The video itself is self explanatory. My journey began with Manal. I met Manal many moons ago when she first opened an Arabic restaurant not far from where I live in Coventry. After my first visit, I was hooked. It had the food that I loved to eat when I visited Egypt and that ‘laid back’ Arab atmosphere. Back then, shisha pipes could be smoked among diners adding to the exotic in the air. This place soon became my favorite restaurant and Manal soon became a friend. I can vividly remember the Million Candles campaign and the pain Manal went through, yet I could still keep an impartial distance. This was a conflict I didn’t understand, and also didn’t really take the time to find out about….as long as it didn’t affect me eh?
Fast forward a few years and as Manal began talking about her dreams to taking people there to visit. To not be like a charity, but to just be. To give a little bit of your time in exchange for sharing an experience of living with the Palestinian people and their generosity.
After the first visit Manal did with 4 others, another trip was soon born which was taken in November of last year where 15 people joined her. I unfortunately couldn’t make that trip but what really interested me was that they were taking a little Christmas spirit to Bethlehem, a place which is apparently grey and dull during the time the world’s Christians will be thinking of there, whilst the rest of the world is festooned with glitz, glitter and lights. Manal arranged a carnival in the town over the 24th 25th and 26th November, bringing Christmas cheer a month early. Local children made masks from recyled material. Although I am not religious per-se, I really hate the way Christmas has become a materialistic pastime, to me this was the true meaning of Christmas, sharing and bringing happiness.
My mind was made up then to join a trip to Palestine and when the dates were decided for this years visit, I had no hesitation in booking my flight.
I need to raise no money, I need to join no organisation…all I need is me, an open mind and the gift of love to share….