This trip, this experience, was essential to my lens of justice. Before I went, I intellectually understood the concept of settler colonialism; now, I hold a holistic understanding, in my heart and in my core. Our visit, both tragic and uplifting, inspires me to teach (and live) from a place more deeply connected to Indigenous culture and resistance. —Alvin A. A. Rosales, June Jordan School for Equity, San Francisco
Alvin was among the thirteen elementary, middle, and high school teachers who travelled to Palestine in June as part of MECA’s Teach Palestine Project. They spent nine days learning about the occupation first-hand so they can bring those insights to their students.
Throughout their visit to various cities and refugee camps, they focused on displacement and exile, criminalization of youth, borders and walls, the impact of colonial conquest on the environment, efforts to bury Indigenous history, and—of course—resilience and resistance.
At the Madaa Creative Center in East Jerusalem, young people told the teachers about street harassment by Israeli settlers, Israeli schoolbooks that erase their history; the impact of child arrests on them and their families—and about playing soccer, creating art, and having fun.
The group visited Shoruq, a community center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, near Bethlehem, where they joined the young women’s hip-hop group in the recording studio. Later, they visited the sites of destroyed Palestinian villages that many families in the refugee camp were forced to leave in 1948.
In Hebron, the group walked down the deserted, shuttered streets of what used to be a thriving center for Middle East trade, now choked by the Israeli soldiers “protecting” the Israeli settlers. “It’s a dystopian reality,” one teacher wrote, “worse than anything I imagined.”
At the Institute for Biodiversity, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh described the environmental disasters of the occupation and showed the teachers the Institute’s projects to strengthen Palestinian resilience and self-sufficiency. They also met with leaders and activists from organizations working to support Palestinian political prisoners; fight discrimination against Palestinians inside “1948” (as Palestinians refer to the State of Israel); provide lively children’s literature; build the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement; and promote feminism, gender, and sexual freedom in Palestinian communities.
Everywhere, the teachers made connections to the struggles faced by their own students and were amazed by the resilience of Palestinian culture and community. As a middle school teacher from Richmond, California noted: “Witnessing the manifestations of Israeli occupation on Palestinian people and the land forced me to see Israel for what it is: a settler-colonial state. It increased my sense of urgency in actively naming, resisting, and dismantling settler-colonialism in Palestine and all over the world. These are some of the perspectives I am striving to bring into my curriculum.”