Searching for students

On my second day in Jenin (April 6th) Yousef is going to introduce me to several organisations in Jenin. These organisations might have people in their ranks who are interested in English conversation. Yousef didn’t pre-arrange any groups for me. We agreed to set up a few groups once I had arrived in Jenin.

Our first appointment leads us to the local branch of a Palestinian political party. Yousef and I walk through the huge vegetable market of Jenin and then we step into a building. We are being received in the office of the “mudir” (the director) of the party. I get a detailed explanation of what this local branch of Fatah exactly does in Jenin. In short, it tries to establish relations with all kinds of local civic organisations and it tries to cooperate with these organisations to achieve common goals. Yousef translates everything the director says and through the open window (it’s a boiling hot day) we hear the cries of the market vendors and coffee sellers (they walk around with a coffee pot and little cups) and the hooting of taxis and other cars.

Along the walls of the office of the director lots of chairs are lined up. During our conversation men constantly enter the room, they take a seat and listen for a few minutes, they smoke a cigarette and pour themselves a small cup of Arab coffee and then they leave without a word. I wonder who these people are, but this is customary here. Actually you see chairs lined up everywhere, in office rooms, in living rooms and sometimes even in shops. Arabs love to sit down with each other in a circle and then they talk and talk and talk while enjoying a typical glass of very sweet Arab tea with some mint or zaatar leaves or a small cup of Arab coffee.

The director promises to contact his members for us. He thinks he can set up a group of young men and women.

Our next meeting is at the Women’s Union of Jenin. I’m introduced to Hanaa. Again we sit down and a delicious cup of tea is served to us. After exchanging the latest news, Hanaa tells us she will form a group of women who will attend the conversation lessons. On top of that she suggests I could also teach English conversation in Arrabah. This a nearby village in the hills just outside Jenin. To me it’s all great.

Finally we visit the office of the local labour union. Again we drink a glass of very sweet mint tea and I get an elaborate explanation about the activities of the union. Our host is not sure yet if he can set up a group for me, but he promises that he’s going to do his best.

Late in the afternoon Yousef and I visit the bakery of the JCCC. Yousef started this interesting project. Currently it provides employment to a number of young men, but Yousef’s eventual purpose is to employ women. The income this will provide will make them more independent. The scent of sweetness and pastry fills my nostrils and I look with interest at all the activity.

I ask Yousef where these young men learned the job. One of the bakers says something in Arabic and Yousef translates it: the “leading baker” was trained in Israel. Upon hearing that, one of the other bakers smiles uncomfortably and makes a remark in Arabic. I only catch the word “Israelis”, but the expression on his face and his uncomfortable smile say it all….

“It’s nice telling Ruben something about the bakery, but did you really have to say that the Israelis taught us the job?!”

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