You can't burn down a song, can you? by Martin Ball

This was a line from one of the many profound anecdotes that Nigel relayed fondly to us over the course of the week we spent together in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. I couldn’t help but think that the trip we were on would inspire anecdotes of my own some day.

I first came to hear of this particular project when Majid - one of the people I’m very fortunate to work for at Penny Appeal, presented it to me and suggested the possibility of filming some content, which could be used to promote the programme and secure funding for its continuation, in Lebanon and elsewhere. It’s quite normal for me to receive information about programmes that have a potential for filming but this one stood out above all the others that had come previously for me. It was intriguing. Usually the programmes we have delivered for Syrian refugees have centred around life-saving emergency aid - but the last time I was in a refugee camp in Lebanon I came away with one of the beneficiaries comments ringing in my head, ‘we appreciate the food and emergency aid, but we need more - we need healthcare, education, a future to hold hope for’. This particular project, ‘Harmonics’, was offering something close to that - a three month course for children living in the camps to learn to sing and express their emotions through creative art forms with the intention of relieving the symptoms of trauma they developed as a result from fleeing bombs and crossing a terribly dangerous border. At the end of the programme they would perform ‘Peace Train’ - a Cat Stevens song that felt so incredibly relevant to their situation.

Syrian refugee children in a camp on the Lebanese border

Syrian refugee children in a camp on the Lebanese border

I knew exactly who I needed to hire for this too - the project was too beautiful and had so much depth it had to be executed well and tell the real story. A few months previous I had been in another part of the Middle East with a Director, Roscoe Neil and a Cinematographer, Dave Galloway. The chemistry of the team as we worked together there felt special, and their interactions with the Middle-Eastern people and culture made me feel sure they were the right people to take on this next adventure. Roscoe came on board as Director, with Dave joining the team as the DOP. We had multiple discussions about the project prior to flying, and researched our main protagonist, Nigel Osborne, to find out as much as we could about him. He is very much one of the pioneers of using music as a form of therapy for victims of conflict, having previously delivered similar programmes in places such as Bosnia, Kosovo and the Middle East. We purposely didn’t over-script what we wanted to shoot and what story we wanted to tell, as we wanted to leave room for discovery and fluidity in the documentary. For this reason we pre-planned to spend the first day in Lebanon purely as an exploration/recce day rather than plan to shoot any scenes.

Our arrival to Lebanon wasn’t without issue (arriving to the Middle East rarely is in my limited experiences) - having passed through passport security roughly one hour later than expected we found out that our car that was pre-booked was no longer waiting - and as such we were stuck at Beirut airport at 1am searching for a non-booked taxi to take us to Bekaa Valley… not the safest situation I’ve ever found myself in. I spent the entire drive working out emergency plans, messaging the license plate of the car we had taken to our emergency home-based contact and praying that the not-so-well maintained vehicle being driven at excess speeds on the extremely bendy mountain road would make it to the hotel. Anyone who has visited Lebanon can sympathise I’m sure with having at least one dodgy car ride whilst you’re there. We made it, thankfully.

Surveying the area from a rooftop to pick out filming locations

Surveying the area from a rooftop to pick out filming locations

As previously mentioned our first day was to be spent visiting the project and trying to understand what it was we wanted to capture. We knew that at the end of the week the programme would finish and the children would perform in a theatre to their relatives and friends - so we knew we had to build a narrative that led to that pay off, but needed to work out how. We were introduced to Nigel at the offices of the delivery partner, SAWA for Dev & Aid, as well as the partners themselves and the teachers who were working with the children. Without the pressure of cameras we were able to chat freely with Nigel, the partners and the teachers about the programme and build a rapport with all of them, which in retrospect I feel was vitally important for filming later in the week. Sometimes local NGO partners can be suspect or wary of foreign camera crews, and understandably so, given the tendency in the past for Western charities to exploit beneficiaries for financial gain. Being able to let them get to know us as much as us trying to work out them meant that for the rest of the week we felt completely comfortable in their company - and I would hope that they felt similarly. We were also introduced to our personal driver, Fouzi, and interpreter, Bashar, who would be with us for the week. They were both Syrian refugees themselves and helped us to really understand better the situation from a Syrian perspective, as well as taking us to the best places to eat and keeping comedy never too far from the scene.

