Admittedly, this internship is important to me for two reasons. The first is the purpose of providing opportunities to disadvantaged communities in Nablus. The second reason, however, is much more personal, and yet has everything to do with the first. Being the son of a Palestinian refugee, I have always been marked by a distinct ambiguity in identity. I am not really sure that I belong anywhere. The experience of growing up in Brooklyn, NY has amplified that feeling through out my life. Brooklyn is a place of contradictions: People who call it home do it with a religious ferocity, but I doubt many would refer to it as a homeland. My neighborhood specifically is an arrival point for poor immigrants from all over the world.
When I see the children we work with I think a lot about how my life could have been different: how I could have been born in Palestine, how I could have been born in a refugee camp in Jordan, how I could have dropped out of school like many of my friends in Brooklyn and ended up in jail. I do not want to compare the hardship of growing up in poverty in Brooklyn with growing up in a refugee camp in Nablus, but I do want to point out the commonality of what people in both places can do with a chance. Our work here does not offer grandiose hopes of ridding our community of all hardships. At the end of the day, our children return to the camps or the Old City. We do give them a chance however.
I am here as an American intern because I have been given many chances in my life. I know that the Drama class I teach will not lead to a sudden rise in the number of actors from Nablus. But I do believe in small victories adding up. It is my hope that by the end of my internship I will have given my students a taste of what it means to act, to pretend for a moment that the world within the three walls of a stage is theirs to mold, design and sway. I hope that they gain the self-confidence to grasp the creative power of theater. I hope that they will learn to trust each other enough to allow for the vulnerability necessary for theater.
I do not know that coming here has clarified my identity. As much as I love Nablus, and as unconditionally welcoming its people have been I have come to realize it is not my home, Brooklyn is. However, it has allowed me to realize the second reason this internship has been important to me. I have realized that the feeling of belonging does not have to be limited to the physicality of a place or building. It can also be located in the physicality of what you do. I may not see Palestine as home as my parents, grandparents, and students do, but I do feel inside of me that I belong in what I am doing here. I am grateful to Tomorrow’s Youth Organization for giving me another chance in my life to see that.
Samee is an intern at TYO Nablus.