For the first time, Mada al-Carmel – Arab Center for Applied Social Research has held an academic camp for Palestinian undergraduate students at Israeli universities, in particular those aiming to pursue postgraduate studies. The camp was held over the course of three consecutive days in Ramallah. With the camp, Mada al-Carmel sought to provide an alternative, Arab and Palestinian intellectual and academic framework for the students that could help emancipate them from Israeli epistemological constraints, and allow them to discover new spaces in which they could be more liberated and more audacious regarding themselves, their identities, and their intellectual truth, without restraint or censorship. It also sought to develop epistemological and critical tools for them, while they are at the beginning of their academic journey, which can contribute to sharpening and refining their intellectual identity, while it is still in its formative stages.
In his evaluation of the camp, Muhammad Abd al-Qader (a student in the Faculty of Law at Bar-Ilan University) revealed that one of the reasons for his participation was the desire "to collaborate in building knowledge together". This sentiment was shared by Jayana Farraj (a student in the Department of Communication at the University of Haifa), who stated, "I've always felt alone within the Israeli academia, and that I alone, carried the full burden of the Palestinian cause on my shoulders. When I came here, I realized that I am not alone, and that there are people who are carrying this burden with me."
The camp program included three main types of activities: Academic lectures delivered by lecturers; the sharing of experiences and research by Palestinian students at advanced stages of their postgraduate studies; and field trips to Palestinian institutions in the West Bank.
The first day began with introductions and an open dialogue between the students and the camp organizers from Mada al-Carmel about the students' academic experiences in Israeli universities, followed by a lecture given by Dr. Mohanad Mustafa (the General Director of Mada al-Carmel) about the fundamental theoretical concepts of research. Mr. Ahmed Yassin (a professional manager of the youth development programs and holder of an MA from the Community Development Program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) then spoke about his experiences in pursuing a master's degree at the Hebrew University, where he wrote a dissertation titled "Challenges for Arab students Studying in Schools: Haifa as a case study". Next was a lecture delivered by Dr. Areen Hawari (researcher in the Gender Students Program at Mada al-Carmel) on "Concepts in Feminist and Colonial Studies: The case of Palestinian women". The first day of the camp closed with a virtual 360-degree tour of Gaza City organized by the American Friends Service Committee in Ramallah. This was followed by a virtual meeting and discussion about the tour with a young woman and two young men from Gaza: Jumana Abu Nahla (a community activist who advocates for the rights of women, children and people with disabilities); Mohammad Abu Jami' (a counsellor in the Positive Engagement for Youth Programs and a volunteer peer educator at the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association); and Mohammad Ismael Na'im (a writer of campaigns and initiatives in the Al-Ataa Charity Association and organizer of the Nakheel youth groups at the Tamer Institute).
In her evaluation, Bayan Hujairat (a student of media and education at the Oranim Academic College) shared that one of the reasons for her participation in the camp was "the lack of opportunities for us to speak openly and comfortably about the political and cultural issues that concern us … I believe that you have excelled in this area, providing us with a great space for open discussion with amazing people." Ammar Jabareen (a student in the Communications Department at the Kinneret Academic College) concurred with her on this point, stating that, "I was able to be present in a space where I can express my opinions with greater freedom and without having to carefully consider every sentence I want to say." He added, "You all kept listening to us… it’s quite a difficult thing for a human being to put himself in a position of relative ignorance, but your presence here, sitting and listening to us, as the 'somewhat naïve ignorant', was a really positive thing…"
On the second day of the camp, Mada al-Carmel, in cooperation with the Office of Public Relations at the University of Birzeit, organized a visit for the participants to the university campus. There, Ms. Sundus Hammad (Coordinator of the Right to Education Campaign at Birzeit University) began her presentation by introducing the university and the history of its establishment, including a video about the university. Together with student volunteers from the Right to Education Campaign, Ms. Hammad shed light on the academic experiences of Palestinian students in the West Bank, and set out the most significant violations of the right to education within the colonial context. Finally, she accompanied the students on a tour of the university campus.
Regarding the trip and the holding of the camp in Ramallah, student Ammar Jabareen stated: "I was in a place that I have never been before. For me personally, it was the first time that I have been to the West Bank." Izziddin Abu al-Heija (a student of middle Eastern Studies and Archeology at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) made the following statement about a personal challenge that prompted him to participate in the camp: "I always felt a sense of identity crisis, and I want to see people who I am a part of and who are a part of me."
After the tour, Reem Suleiman shared her experience in pursuing her master's degree studies in the Community Psychology Program at Birzeit University, during which she wrote a thesis on "The Socio-Psychology of Algerian Migration to Northern Palestine: An in-depth exploration of the experiences of Palestinian refugees of Algerian descent in the territories colonized in 1948". Dr. Areej Mawasi (a lecturer and researcher in the critical sciences of learning, design and technology, and Head of the Participatory Design and Interactive Learning Laboratory at the Faulty of Science and Technology at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology) gave a lecture on "Using Theories as Tools in Applied Research: Between analysis, design and building participatory knowledge". Loaay Watad gave a talk titled: "The Dragon and the Wall: De-colonizing the field of Palestinian children's literature", in which he discussed his experiences as a PhD student in the Department of Sociology and the Cultural Studies Program at the University of Tel Aviv. The second day ended with a lecture given by Dr. Ibrahim Khatib (political researcher and Assistant Professor in the Conflict Management and Humanitarian Action Program at the Doha Institute) entitled, "On Research Methodologies and their Challenges – Rules, criticism and applications".
About her experience at the camp, Nagham Sa'adi (a student of communications and media at the University of Haifa) expressed the following: "I feel that it has created a lot of chaos inside me… the presence of chaos and of all these ideas generated so much internal debate; where you want to understand, you want to know the truth, you want to see reality… I feel that this has been something extremely profound … over these three days, I've often wished that I didn't have to return to the place where I live. I had such a strange feeling; I felt that this place suited me, and that there is a real issue here, an idea that I wasn't even concretely aware of, but I felt it here."
On the third and final day of the camp, Mada al-Carmel organized a trip to the Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, where the participants were welcomed by the Supervisor of Visitor Services at the museum, Ms. Dina Khatib. Ms. Khatib accompanied them on a tour of the museum exhibitions and gave them an overview of the museum and its programs. After the tour, the participants were given a lecture by Dr. Honaida Ghanem (Director of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR) and lecturer in the master's program in Israeli Studies at Birzeit University) on the subject of "Social Responsibility and Higher Education". Afnan Kan'aneh then gave a presentation about her experience as a master's degree student in the Department of Communications and Media at the University of Haifa, including writing her thesis on the subject of "Translation as a Journalistic Practice and Political Act among Palestinian Journalists in the 1948 Territories".
On his own experience at the camp, Majd Haddad (a student in the Faculty of Law in the University of Tel Aviv) stated that, "In the end I came out with many questions. Answers too, but many questions. And that is what I want, to have questions to think about and to see how I want to develop and advance from here."
To watch a video of the students evaluating their experiences at the camp, click here.