That first night myself, Roscoe and Dave spent around 6 hours and 200 cigarettes hammering out the narrative of the film in Roscoe’s hotel room. We went one way then the other, argued about one direction then switched positions and argued for the opposite. We lived and created on paper a thousand different films that evening, but eventually settled on a basic script, shot list and shooting plan that we were all happy with, and couldn’t wait to get started on. Again, looking back this felt like one of the most important parts of the filmmaking journey for this project and made me confident I’d picked the right crew - asking people to work past 9pm on an acclimatisation day with little sleep the night before doesn’t usually work out this well!

Our driver Fouzi, taking a quick shisha break.

Our driver Fouzi, taking a quick shisha break.

I won’t go into too many specifics of the shooting days so as to not spoil the film for those that haven’t seen but over the course of the next 5 days we shot within the camps, at the rehearsal space where the children were and in the classrooms where the children were being educated. Roscoe always kept an eye on the narrative to make sure we were telling the story in the way we envisaged it being told, Dave set up each shot meticulously to make sure the film visually was better than anything we had done before and I ensured everyone was okay, that we were in the places we needed to be at the times we needed to be there and pushed everyone around the film to give us that little bit extra. Working in extreme heat in a country such as Lebanon where you don’t have the same conveniences so readily available can be stressful but the shoot generally felt very calm, and bar some very minor hiccups it was one of, if not the smoothest shoots I’ve produced. 

Nigel himself, or ‘Nige’ as we came to call him - something which even now almost a year on he brings up as something he was very fond of during the week, was more than an inspiration to our team. The man is a shining beacon amongst the humans on this planet and has received far more esteemed recognition than this blog, however it’s worth sharing just a few thoughts on this leader, pioneer and visionary. Nige told us many anecdotes over the course of the week about his charity work and the differences he had seen in former beneficiaries - tales of people with no hope being given hope, and going on to make differences in their communities and countries was so compelling to hear. Filming wise he gave us everything we asked for and more, never tiring or asking to cut, never refusing to repeat a line and even allowing us to film some more personal shots in his hotel room. I couldn’t speak more highly of the guy, and will hold him as a role model to aspire to as I write my own story. 

Professor Nigel interacting with one of the children in the camp

Professor Nigel interacting with one of the children in the camp

I’d be remiss to not mention the refugee children as well in this post. It’s hard to fathom what these kids have been through. They’ve been bombed out of their homes, lost family members, then had to make a horrendously dangerous journey to cross the border to Lebanon. Once they’ve reached Lebanon they’ve had to grow up in tents made of tarpaulin, surviving off charitable donations and anything else they can get their hands on. You can’t comprehend it, you just can’t. And yet. Within a couple days these kids felt comfortable enough around us to want to be involved in the filming - or more likely to play a game of football. They laughed and joked with us and tried to steal Dave’s phone. It was so clear what a difference SAWA for Dev & Aid have made with these kids, giving them an education and delivering the Harmonics programme - when I compare the children here to children I have met in other refugee camps in Lebanon it’s not even comparable. These children somehow seem happy despite everything, in contrast to children I’ve seen who aren’t part of this programme and are understandably miserable/bored/traumatised from their experiences. At the end of the day this is why this programme is so important - it allows children to be children despite the circumstances, it allows them to understand better their grievances and express their emotions to relieve the trauma that sits inside them, and it allows them to grow up as humans with a hope for the future rather than angry at the world around them that they otherwise would have had a right to feel forsaken by in their hour of need.

Once back in the UK, Roscoe managed to cut together the film relatively quick and even on the first draft we knew we had a fist pump moment coming. It looked beautiful thanks to Dave’s talents and it told the story we wanted, with Nigel nailing every line and delivering the emotion to screen that was felt on the location. There was a small issue of all the footage being stolen along with the Mac it was being edited on but I’ll let Roscoe tell that story himself! The decision was made on final draft to put it in front of various trusted critics to see if it was worth putting onto the festival circuit, with the aim of delivering the film to a wider audience and attracting investment into the programme as well as awareness for the cause.

And here we are…

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For more information about the film and screening locations visit asongcantburn.com

Photos by Roscoe Neil & myself, Martin Ball

2017 - From Syrian Refugees to the Summit of Kilimanjaro by Martin Ball

Okay - let’s try to keep this brief as I’m sure you’re all very busy people. This was an incredible year for me personally, as I explored the Earth with my camera - making mistakes, learning lessons, forging friendships and enhancing my love for the planet we call home and those that inhabit it (well, some of those that inhabit it I guess, but let’s not be negative).

