Travelling to Nazareth was my second volunteer experience and my first time travelling outside of Europe. I loved my time in Israel and Simsim, so much that just a few minutes ago I mentioned to my mum, again, that I miss it there.
I remember being dropped off at the Basilica when I arrived, after a night spent in Haifa (with Sami arranging the hostel for me even before we met), because I couldn’t catch a bus earlier. I chose Israel for no particular reason and I chose Nazareth only with hope to spend a few weeks in a relaxed city of different culture, maybe taste some Arabic food and catch a few Arabic words.
Yes, I tasted Arabic food – I got to have manakish with zaatar, lebanee and home-made pickled olives for breakfast every morning, to learn where the best falafel with tahina is, to taste katajef at the famous Abu Ashraf’s just around the corner from the guesthouse or traditional sweets at the centre. But also, I got a chance to prepare hummus from scratch, mixing chickpeas and all (plus a funny small lecture on how to tear the pita and make hummus circles on the plate the non-European way that it’s supposed to be)!
I caught Arabic words – in the best way possible. My first ‚lesson‘ was at the coffee shop, when I got invited for a cup of freshly made coffee. It continued all three weeks of my stay – from people at the market (while occasionally people passing the market helped them to explain words in English to me) to Naval who cleans at the guesthouse (and who taught me all sorts of words, from plastic bag for when I was helping her, to habibti, darling, when we were saying goodbye).
One of the things that I appreciated the most about Nazareth and Simsim was that many times I got a feeling that this was the meeting place for so many amazing and creative people who want the change for the better. As I described many times, sitting on the terrace I often felt like plotting a national revolution in 19th century Europe, haha! I met journalists, activists, people running NGOs and socio-economic projects for Palestinians, organisers of a free trade market.. Not many things are more interesting for me as a student of politics. Hardly a better review can be given than a fact that I came to Israel with basic knowledge and left determined to focus on this issue, to come back and help.
Also, I’m not a person who gets emotional very easily or who gets attached quickly. That being said, I cried like a little girl on my last day. It started by me running to the market and some other places to say goodbye – one person was honestly sad that we didn’t get a chance to grab a coffee and talk about Palestine, another hugged me and told me to stop crying because this was my home. It continued with having to say bye to Sami and Silke, who became a family and thanks to whom Simsim became a HOME. I love you both and I miss you a lot.
Simsim was a great balance of relaxed atmosphere and interesting people at the guesthouse’s terrace and hostel life of meeting new people and having fun at the backpackers. Priceless travel advice to both volunteers and tourist (which, among all, made my trip to the West Bank possible) included. Shukran/danke for everything, I’ll definitely come back!