Friendship and Twinning

“In a year when most of our friendships have been ‘remote’ ones, it’s hard to think of a more opportune or important time to build friendships with the people of Palestine.” Amos trustee Madeleine McGivern writes about making friends in Palestine.

In a year when most of our friendships have been ‘remote’ ones, it’s hard to think of a more opportune or important time to build friendships with the people of Palestine.

For anyone who has ever had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land, you’ll know that warmth, friendship and camaraderie seems to come easily to many in this place. You arrive in a town, a village, a house or a garden, and countless cups of strong cardamom-scented coffee later, you finally leave feeling like you’ve known the people you just met, for years.

Graffiti on the Israeli Separation Wall in Bethlehem

Graffiti on the Israeli Separation Wall in Bethlehem
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Feeling like they have welcomed you into their home or their community with generosity of spirit, and with bread fresh from the tabun and olives from the trees nearby. The stories you’ve heard have probably made you cry, but you’ve probably laughed a lot too. The children have grinned and asked for their photos taken or smiled shyly from behind their mothers, the offers of food have never stopped and you, more likely or not, feel compelled to try to do something to help challenge the situation that all Palestinians contend with everyday — living with and under the illegal military Israeli Occupation of their lands.

For anyone who has ever had the privilege of visiting the Holy Land, you’ll know that warmth, friendship and comradery seems to come easily to many in this place.

Where do you start? One of the things you can do is build friendship or twinning links between Palestine and the UK. These links are connections between people, set up to exchange experiences, share culture, develop friendships and express solidarity.

Connections are often place-based (e.g. the sister city link between Derby and Hebron, or the friendship link between Liverpool or Bil’in), but can also be based on a shared interest such as cooking, cycling, shared religious beliefs or links between music, arts, sports and education groups. All these connections have one thing in common — a focus, as Mona from Salfit (linked in friendship with Totnes), says “on finding and being aware of our common humanity.”

Visitors to Palestine from the UK picking olives in the West Bank

An Amos group from the UK visiting Palestine to join the olive harvest
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Twinning and friendship with Palestine is an important way to show support, engage with, listen to, and learn from people who are affected by the Israeli Occupation, and to find out how to help change things, from people in Palestine directly. Zoughbi Zoughbi, from Amos Trust partner Wi’am, spoke recently at a friendship and twinning conference and encouraged us all to “meet, listen, and exchange ideas to recharge our batteries and to travel together on the less travelled road of justice and peace. We should not feel alone. Days like this...” he said, “give us hope”.

Friendship or twinning is a wonderful and constructive way to show your support, solidarity and appreciation of Palestinian people and their culture. It is a two-way learning, sharing and exchange process between people from both Britain and Palestine. People learn about each other’s music, jobs, food, art and culture; about their families and their festivals, their hopes and dreams, their worries and their hardships.

Twinning and friendship with Palestine is an important way to show support, engage with, listen to, and learn from people who are affected by the Israeli Occupation.

It’s about real relationships — focusing on human connections and building friendships between people from all walks of life. In the words of one friendship group member from Hanwell Friends of Sabastiya, “my friends in Palestine have become like family. I want for them what I want for myself, my family, my community. Everything. It's an incredibly powerful feeling.”

Madeleien McGivern from the UK with a Palestinian friend

Madeleine McGivern and friend cooking together in Bethlehem
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Friendship and twinning offers hope, raises awareness and gets the stories of real people who are affected by the Israeli Occupation every day, heard in the UK. It’s not always easy. Often people feel like they can’t commit enough time, or that their actions are not big or influential enough to make a difference.

“My friends in Palestine have become like family. I want for them what I want for myself, my family, my community. Everything. It’s an incredibly powerful feeling.”

Sometimes communication is tricky — speaking different languages across different time zones, and trying to keep friendship alive with all the pressures of the Occupation bearing down on Palestinians — can mean things sometimes move slowly or not at all.

But as Amos Trust believes, we don’t have the luxury of despair in the face of injustice. Those of us already involved in friendship and twinning know it takes some effort and commitment, and plenty of good humour! As Mahmoud Darwish put it, “we suffer from an incurable malady: hope”.

To find out more about building or joining a friendship link with Palestine please get in touch with the Britain Palestine Friendship and Twinning Network.

Madeleine McGivern




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