Here’s a brief recap and synopsis of the international projects I’ve produced during 2017…

Syrian Refugee Crisis | Lebanon, March (Crew: Jubair Khan) - For this trip we had a very specific brief to capture aid delivery shots from Penny Appeal’s Rapid Response program that provides Syrian Refugees displaced by the war with vital life saving essentials - food/blankets/clothes etc. The trip included three filming days - the first in Aarsal which is home to tens of thousands of refugees, the second in the Tripoli area in the north, and the last south of Beirut visiting refugees who had more ‘permanent’ accommodation.

Al-Buruj Jerusalem Trip | Palestine, June (Crew: Irfan Bostan) - We travelled to Palestine during the month of Ramadan to film a group of UK volunteers who had donated to provide charity in various forms to local beneficiaries in the Jerusalem and Bethlehem areas - this included visiting a primary school funded by donations, providing an evening meal at Al-Aqsa Mosque for pilgrims, delivering aid packages to long-term refugees and giving gifts to children suffering in hospital.

Riders of Shaam | Leicester to Luxembourg, August (Crew: Andrew Luck, Rhys Alexander) - The brief was to capture and document the journey of a team of cyclists who were riding from Leicester to Luxembourg via Holland, Belgium & Germany, including providing daily edits for social media updates and news coverage in the UK. Fortunately we were driving!

Girls’ Education | The Gambia, September (Crew: Irfan Bostan) - We were sent to The Gambia to film a bespoke promo for a campaign to get more girls into education in developing countries, filming with Swedish singer-songwriter Maher Zain. We visited girls who were living in poverty as well as girls who had been put into an education project and were reaping the benefits, aspiring to be leaders in their communities and country.

Alman Nusrat - Roots | U.S.A, October (Crew: Thomas Duffin, Rhys Alexander) - We were given the opportunity to film a documentary in the US with Alman Nusrat, a singer-songwriter who is about to release his first studio album. The purpose of the documentary was the capture the story of how he came to be the person he is, hence the title ‘Roots’. We shot in multiple locations - Connecticut, New York, Cedar Lake (Indiana) and Washington D.C.

Singer-songwriter Alman Nusrat during filming at the Cutting Room studios in New York

Singer-songwriter Alman Nusrat during filming at the Cutting Room studios in New York

Women’s Welfare | The Gambia, November (Crew: Irfan Bostan) - This was again a bespoke promo for a campaign focusing on projects which help women across the globe. The project we filmed to showcase this was a horticultural garden in rural Gambia, which had given jobs, fresh water and food and a life to women who previously found themselves with very little they could do to get themselves out of abject poverty. We also visited an area in need of a similar project to show the conditions these women live in without the help of charity.

Conquer Kilimanjaro | Tanzania, December (Crew: Andrew Luck, Jubair Khan) - You’ll likely hear a lot more about this one (and have probably already seen enough if you follow my social media). This was a real challenge to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania whilst also filming a documentary with the intent to showcase what completing a charity challenge entails - from fundraising through to the lives that are saved as a result. We filmed some of the challengers at home in the UK before going out to complete the challenge, and will be filming the results of the fundraising in 2018 to complete the documentary.

Jubair behind the lens filming with the Maasai

Jubair behind the lens filming with the Maasai

Lessons learnt and experience gained

Considering it’s the end of the year it’s a good time to look back and reflect upon what I’ve learnt about myself and my work, to recognise what I’m proud of achieving and to contemplate upon what I should look to improve on in 2018. One of the key things I’ve learned this year is that calm, clear headed thinking and problem solving is crucial to managing every project, especially in foreign countries where they may be clashes of culture, unreliable itineraries and last minute changes of plans. Each trip has taught me more on how to deal with these whilst filming and I believe it’s now become a key strength of mine to handle such situations - an achievement I’m proud of - although you never stop learning and I’m sure i’ll have plenty of challenges on the road ahead that will only act to help with improving this skill further.

