From Melrose to Nablus – Meghan takes steps to spread hope in Palestine

WHEN Meghan Thom from Melrose introduces a thought-provoking film documentary about Palestine in the town's Wynd Theatre next month, she will do so with the benefit of personal experience.

For the 20-year-old student has recently returned to the Borders after spending three months of her gap year working in the Middle East with the health education and humanitarian organisation Project Hope.

The former Melrose Grammar and Earlston High School pupil, who will soon be heading off to university in London to study anthropology, began her adventure in February, staying for a week with friends in Israel before three weeks’ volunteering at Al-Shurooq, a school for blind and visually-impaired children in Bethlehem. It is a facility strongly supported by Melrose Parish Church.

And then it was on to Nablus on the troubled West Bank, where she taught English and dance, mostly to university students and housewives.

At the Wynd on Friday, August 7, she will talk briefly about her time in the Palestinian city as a prelude to the screening at 8pm of the award-winning documentary Bil’in Habibti.

Admission is 5, 2 of which will be donated to Project Hope.

The film was made by Israeli peace activist Shai Carmeli-Pollack and tells the story of a village which is split in two by the infamous demarcation wall which the Israelis have been constructing within the West Bank.

Carmeli-Pollack chronicles the moment in time when the two sides came together to halt the wall’s construction amid the region’s political turmoil.

Focusing on one of the village’s local committee members and a farmer who risks losing much of his land to the proposed barrier, the documentary examines how these leaders are able to communicate and eventually work with a group of Israeli activists.

“The film, while showing what can be achieved by cooperation, also provides a taste of the awful things that are happening to the Palestinian people,” said Meghan, who pulls no punches in her appraisal of who is culpable.

“I think what Israel is doing in Palestine is highly unjustified, given their military might. Israel has really nothing to fear from Palestine because it is very difficult to get weapons into the West Bank or Gaza and the rockets they [the Palestinians] fire are pretty pathetic.

“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Israel is taking unfair and illegal measures to secure land and power for themselves and, for the most part, no-one is standing in their way.”

Meghan said that an Israeli soldier she befriended confided that Nablus was the most dangerous place to be posted.

“There are seven checkpoints in and out and the city is considered to be an A Zone, which means it is both governed and secured by the Palestinian Authority.

“But there is also an unofficial agreement that the Israeli army takes over at night so they come in almost every night and arrest and harass people and throw bombs in the street.

“The documentary provides a taste of the horrendous things the citizens have to endure, including the infamous wall.”

Meghan believes the West has generally turned a blind eye to what is going on with the US and European Union classifying Hamas, which defeated rivals Palestinian party Fatah at elections in 2007 and still governs Gaza, as a terrorist organisation.

“In Scotland, we are not so bad and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign is pretty strong,” said Meghan. “Dundee is actually twinned with Nablus and a Borders primary school is supporting a school in Gaza, while Book Aid International, the main charity at this year’s Borders Book Festival, also works in Palestine.”

Meghan hopes her presentation and the film will further raise awareness in the Borders.

“People can support Palestine by writing letters, signing petitions or even just buying Palestinian products like olive oil at the fair trade shop in Melrose,” she added.