hundred times to shake hands with friends and other people he knows.  No wonder the first the best shopkeeper could take me to Yousef immediately.

(Here are some photos of Yousef, Heebah and the centre.)

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2 Responses to “In Jenin”


  1. 1 Marco van Meel April 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Hoi Ruben,

    Wat een mazzel dat je toch redelijk snel je plek (en Youssoef) hebt gevonden. Ik zal regelmatig even kijken. Succes daar met het Engels. Wel lachen hoor dat jij dat daar kan gaan doen. Doe voorzichtig en tot later.

    groeten uit Boskoop,
    Marco

  2. 2 Julius Sumihar June 8, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Ruben,

    wat een mooi verhaal! Ik heb het met veel plezier gelezend. Ik vind het ook grappig om te voorstellen hoe je twijfel had tegen de wildvremde die je heeft geholpen. We zijn misschien een product van moderne urban samenleving: weinig vertrouwen heb naar de anderen, vooral degene die we nog niet kennen. Maar goed..ik ben blij dat jij er bezig bent met de dingen dat je wilt doen. Success, wees voorzichtig, en veel plezier!


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