I’ve also come to realise that relationships whilst working away are so critical to achieving successful results - whether it’s your crew, the subjects of your filming or your partners on the ground, having chemistry with those around you is vital. The likelihood is that as the producer you need them more than they need you - it’s your project so you need to drive it and manage it so that when you arrive back home the rushes represent a return on the investment of the trip to whoever has commissioned you to go. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some incredible people this year - from my camera/production crew (Jubair, Irfan, Rhys, Tom & Andrew) to the local partners (the whole Gambia team, Khalid in Palestine, The Awareness and Consolation Association in Lebanon, Ashante Tours in Tanzania) and the various squads of people we’ve filmed (the Riders of Shaam team, Al Buruj Volunteers, Maher Zain, Haroon Mota, the Conquer Kilimanjaro trekkers) - it’s important to understand that without each and every individual that I’ve worked with this year I wouldn’t have achieved anything, and importantly having good relationships with these people has ensured that I’ve also very much enjoyed the year!

Dealing with the discombobulation that can arise from feeling unsettled is also an issue I’ve had to learn to deal with in my personal life - travelling a lot for work as well as having a partner that currently lives in Italy means that I’m rarely at home for more than 2/3 weeks at a time and I felt around halfway through 2017 that I was almost completing ignoring my ‘UK life’, which was starting to be detrimental to my health (eating takeout constantly, never going to the gym, not seeing friends etc) - therefore change was needed. I moved into my own apartment rather than sharing so that I could have my own space to cook and clean in my own time, as well as creating more of a stable base for myself whenever I returned home. Immediately I felt the benefits, cooking more nutritious meals, actually visiting the gym once in a while and making more effort to see friends (as I’d be locked away at home alone if I didn’t…). There’s definitely still moments when I feel unsettled after returning from a trip, but I’m in a lot better place now having realised that my home life is another facet that’s vitally important to get right should you want your professional life to be a success.

I’ve not even touched on anything technical here but (if you’re still reading) I don’t think you’ll be here for that - there’s plenty of YouTube tutorials to teach you anything you want to know! However I will just mention that my camera of choice at the moment is the A7sii, which I’m really enjoying learning more and more about having only been working with it since September. I’ve found it’s great for the international trips as it’s easy and light to pack, isn’t intrusive when filming sensitive subjects and delivers some beautiful footage. Cameras used on the international productions I’ve worked with this year include Sony FS5, FS7 & A7sii, Panasonic GH4 & GH5.

Looking forward to 2018 I don’t think I’ll be travelling quite so much as there’s tonnes of projects I’d like to really progress at home in the UK, but I’m really excited about those and will make an effort through the year to provide more information on the UK stuff. There are however a couple international projects in the early stages so if they come to fruition i’m sure you’ll all be bothered by hundreds of Instagram stories and the like as and when they happen.

If you’d like to read more about the Palestine trip I’ve written a blog post that can be found here. If I find the time I might cover another of the trips, or do a brief write up covering multiple soon - and once the Kilimanjaro filming has wrapped I’ll be sure to drop a post that will regale you all with the tale of that journey.

I'd love to hear from you if you're interested in contributing to a project, or even pitching an idea you've got that you need assistance with - just send me an email (martinballeditor@gmail.com) or get in touch on social media and we'll chat and take things from there.

Penny Appeal in Palestine - Giving Aid during Ramadan by Martin Ball

In June 2017 I was given the opportunity to travel to Jerusalem to cover some charitable aid projects that were taking place in the area, funded by a group of volunteers from the UK who were spending Ramadan in the holy city.

Although it’s difficult to speak about this trip without mentioning any of the politics of the area, I’ll try to keep that out of this blog post and focus on the work we were doing there. It’s an absolutely stunning part of the world and I’d highly recommend that everyone visits there at least once in your life, regardless of your religious or non religious beliefs. I found the whole area absolutely fascinating and there’s real history on literally every single corner of wherever you visit!

The brief was to capture footage to create a series of short videos that showcased the charity work that Penny Appeal had organised over the course of a few days, these were to be a site visit for the volunteers to a primary school that receives funding from the charity, providing a meal to pilgrims at Al-Aqsa Mosque at Iftaar time, delivering aid parcels to refugees who had been displaced by the conflict in the country and finally a hospital visit to give gifts to unwell children from Gaza and the West Bank.

This trip was the first time I’d be using the Panasonic GH5 having previously been using the GH4. I won’t pretend to be an expert in cameras but I found the camera to be a bit more user friendly as I was more comfortable switching between settings quickly, and found that the image stabilisation had definitely taken a step up. I worked with Irfan Bostan again for this trip, having previously worked together in The Gambia for The Muslims are Coming.

