Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Open the Roads

The evening is spent in the shadow of the wall, at Carmen’s Restaurant, where we share a meal with folk from the Wi’am Conflict Resolution Centre.

At our table are two local school girls who attend the Wi’am Youth Group.

It’s excellent getting to know them, both shine with the brightness of youth and are full of promise. Da tells me she doesn’t know the word for what she wants to be when she grows up…but it’s like on the TV show CSI…so I guess we’re talking forensic scientist or pathologist. It’s kind of mad though, in our broken exchanges divided by language, Hollywood has provided us a common language.

Di knows the general word for what she wants to be, Eng1neer, but doesn’t know the word for the particular discipline…she explains, buildings, dams, roads etc and so I find a kindred spirit!

As the meal ends, the youngsters are called forward to perform some dances, it’s fabulous to see them interacting as teenagers the world over. Change the language and the music and you could be watching the youth group of any British town laughing as they push each other into the limelight and managing a few minutes of co-ordinated performance before it disintegrates into fits of giggles.

In the absence of our ability to return the favour through any form of communal British dancing (the okey-cokey maybe? Or Agadoo? A quick conga? Never has our culture seemed so barren), fortunately we are saved by a couple of musicians in our group doing the honours.

It was so excellent to meet Da and Di; they strike me as excellent young women and you can see their potential. Sadly however they tell me that in order to follow their dreams they would need to leave Palestine to be able to study and work.

It’s a horrible echo of all the years I spent doing youth work a very deprived estate in Manchester: anyone who was able to make it through the system and fulfil their potential, anyone that could, left. The phenomena leaves behind a society bereft of some of its brightest stars and all that they can contribute to the community.

We play the game of “if you were ruler of the world tomorrow what would be the first thing you’d change”. Di (clearly a budding civi1 eng1neer indeed) considers carefully and replies “bring development into Palestine”. Da’s response is more immediate and clearly heartfelt, she simply says “open the roads”.

As we make to leave it seems sad to have met this fine youngsters and then have to cut and run. Suddenly Da enquires “Facebook?”. Scribbled notes are exchanged and new friendships are cemented in the way of the cyber generation.

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