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    EFL Fellow Moh's class enjoys an activity.

    EFL Fellow Leandro leads his class.

    EFL Student Renad plays a game during EFL class.

    EFL students Adham and Saad perform a skit during EFL class.

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The Hills: Rawabi

Until yesterday, my keys to the TYO Center floated precariously loose in my purse. Luckily, our trip to Rawabi yielded not only a nice new keychain bearing the municipality’s insignia, but also some fantastic views and the encompassing warmth of promise and hope.

Rawabi is the first planned Palestinian city and an absolutely enormous undertaking for the Palestinian people. Set in the rolling landscape between Nablus, Jerusalem and Ramallah, Rawabi is literally translated to “hills” in English. The city is initially intended to provide affordable housing to 25,000 Palestinian families, with an eventual aim of 40,000 permanent residents.

I was lucky enough to sit with Nisreen, the Executive Director of the Rawabi Foundation, as we settled into a spot on the city’s highest point for beautiful views and a-maz-ing tapas and juice. Nisreen had mentioned a plan to build a cultural center, museum, and outdoor amphitheater in a central location in the hopes of creating a cultural hub in the West Bank. Indeed, creating a sense of cultural pride can frequently boost a city’s identity beyond just an incidental collection of commercial and residential buildings. From years of jumping back and forth from northern Ohio to Los Angeles, I can attest to the importance of a Greek theater or Pro Football Hall of Fame to a city’s unique character. Even the – eccentric, we’ll call them – street artists on the Venice beach boardwalk create a sense of cultural pride.

Nisreen and her team are spot-on with this one. As we gazed onto the hill that would eventually pulse with Palestinian music, art, and history, the TYO team had a moment of collective awe at the possibilities literally sprawled out before our eyes. Part of our goal here at TYO is to encourage kids to nurture their creative instinct – to appreciate their potential for self expression. Sitting on that hill with the dedicated team of the Rawabi Foundation, I couldn’t help picturing Leen curating an art exhibit, or Nirmin adjusting the lighting scheme for a visiting string quartet. Maybe Ayman will coach a youth soccer team in the Rawabi public park.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. But it’s nice to imagine that the same kids who walk through our classroom doors every day will soon have a major cultural outlet only 25 kilometers away. And in the meantime, check out Alex’s chalkboard-wall hybrid, Tala’s floor, or Samin’s sing-alongs for a sample of the kids’ creative efforts.

-Amy

Amy is a summer intern at TYO Nablus.