Another adventure into the wild with Irfan Bostan

Another adventure into the wild with Irfan Bostan

Having travelled overnight and spent a few hours in the airport in the early hours passing through immigration (let’s not get into that) the first day in Jerusalem was mostly used for catching up on sleep and acclimatising to the area. We explored the super intriguing Old City area before meeting up with some of the local partners who were assisting us during the trip. The partners were really keen on showing us some YouTube videos of their previous work, which to be fair was impressive, however I think this was also the most difficult moment of the trip for me having not slept for over 30 hours - trying to not fall asleep during the presentation.

Having managed to get a good night’s sleep the first day’s work was upon us - the school visit. We made the short trip to the Mount of Olives where the school was located and commenced filming with the children and teachers ahead of the volunteer groups arrival. The children were stars and barely phased by us trouncing around with the cameras, a lot of them were in traditional dress which I don’t think is what they’d normally wear but rather what their parents had put on them knowing they were to be filmed! The volunteer group arrived shortly after and were given a presentation from the children as well as being given the chance to sit with them in the classrooms and ask them questions/help with some crafts.

The second charity project was the Iftaar meal within the grounds of Al-Aqsa. Unfortunately on the day that we arrived in Jerusalem there had been conflict between Palestinians and the Israeli defence force just outside Damascus Gate (one of the entrances to the old city) and therefore tensions were high, and as a result being a non-Muslim I was unable to enter the grounds - thus this project was left to be filmed solely by Irfan. I did however manage to film the preparation of the food before it was taken in, before being left to explore the Old City by myself in the evening. I managed to visit a lot of the important sites in this time, including the Jewish holy site of the Wailing Wall and the Christian Church of the Holy Sepulcher - where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and buried. It amazed me so much that these two sites, as well as Al-Asqa Mosque (which is the third most holy site in the religion of Islam) were so closely placed together, and it was easy to understand how this has resulted in the area seeing so much conflict - with it’s tiny streets and city walls it’s the ultimate melting pot, so much so that it actually made it seem kinda incredible that there wasn’t MORE violence here, never mind less. I think that’s an indictment of how the majority of religious people, regardless of your faith, are actually very peaceful people - it’s a shame the minority are the ones who get all the attention.

We travelled out of Jerusalem for the third charity project, which was to deliver food parcels to refugees displaced by the conflict. The aid was being given in five different locations and we were based in a camp in Bethlehem. The most striking thing about Bethlehem is of course the infamous walls that have been built around it by the Israelis, but more on them later. The set up by the local partners was to have all the refugees requiring aid registered and to give them time slots to come and collect their parcels. Having worked on a similar project in Lebanon with Syrian refugees that definitely didn’t have this system in place I could see the benefits of doing so - it made for a really controlled environment with no anger or frustration from the beneficiaries which made filming a lot easier than what it usually is for such an event. Myself and Irfan were truly humbled by the hospitable nature of the beneficiaries as we were invited into their homes to film with them and they answered questions (through translation of course) that must have been hard for them to deal with. Having been told previously that these were dangerous areas to be in there was a certain amount of apprehension at first but I soon found myself feeling comfortable to wander the streets with my camera catching footage with no concern for my safety.

After filming we were able to explore the area, visit the Church of the Nativity - where it is believed that Jesus was born, and to see some of the graffiti on the walls, including the now infamous Banksy artwork that exists there. It’s obviously an extremely politically charged area, and considering there had been conflict just days beforehand I expected it to be extremely tense here. It was to an extent, but like I mentioned, I felt completely comfortable in the presence of all who lived there.

Banksy's Dove, Bethlehem

Banksy's Dove, Bethlehem

The last charity project we were there to document was the trip to visit the children in hospital and give them presents. This project was such a small thing and as such before the visit I felt a little pained to be filming and presenting it, as I believed that the children would need so much more than presents - however, having experienced the project first hand it was amazing to see the effect it had on not only the children, but also the staff that were working there and the parents of the ill children. A large percentage of the children were from Gaza and as such had to leave all their family behind and travel only with their mothers, who would then be completely cut off from seeing their families whilst they were in hospital, so for them to see and interact with the volunteers and to receive presents was a massive break for them and a real enjoyment, which was clear from the smiles and emotion displayed from everyone that we met there.

Following the charitable work we were given the chance to explore some of the other parts of the country to film some content to be used on social media (this content hasn’t yet been edited so unfortunately isn’t showcased here). Having been brought up in a Christian household it was crazy to be given the chance to visit a large proportion of the settings for stories from the Bible. Thanks to our legendary local guide Khalid we were able to visit Jericho, The Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee and Acca. 

