Saturday, January 24, 2009

Team Interviews in Ramallah

This week we interviewed the staff in order to learn more about their feelings and experiences. The following are condensed versions of what they said:

Name: Ali Ja’far
Age: 27
From: Jerusalem, Sawahreh village

I live in Sawahreh, a village of Jerusalem. In 2004, after the Israeli government built the apartheid wall, the village was divided in half, into east and west. The Israeli government confiscated a big portion of the land in Sawahreh. The east part of the village was excluded from Jerusalem on the other side of the wall; the west side remained connected to Jerusalem and under Israeli government control. The wall separated my relatives; some now live in the east and some in the west.

To travel to Bethlehem from the village is a problem for the presence of Container checkpoint; this checkpoint is considered one of the worse checkpoints in the west bank.

I started my studies in Iraq, but because the US invaded Iraq I had to flee to Jordan; however I soon found that universities in Jordan did not accept my credits from Iraq, so I moved back to Palestine. I finally graduated in 2007, in accounting and finance at Alquds University in Abu Dis. After I graduated I found a job with a bank in Palestine; but, the working conditions there were bad so I had to leave and start looking for something else. My friend Mahar told me about a job with an international organization called Jumpstart, this organization was looking for young people for a mapping project in Palestine. Soon thereafter I started to work with them, I liked it, it didn’t feel like working for a boss, it felt more like a family. There is small opportunity of finding a job in Palestine and if you do manage to find one it will most likely come with poor working conditions, with a low salary, and not relating to anything you trained for academically.

I’ve been working on mapping throughout the period of the Israeli attacks on Gaza and have been greatly affected by this event; it upsets me terribly, the killings of so many innocent people, so many children being bombed and the world not caring. In some way these feelings make me stronger; and mapping makes me feel I’m doing something for Palestine.

In my opinion, this project is very useful to Palestine; I think it’s one of the best projects I've seen here because it’ll help Palestinians learn about their country and people all around the world to have access to a map of Palestine.

Name: Mohammad Ayyad
Age: 24
From: Abu Dis village in Jerusalem
Skills: Computer engineering

I live in Jerusalem, in the village of Abu Dis. I live in the Israeli part of Abu Dis but I don’t have an Israeli ID. Every time I want to go home I have to pass through a particular checkpoint where I’m registered. Because I have a Palestinian ID I cannot go to Jerusalem or other Israeli cities even though I live on the Israeli side of the wall and under their governmental jurisdiction.

Before I finished my studies I started a computer engineering training programme in the Alquds University. After I finished my studies last year, I went looking for a job; however, I couldn’t find any work so I decided to continue the training without any salary and hoping to find a job connected to the university. After sometime without work I heard about Jumpstart's mapping project and that they were hiring, so I went to work with them. It’s difficult to find job in Palestine, the job conditions are no good, the salary is not nearly enough to live on, and finding a job that matches your previous training is rare.

I was working with Jumpstart when Israel attacked Gaza. I felt worried and sad; all my thoughts were for the victims, the people of Gaza. Although, throughout this I work hard and continue my job dilligently. My crew and I will cover a large area of Palestine doing amazing work. I can see how extremely useful a map will be for my society. Most importantly we are creating a map in the public domain, it's not owned by a government or corporation, this freedom is good, especially for maps. It is great that we are creating a separate map from the Israeli-controlled one, so Palestine can be on the world map.

I am grateful to Jumpstart for this job opportunity and I appreciate that they are helping Palestine. I hope to work with this project until it finishes; know the data we collect will be helpful for people in the future.

Name: Sa’eed Alqaloti
Age: 25
From: Abu Dis village in Jerusalem
Skills: Computer engineering

I live in Abu Dis, a village of Jerusalem. This is the same village that Mohammad is from but the wall divided my part of the village from his; I live outside the wall, he lives inside it. I graduated from Alquds University last year with a degree in computer engineering. I found a job in Ramallah with a programming company and worked for them for two months. However, because of the low pay and high cost for transportation, I used all my salary just to pay for my travel costs each day. Because of this, I left the job and stayed unemployed until I heard about Jumpstart. They were looking for people to make a map of the West Bank, I really liked the concept it and so I joined the crew. The work is enjoyable, the salary is good, and they treat me well, like a family.

I felt terribly upset when Israel attacked Gaza and I told myself that I must continue my work because it’s a way to help Palestine. I can see this project is a very useful one for Palestine and it gives many job opportunities to young people, providing some valuable work experience. I am thankful to Jumpstart for the opportunity to work on this map and I hope all the organizations and people who are in, or concern themselves with, the West Bank will utilize our maps, for free of course!

Name: Maher Hidmi
Age: 24
From: Jerusalem
Skills: Computer engineer

I’m from Jerusalem, however I am only allowed to have a Palestinian ID even though my mother holds a Jerusalem ID. Both my father and I have Palestinian IDs yet my mother has a Jerusalem ID which allows her to go to Jerusalem and Israel. Israel only gives me permission to travel within Jerusalem and I must renew this permit every year or I'll loose it.

I work as a project coordinator for one of the teams working with Jumpstart's mapping project; we’re making a map of the West Bank. There are four teams around the West Bank now, my team started in Jerusalem and we’re now in Ramallah. I hope we’ll finish Ramallah city within the next few days and then we’ll move to collect the data from the villages in the surrounding area. This project must be finished by April but you can’t guess anything in this country, you can’t really plan for what’s going to happen tomorrow, thats a strategy of the occupation.

I feel that, through this project, I’m helping my country and it encourages me to work harder. Before working here I was working in a small company in Jerusalem with computer engineering. The salary was bad and the conditions were not encouraging, this job is better because we work as a family, especially with Chris; I value my relationship with him.

We all felt grief stricken about the bombing of Gaza, they’re our people and so naturally it affects us deeply and even effects our capacity to work; when you know that your people are being brutally killed and there is nothing you can do, it can become difficult to focus. None of us are allowed by Israel to travel to Gaza, so we’re trying all our best to focus on this project to help provide more geographical information for our country.

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