Raed is the leader of the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists, when I’m working in Bethlehem I base myself in their office and he’s really put himself out in making arrangements I needed for the Practice supervision project over here. On Saturday afternoon I was invited to lunch by him at his home and met the family, his wife and 6 children, 4 girls and boy twins who’re 3 years old. In contrast to Issa the home was very hectic because more people live there and the 3 youngest children are under 5, despite of this I had another great meal,
Raed and his wife had ‘pulled out all the stops for me’ which made the time with them and the children very special. I bought with me a Quality Street chocolates by the time I left they were finished. This made me realise I’m not the only chocoholic in Palestine, I know now what to bring if I’m invited again!
Even with Raed and his family in their flat, it’s hard to ignore the occupation, their small village east of Bethlehem and higher up has a view towards Jericho with pretty rolling hills on which Israeli settlements have been built, which encroach on the city. I’ve read in a book how Bethlehem is now enclosed on 3 sides by the settlements and the separation wall. From where I was the view showed this so clearly.
My children have thought of me at times as rather miserable, I’m thinking that the tone of my last post certainly showed how well this character trait describes me, over here it’s also so easy to be sucked into negavity and I fell into that trap! I’ve had such a positive time in the last week which I want to list:
1). On Saturday night I went to a classical concert in the Bethlehem Peace Centre by the Magnificat Institute, a Musical School in Al Quds whose students had just won 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes in a Piano competition. The children and young people ranged from about 7-18 years old, it might have been escapism for me but the music transported me elsewhere as I immersed myself in works by Chopin, Mussorgsky, Haydn, Sibelius, Debussy and Mendel(son), transported to another world! The grand piano enhanced performance, however the enthusiasm and passion with which the music was played was impressive. As I listened I thought of Little Richard, a 1960’s rock pianist and Django Bates, a contemporary jazz pianist who plays at a frenetic pace who I’ve really liked. What the older players don’t have is the fresh approach I heard and loved.
2). My accommodation problem also sorted itself out on Monday after I’d asked the receptionist Samer at the Casa Nova Restaurant which is based in a Franciscan guest house about their room rates and he put me in contact with a friend of his who wanted to rent out his family’s one bedroom flat. When I viewed the flat I realised that I was ‘looking a gift horse in the mouth’ because the rent rate is so reasonable, I’m going to Al Quds for the weekend and to complete the last consultation for the Practice supervision project, returning Monday night to Bethlehem to move in then. I’m so excited, looking forward to being able to cook for myself in a very large modern flat with all mod cons! The place is bigger than my flat in London with a king sized bed, with a bath, shower and seating outside for when the weather gets better, aren’t I lucky?
3). With hanging out places here my current favourite is Casa Nova in the Old City with a fantastic Eastern view towards the Judean hills, scarred by settlements but still quite a view. They have a fantastic cook there who makes soups ‘just like Mama.’
4). Last Thursday in Hebron I left my North Face coat in the ‘Serveece’ Minibus which I reported later at Hebron and Bethlehem Bus station. I really wasn’t confident the coat would be returned, however when I asked 3 days ago it had been found so I have it back which I think is impressive. This reminds me how welcome I’ve felt in Bethlehem and Hebron. Here a common greeting for foreigners is “You’re welcome” which feels really genuine because our presence is appreciated. In Hebron when I’ve needed someone to guide me to the office where I worked local people were keen to help once they knew where I was going. Unlike other places I’ve visited there’s no expectation of a financial reward, it’s just what they do which I think is exceptional.
5). When I walked to walk on Tuesday morning I realised there’d been rain overnight, what was exceptional was that Council staff had cleaned the roads and pavements which transformed the area where I’m staying. I was impressed, thinking that even with the daily challenges faced by people living here there is a functioning civil society where these services are provided. The UNWRA strike continues however, with no sign of any settlement. Refugees haven’t received their allowances for 8 weeks now and I read that the Head of UNWRA Palestine has told the Palestine Authority he’ll only meet with staff about their grievances after they return to work. There seems to be a stalemate which is affecting the poorest members of the Palestinian community, with no solution in sight.
6). The Practice supervision project continues, I’ve had my meetings in Hebron and Bethlehem, the group meetings and individual meetings show there’s a consensus that a universal supervision model is needed. I’m in Al Quds(Jerusalem) this weekend to provide the sessions there.
What I’ve decided to do for the model is to use my experience and reading to start drafting what call practice guidance and the writing is going well. I’ve had to think whether managers who use the model need a qualification because it’s an issue for staff who’ve had supervision training. My tentative view is that the model, if it’s agreed should be an effective tool for staff who have supervision training or managers who already supervise staff.
A joint meeting for staff involved with my work in the areas I’m visiting has been arranged for 15 February
to discuss a draft model. My aim is to have a draft model to share and discuss with my Palestinian contacts on 11 February, share and speak with members of the UK Social Work Network to get their views on 12 February to prepare a final draft and have it translated into Arabic before the meeting, sending it to everyone who plans to attend. I’m going to have a busy week so will be the last post until after the meeting, I’m excited but also rather nervous about the response!
7). I know from news reports I’ve heard that UK winter weather this year has been bad, with exceptional wind, rain, floods in places and some snow in the North. Bethlehem is cold at night, with temperatures dipping below zero and clear starry skies. Two nights ago when I was walking home through the Old City there was a crescent moon hanging over the Judean hill which was beautiful.
8). I thought I’d comment on an Assignment program I heard yesterday at 7am Palestine time on the BBC World Service about euthanasia, with a report from Belgium where the policy is most developed. At present adults who want to die, mainly because they’re chronically ill or have early onset dementia can request the right to die. New laws have been passed now which extend euthanasia to people who are depressed and to children who want to die. I don’t know anything about the Belgian system, however from the Netherlands where I have relatives and which also has a system their concern, like that on the program is that older people might ask to die because they ‘don’t want to be a burden on their children.’ Before 1945 Eugenics was discussed in principle. In Germany it led to the Nazi’s killing people with disabilities and with special needs to create the perfect ‘Arian’ society. My view is that there’s a very narrow line between euthanasia and eugenics so careful consideration is needed, even before I heard the program I had wondered what might happen if someone who’d decided they wanted to die changed their mind after the medication to kill them had been given.
I think I’ve written enough! With photos I can’t download them onto the posts at present and will ask advice from Noah Breen who helped me set up the blog. Other topics I’m thinking about for posts on 40% of all Palestinian men having been arrested by Israelis during their lives, 25% Palestinian unemployment, Israeli plans to build more homes in East Jerusalem, what is needed for normalisation in relationships between Palestinians and Israeli’s and a demand by Benjamin Netanyahu recognise Israel as a Jewish State in the current peace negotiations.