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[01 Aug 2010]

JOURNEY TO PALESTINE CULMINATES  SCHOOL CONTEST EDITION 2009-2010

The trip to Palestine, Special Jury Prize for the School Competition, organized by MPPM and sponsored by the General Delegation of Palestine, occurred  between 22 and 30 July 2010. The delegation was composed of eleven students (Ana Lourenço, André Pato, Inês Silva, Jéssica Roque and Rafael Monteiro, of the Escola Básica 2/3 of Poceirão, Palmela; Ana Real, Andreia Fernandes and Sara Costa, of the Escola Básica 2/3 of Real, Braga; Ana Pinho, Ana Bastos and Cátia Almeida, of the Escola Básica 2/3 of Carregosa, Oliveira de Azeméis); three teachers (Aníbal Serra, of  Escola Básica 2/3 of Poceirão, Palmela; Carla Ferreira, of Escola Básica 2/3 of Real, Braga; Nelson Gomes, of Escola Básica 2/3 of Carregosa, Oliveira de Azeméis), a representative of the General Delegation of Palestine; the journalist José Manuel Rosendo and, representing MPPM, Amador Clemente.

Leaving from Amman, the group began its visit to Palestine through Jericho, where they were received at the Academy of Security and visited the Hisham Palace and Mount Sultan. In Ramallah, where they stayed, they met with Dr. Ana Coelho, a member of the Portuguese Delegation in Palestine, who visited the hotel to give them a warm welcome.

The next day, the delegation went to East Jerusalem, having  visited, namely, the Mount of Olives, the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wall.

The third day was spent in Nablus, where the Portuguese delegation was received by the Democratic Union of Women; in the Civil Government, where they had a meeting with the Civil Governor; in the City Council, where they were welcomed by its Mayor; at the University of An- Najam, where they were received by a representative of the Dean, and met a Portuguese professor, Dr. Micaela Miranda, who currently works at the Freedom Theatre, in Jenim, and who will be the reader of the first course of Portuguese language to be taught in Palestine. There was also a visit to the EVE Cultural Center and a walking tour of the city's historic district. The day ended with a visit to the Balata Refugee Camp.

The next day the Portuguese delegation travelled to Bethlehem, where they were received at the headquarters of the Fatah Youth, having left here accompanied by a group of young people for a city tour that included the Church of the Nativity. In the afternoon there was a visit to the Palestinian Political Prisoners Association, the Fatah Youth Women's Holiday Camp and Aida Refugee Camp. The day ended at the Shepherds Field of Beit Sahur, where the delegation was received by the Mayor who had returned from Portugal that same day.

The fifth day was spent in Ramallah. It began in the Permanent Representation of Portugal in Palestine, where the delegation had an interview with Ambassador Jorge Torres Pereira. Then, accompanied by the Portuguese Ambassador, they went to the Yasser Arafat Foundation, where they were welcomed by its chairman Dr. Nasser Alkudwa. After a meeting with Dr. Nabil Shaath, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the group went to the Birzeit University, where he was received by Heba Hammad, responsible for Public Relations of the University. In the afternoon, the delegation had a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Department of Negotiations with Dr. Xavier Abu Eid, and visited, at his home, the catholic priest Manuel Mussalam, who is a member of the National Movement for the Liberation of Palestine and Chairman of the World Christian Department. A visit to the tomb of Yasser Arafat preceded the dinner in the company of the new Palestinian Ambassador in Portugal, Dr. Mufeed Shami.

The penultimate day of the visit began in Hebron, where the delegation was received in the City Council by its Mayor, Khaled Osaily. The ensuing visit to the Old Town was followed by lunch at Betoma, and return to Ramallah.

The last day was spent on returning to Amman, on the way to Lisbon.

In addition to the visits and institutional contacts, socializing with the Palestinians and, in particular, with its young, to be informed about the history, culture and daily life of the people, the group had the opportunity to feel the gratuitious violence in Israel check-points, the provocation of the settlements, the ubiquity of the separation wall.

Testimonials from students:

"Before we left, this was the expected scenario:

Soldiers, weapons, refugee camps with tents and conditions leaving much to be desired. But part of what we expected did not happen. We expected a hotel that was nothing special, but it was. In fact both hotels were spectacular.

All the people who welcomed us were very hospitable, friendly and thoughtful. And we learned a lot. Finally we lived everything we have discussed and we see how everything actually works: the checkpoints, the occupation, the efforts made by everyone for everything to be the best. Universities that ensure that the education of students, the summer camps and the associations, they all do whatever they can.

And so we saw the best (Jerusalem, Bethlehem) and worst (checkpoints, settlements). We all returned to Portugal with an experience that we will never forget. Thus, we will be able to publicize and promote this cause. Peace for Palestine. "

[Ana Lourenço, André Pato, Inês Silva, Jéssica Roque and Rafael Monteiro of Escola EB 2/3 Poceirão]

"When we were rewarded with this trip we thought that after our extensive research and information gathering, we had already acquired the necessary knowledge about Palestine.

But we were wrong, because Palestine is a real "box of surprises", every corner has something new to discover and people, culture and history did not cease surprising us.

We lived phenomenal experiences, many of them incredible.

With this trip, we have become more caring people, especially with the Palestinian People, a people extremely generous, kind and friendly to us.

Because of this trip we further strengthened our desire for peace in the Middle East and Palestine.

Peace for Palestine! "

[Ana Pinho, Ana Bastos, Cátia Almeida of Escola EB 2/3 Carregosa]
 
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