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Return to Susya
Kate Laycock--Forwarded by the Villages Group on July 3, 2011--For more on the Villages Group see http://villagesgroup.wordpress.com/about/

Kate Laycock is a free-lance journalist and theatre maker based in Düsseldorf
Return to Susya/ Kate Laycock

To a visitor from Europe, the Palestinian village of Susya should feel strange and alien. After all, it is a tent-dwelling community living in one of the most deprived and difficult areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Life here is tough. Water shortages, an intrusive military presence and the constant threat of demolition are facts of everyday life.

Nevertheless, it feels like home.

It’s a strange thing, but Susya felt like home right from the very start. I first visited the village back in November 2010. I didn’t stay long, just a couple of days. There was something, however, about the spontaneity of the place which was immediately appealing. I think it probably had to do with the willingness of individual families to welcome me into their homes, and the openness with which we were able to exchange information about our different lives. I also loved the way in which a car radio could become the trigger for an impromptu evening of dance, and a tea-drinking session could expand to include half the village. Then there was the ‘Susya Centre’, a neutral space where men, women and children all seemed to feel equally at ease. Start an activity in the centre, and within ten minutes you’d have ten children jostling to be involved and probably as many adults looking in to see if you could cope! It was, in short, the kind of place I knew I wanted come back to.

Having now lived amongst the Susya community for almost two weeks, I know that its dynamics are rather more complicated than those initial impressions would suggest. As with all families, there are disagreements and rivalries, alliances and affinities. There are also hierarchies based on age and gender, with the women bearing the brunt of the physical burden of child care and subsistence farming. Even the neutrality of the ‘Susya Centre’ is fragile, championed by a small group of young men and women struggling to communicate an abstract dream to a community busy dealing with the concrete realities of survival under occupation.

Nevertheless, it still feels like home.

My initial impressions have been deepened and expanded, but essentially they remain the same. The spontaneity, the inter-generational co-operation, the openness and the generosity which I experienced as a visitor are in fact essential elements of everyday life in Susya. Waking up in a family tent to see tiny children getting themselves ready for school or sitting in the centre stapling leaflets with helpers aged 5 to 50, I can’t help feeling that this community has something which my own community lacks. “Why did you come back?” I was asked by one of my Palestinian contemporaries. “I liked you,” I said truthfully.


Kate Laycock is a free-lance journalist and theatre maker based in Düsseldorf
Return to Susya/ Kate Laycock

To a visitor from Europe, the Palestinian village of Susya should feel strange and alien. After all, it is a tent-dwelling community living in one of the most deprived and difficult areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Life here is tough. Water shortages, an intrusive military presence and the constant threat of demolition are facts of everyday life.

Nevertheless, it feels like home.

It’s a strange thing, but Susya felt like home right from the very start. I first visited the village back in November 2010. I didn’t stay long, just a couple of days. There was something, however, about the spontaneity of the place which was immediately appealing. I think it probably had to do with the willingness of individual families to welcome me into their homes, and the openness with which we were able to exchange information about our different lives. I also loved the way in which a car radio could become the trigger for an impromptu evening of dance, and a tea-drinking session could expand to include half the village. Then there was the ‘Susya Centre’, a neutral space where men, women and children all seemed to feel equally at ease. Start an activity in the centre, and within ten minutes you’d have ten children jostling to be involved and probably as many adults looking in to see if you could cope! It was, in short, the kind of place I knew I wanted come back to.

Having now lived amongst the Susya community for almost two weeks, I know that its dynamics are rather more complicated than those initial impressions would suggest. As with all families, there are disagreements and rivalries, alliances and affinities. There are also hierarchies based on age and gender, with the women bearing the brunt of the physical burden of child care and subsistence farming. Even the neutrality of the ‘Susya Centre’ is fragile, championed by a small group of young men and women struggling to communicate an abstract dream to a community busy dealing with the concrete realities of survival under occupation.

Nevertheless, it still feels like home.

My initial impressions have been deepened and expanded, but essentially they remain the same. The spontaneity, the inter-generational co-operation, the openness and the generosity which I experienced as a visitor are in fact essential elements of everyday life in Susya. Waking up in a family tent to see tiny children getting themselves ready for school or sitting in the centre stapling leaflets with helpers aged 5 to 50, I can’t help feeling that this community has something which my own community lacks. “Why did you come back?” I was asked by one of my Palestinian contemporaries. “I liked you,” I said truthfully.
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