My name is Billie and I am currently studying a masters in Law in London. I decided to come to Palestine, and Hebron in particular, in order to learn about the legal situation on the ground. I spent two weeks on the Lawyers in Palestine programme with Go Palestine and really wish that I could have spent more time here as there is so much to learn, see and do in the city.
I arrived in Hebron in the evening having taken a sherut from Jerusalem and was met by Osama and Marwa who I was to stay with for the two weeks. Living with a Palestinian family is a very valuable experience and a great introduction to the culture of the city. It’s bitterly cold in winter so I’d recommend any one coming here in the winter months to pack lots of warm clothes for both outside and inside the house. The old city is beautiful and well worth a visit – it speaks volumes about the reality of life for Palestinians living under occupation.
The programme itself was extremely interesting. I had some lessons at the Centre which introduced me to some of the foundational principles underpinning Palestinian Law as well as some discussions about the context in which the law operates in Palestine. I was able to meet with a number of different lawyers to talk to them about their practice and the reality of working as a lawyer in Palestine. I also visited court and sat in a case during cross examination, which was a wildly different experience to that in England. In order to situate my legal learning in socio-political context, I also met with NGOs and women’s rights activists. This turned out to be invaluable because it enabled me to glean different perspectives around current debates happening in Hebron with regard to CEDAW in particular and women’s rights in general. I also visited Al Fawwar refugee camp just outside the city. I met with a fantastic lawyer there who spoke with me about the legal and socio-economic situation for Palestinian refugees.
Hebron city itself is relatively conservative compared to other cities in the West Bank but I found Palestinian culture to be extremely warm and friendly. People are very eager to talk with you and invite you in for tea or coffee. It’s easy to make friends and feel comfortable and at home in a relatively short time. It’s also very safe (for foreigners). I never felt unsafe in Palestine. I was never accosted or bothered by people and felt able to leave valuables lying around in the knowledge no one would take anything. Despite my abysmal Arabic abilities, perfect strangers were always happy to help me, often calling friends who could speak English in order to translate so that they could better help me. I always felt safe and very well looked after by everyone.
I would definitely recommend others to visit Palestine, especially Hebron. It’s a wonderful city and if you want to see for yourself how the occupation works in practice and affects Palestinians, there’s no better place.