Youth & Sport Culture
Whoever thought sport would be such a popular topic in Palestine. on our first day we were informed about a official basketball league game between Beit Sahour, the area which we were staying in and Palestine’s number one. The game took place in the city of Bethlehem at the Catholic Sports Centre. Me, Nathan and Antonia had been taken by surprise of how big of a deal this game was. As we asked the Palestinian public specifically the youth regarding the match they all responded in excitement and commented on the teams and their favourite players, stating who they believe will win the game. The match started at 6pm and we thought this would be a good opportunity to conduct a derive of the city, kill two birds with one stone. At the current time we were at a school in Beith Sahour were did spoke to children and did fun activities with them. From here once we finished at 5pm the three of us (Me, Antonia and Nathan) had a competition to reach the Catholic Sports Centre first. All of us split up and went our own ways. The best technique I believed would be best to use is by asking directions of the centre, of course most people knew about it because it was familiar to the public. I would always ask for directions from two people every so often. This is helpful because if both the directions we I receive are the same then I know I’m heading towards the correct path. However 10 minutes on my journey I asked a young man called George of the whereabouts of the venue. He tried to explain to me but then double checked with his girlfriend who was in the car. Hen then offers me a lift towards Bethlehem near the Nativity church. I was well pleased as I knew that I would be ahead of the group. I thanked the driver for his generosity and offered me money. He strongly refused and said I am welcome and I am a guest in his country therefore it was his duty to help me out. From here I only had to walk for 5minutes. The location was just round the corner, for some reason through out the derive I felt as though I had been here before. This felt really weird why did I feel so comfortable as if I know these routes, probably because the Palestinian people are so friendly and welcoming which made me feel like home. I could see a massive sign written Catholic Sports Centre. I could smell victory and would rub it in the face of the other two. I get closer to the arena to only see Nathan standing by a wall waiting for me and Antonia. He seen me and gave me a cheeky smile knowing that he won. I don’t know how he did it he got to Bethlehem before although I had a cheating car lift.
Eventually Anotnia had made it and we regrouped together and started heading towards the arena entrance. The closer we got to the game the louder the raw of the fans became. This really amazed us we could not believe we actually were in Palestine. At the door entrance the event management team refused us entry because it was a full house. However we explained to him we were media students from the UK and wanted to cover the game with our cameras which we showed him. Instantly he said yes please welcome in! I never seen someone change their mind so quick. For obvious reasons of course clearly because he wanted the event to get a high profile and raise awareness to the world Palestine also has official Basketball just like any other country in the world. The moment we entered the arena I was totally gob smacked by the standards of professionalism and setup of the game. They had official referees, teams with sponsors on their jersey, jam packed audience family and friends mainly teenagers. The atmosphere was something else absolutely unbelievable. I felt I was in another country all together. The way the audience roared every time a point was scored was crazy for a moment I though I was in a Western country. The environment just like thee outside was very welcoming and friendly.
Day 1- Hello Palestine!
Posted: February 26, 2014 in Field Research Diary
We landed in Israel and inhaled the first breath of Middle Eastern air at 3:30am on Saturday 23rd 2014. The very moment we got off the plane and walked a few meters towards the border control with rest of the passengers who were on our flight, an Israeli security took the three (Antonia and Nathan) of us aside. Immediately he approached us and asked for us to step aside and began to interrogate us. I noticed this security staff from the distance because he was wearing a high vis jacket. He stared at us and I knew that he would stop us I could just sense it. If anything we were the most tourist looking people on that flight, a Bangladeshi, Romanian and Caribbean I mean how diverse is that, two boy’s one girl. But I guess because we were a minority he stopped us. Eventually he started asking questions why we were here, what our plan is and where we will be staying. I could see my team mates were beginning to get nervous but kept calm. I tried to switch on my handheld microphone in my bag to record the interrogation but my hand became sweaty and I panicked a little and accidently press the wrong button so I did not catch any of the conversation. What I thought I would do is flip the interrogation around and started asking the security questions such as why did he stop us? Is it because the colour of our skin? Is it because I had a beard and so on? The security replied saying it’s a random check and they do this check on every 5th person, he started stuttering a little. Then he asked us how we are going to reach our destination because no taxi services or public transport run on Saturday as it is a religious day so everything is shut. I told him yes we know it is Shabbat (a religious day for Jews) but we arranged a private taxi. Once he realised we had knowledge of Israel he instantly let us through.
Our next and final obstacle standing in our way to entering the country is the border control. Nathan had been allowed through border control without any problem. I had been allowed access after she asked me never ending questions. I just put a smiley face on and got on with it. However once I was allowed access my visa had an alarm so when I would swipe the security gate to enter it set an alarm off. Within seconds security had come and took me aside, but honestly speaking I felt good I don’t know why. Head of security attended to me and asked questions regarding my religion and why I’m here. The same bloody questions I had been asked before. But this guy was really friendly and understood my reason and let me through without any problem. Again I asked him the million dollar question, why did you stop me? Is it because of my beard? Is it my skin colour? Is it my religion? I got the same response too but this guy smiled and had a bit of sense of humour.
Although we thought I was the person to be most likely to be sent to the interrogation room believe it or not it was Antonia. If anything she was probably the one who blended in with the rest of the Israeli people. I and Nathan waited patiently for two hours for her to finish and be released. We began joking with each other imagine she gets sent back. We started chatting to a lovely airport staff she was probably the only person who actually acknowledged the issues we were facing and apologised for all the inconvenience caused. She then gave us advice what to do and what not to do. This was the first person we encountered who put a smile on our face. After a 2hour wait Antonia had been allowed access. Her face when I saw it was like she was physically beaten, she looked lifeless, and it was a Kodak moment. While we was waiting for Antonia I quickly ran out customs to notify the Taxi driver Rami who was waiting for us for a very long time that we are here and just waiting on a group member, so that he does not leave. When I first seen him with a sign board he was sitting against a pillar tired.
We passed through customs approximately around 5am and got in the taxi and left the airport. Rami the taxi driver was a really friendly person giving us advice on how things worked. As we were driving to our accommodation Rami gave us a tour at the same time. I was absolutely stunned by how much empty land there is available for both Israeli’s and Palestinians to share but Israelis refuse too and they have kicked the Palestinians who were living in the land out and destroyed their houses. As I was admiring the landscape Rami explained to me majority of the land which we seen was empty so what Israel did was plant beautiful trees to deceive tourist that this is natural and nothing was here before this trying to erase Palestine from Israel.
We drove past Deir Yassin village one of the first places to be attacked by Israel in 1948. This is the village where the famous Leila Khaled was living but was forced to evacuate to Lebanon. Driving past this town made me think a lot of Leila Khaled, not just that but when we reached Palestine checkpoint I realised how much land Israel had actually taken over.
Once we reached our accommodation we were amazed by how beautiful and luxurious it was. We did not definitely expect this to be our home. Me and Nathan shared a room which had a beautiful view of the landscape of Beit Sahour we could see everything through the window. We reached our accommodation around 6am and the sun was beginning to rise. We all agreed to get a good rest so that we can wake up for 11:30am refreshed and crack on with our research.