On route to Jericho Khalid stopped the car in seemingly a remote location in the rocky/desert landscape and said he had something he wanted to show us. I set the camera up and followed him up the hill, Irfan at this point had motored on ahead (must have presumed there was a cafe at the top). When Irfan reached the top he yelled back that I wouldn't believe what you could see from the top - intrigued I doubled my efforts to arrive at the summit of the hill and he was right, the view from the top was absolutely stunning, looking into the canyon to see the Monastery of St George above the Wadi Qelt river below. I genuinely can never remember a time I’ve ever been taken back so much by something of sheer beauty! This was followed by a stop at a mosque where some Muslims believe the Prophet Moses is buried, and subsequently known as the mosque where Irfan cracked his head on a wall…

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A photo opportunity in front of the Monastery in Wadi Qelt (above), and Irfan's war wound in Nabi Musa

A photo opportunity in front of the Monastery in Wadi Qelt (above), and Irfan's war wound in Nabi Musa

It’s really hard to sum up this day into words as it’s hard to think of a day where i’ve been more overwhelmed by scenery and history, so I’ll try to keep this short and not so emotional.. After the mosque we travelled by cable car to the Mount of Temptation, where it is believed that Jesus spent 40 days and nights fasting and facing temptations from the devil - there we visited a Greek Orthodox monastery built into the mountain (honestly it’s unbelievable how incredible literally EVERYTHING is in this place) and spoke briefly with a Greek man who had left his life to live out his remaining years in isolation in the monastery. We also ended up intruding on an American family who seemed to be having a very holy moment beside the rock where it is believed Jesus sat for the final temptations.

Our last visit for the day’s exploring was to travel down the west ‘coast’ of the Dead Sea. The colour of the sea against the rocky terrain that surrounds it is such a beautiful contrast and made it so much fun to film, as every shot made you feel like some kind of superstar videographer, although I almost found myself slightly depressed during this visit, as it was clear to see the effect humans have had on this area with the sea level now far below that of what it once was, and a failed tourist area with it’s handful of hotels, fast food outlets and a half built abandoned shopping outlet blighting the stunning views. We saw what were supposed to be the remnants of the lost city of Sodom here, made famous by the religious tale of Lot. 

The Dead Sea, with Jordan (the hazy cliffs on the left) in the background

The Dead Sea, with Jordan (the hazy cliffs on the left) in the background

I can’t believe I’ve detailed that day without mentioning the heat - it was like 50 degrees in some areas I swear, I’ve never felt anything like it. Thank god for water!

Our second day of exploring was slightly more chilled considering everything we’d packed into the previous day, and took us to visit the Sea of Galilee, famous for Jesus’ life and countless stories based on it’s shores. I felt so privileged to be exploring these areas of such historical as well as religious significance, and found it to be incredible to be present in the place where all of these stories originated from. I’d love to be able to return here to film a series that tells the stories of Jesus more deeply, as I feel a lot is lost when they are simply read from a book or illustrated with pictures rather than set in the actual location, if that makes any sense. Following this we visited the picturesque northern coastal town of Acca, where we filmed a local mosque inside the most intriguing town centre that was full of walls and passageways, like a maze built out of houses and religious buildings. 

The coastal town of Acca

The coastal town of Acca

Our last day in Palestine was spent in the Old City of Jerusalem and it’s surrounding areas. We filmed with a young Armenian Christian whose family owned a traditional pottery shop. He told us that his grandfather had arrived in Palestine having been brought over by the British to renovate Al-Aqsa’s Dome of the Rock. Like most people we spoke to he was sad over the conflict that plagues the country but was now a proud Palestinian and happy to call the country his home.

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

I arrived in Palestine trying to not have any pre-conceived thoughts on the country, or Israel’s claim to the land and found myself leaving with a hive of thoughts, some anger but also a slight depression of not knowing what solution there could be for the area. We were treated incredibly well by every Palestinian person that we met and made to feel welcome wherever we went, which was such a stark contrast to how we were made to feel whenever we were in the presence of Israelis. I don’t want to start saying who is right or who is wrong as I’m not nearly qualified enough but I believe you can make judgements based on your own experiences. I’ll end it there by noting that whatever side you take, it’s an unbelievable shame that somewhere so beautiful is so plagued by these devastating issues.

Martin

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