By Joumana al-Jabri – Beirut
There is all the reason for a Palestinian youth to feel distressed, uninspired, bored, angry, depressed, resolved to the status quo. There is even more reason for a Palestinian adult to feel the same and add to that disappointment and frustration in having witnessed a generation pass within agony and now seeing a generation following again inheriting that same agony.
I asked a young filmmaker from the far west, one who has spent months and cumulatively years within the Palestinian refugee camps to give me one positive story. He said I have none, that is not the side I see when I am there. I pressed him to think harder. He had none.
Stories that bring hope and generate positive energy may be scarce, but they are not non-existent. I have encountered a few and so has a large number, looking for those stories, believing that one inspiring story through one inspiring individual is enough to have a ripple effect on an entire community, or more realistically, maybe one other person. It is also possible that the surfacing of one such story will allow the surfacing of many others, hardly reaching any of our ears, and more importantly, hardly reaching those who may find an outlet through such stories.
For a number of months, a number of people, Palestinian and not, have been driven by one desire, to bring forward stories of Palestine, ones that are worthy of telling, and ones that rarely find the platform to shine, those positive ones despite the stress from which they are born:
Nadia, a non-ID Palestinian, a typical downer for anyone in those shoes, is now at her master level in education. Don’t ask me how. The only answer I have is determination and a pinch of luck. Najah, hit by polio as an infant, along with more than a dozen others of her year of birth at the same camp (makes you wonder), not only finished her university degree while most of her 11 physically capable siblings never got that far except for two, but also, was the first to own a house outside of the refugee camp, financially supports a few of her siblings, and is now a taxi driver, the first woman taxi driver I have encountered in my seven years living in Beirut.
Munir, a Harvard professor, left his high status in academia to work from within the camps in Palestine.
Ahdaf, an author who along with others, made it possible to bring literature to Palestinians who themselves could not access other geographies.
Ramzi, a violinist from a refugee camp, took his individual passion in music and found a way for hundreds of children to adopt it.
Jamal, a man who for more than a decade was parted from his country still supporting his family, is an encyclopedia of world history through his life travels.
Hala, a lady filling a gargantuan gap in our society in education for the vision impaired.
Students proposing hanging gardens for refugee camps where gardens are a far fetched longing.
Those are but a few of the stories yet to be told. And it isn’t only telling them that brings us passion but more so the fact that each one of them has not stagnated in its creator rather has found channels to be transferred to others.
We are a network of Palestinians in blood and Palestinians at heart who have taken it upon ourselves to showcase innovation, creativity, tenacity, determination in people that have taken the human potential to where it should be. Today, the platforms that we are using to showcase those stories are multiple: a newspaper for youth by youth in Lebanon named Hibr, an event taking place in Ramallah, Amman, and Beirut on 16 April 2011 named TEDxRamallah, performances and talks in various small venues of which Sanayeh House and Arche de Noe in Beirut along with others in other locations.
Many more will follow as we realize that this passion is not ours alone, but that it is touching and engaging most every person that is becoming aware of it.
We invite you to join that passion, by connecting with us through the energy now gathered around the April event, from which other initiatives are growing.
Please visit and join the community on www.tedxramallah.com and share with us that single positive story that you might have come across, or simply, come to know the stories you thought did not exist.
– Joumana al-Jabri contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.