My name is Gustavo Juber and I am a Italo-Brazilian third-year student from TAMK. At the moment I am doing my Erasmus exchange at Al-Quds University studying Human Rights even though my main topic is Media and Arts. I have enrolled in two courses here, Human Rights and Philosophy plus Image Studies. Even though my main scope of work is related to photography, I feel that human rights is deeply connected through art and understanding this is crucial for my work.
Al-Quds University is situated in Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. Abu Dis has a population of 20.000 citizens and in the 90’ (or beginning of 00’) there were discussions to transform Abu-Dis into the capital of Palestine, which did not happen. In addition, it is safe to say that for Palestinians this is considered a bad joke. Still, the parliament was built and nowadays is just an abandoned building at the beginning of the city.
I feel that students here have a completely different understanding of life due to the situation in Palestine and what they face every day. I see and experience many interesting talks. In one of my first classes, we discuss the right to take his/her own life. And there were interesting discussions (harsh, to say the least) that made me think a lot about the practicalities of life. In addition, there are the religious aspects that many of the students carry alongside them and this is reflected in the classes. I feel that the students must be strong here. Not only because of the topics they are studying (most of the topics are related to the occupation) but also practical life aspects. Arriving at the university can take 30 min to 3 hours (if you are situated in Bethlehem for example). It is normal to take every day as a single day. There is no way to tell if something will happen and if there will be obstructions. Or maybe it can happen that the IOF will shoot tear gas bombs at the university during your study time.
In my free time here, I have been going around Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Abu Dis, etc. Specially Bethlehem, not only because of the historicity of Bethlehem but because of Dheisheh Camp, one of the oldest refugee camps in Palestine. I was able to be quite close to that community, joining them on walks, meetings, and even gardening in their neighborhood.
Life in Palestine is quite expensive. I pay more rent here than I pay in Finland and my shower sometimes doesn’t work. Still, food is way cheaper in comparison to Finland, not to mention that the taste of it is at least 10 times better.
I have made a lot of friends and have been able to take a lot of photographs and interact with people here in Abu Dis. Most of the time (if not all the time) Palestinians are quite welcoming. One thing that I still think that it is funny is that they often ask me to take pictures of them but after I take the picture they just leave, there’s no exchange of contacts or anything like that. They just want that I have a picture of them. And I feel that this is quite poetic. Basically, this is what we do when we enter and leave someone’s life. Everything is fast-paced and there are only a few seconds to make sense (or memory) of what we experienced. We can keep it in our minds and that’s all we need.