The Great Green Ribbon

The Great Green Ribbon

The Great Green Ribbon is an ambitious environmental art project that will involve the planting of
over 72,000 trees stretching as a ribbon across the Palestinian West Bank. It will be coordinated by a
Palestinian community centre based in Tulkarem, and in the UK by the volunteer charity GapArt.
It has taken years to plan the route and obtain permissions from landowners and interested parties.
Thanks to overwhelming local support from individuals, schools, municipal authorities, local
environmentalists and farmers, the first stage is now ready for planting.

A ribbon of rebirth

The Ribbon will stretch across ancient biblical lands, from the oasis of Bal’a on the edge of the
ancient town of Tulkarm to the oasis of Attara on the fringe of Jenin. This initial section will be eight
kilometres in length, winding its way through the Ahrash Bal’a Hills. Stages two and three are
planned to extend the ribbon an additional 20 kilometres to the oasis of Bir al-Basha. The success of
these stages will determine the timing and course of the final stage from Jenin to Jericho.
This is an area of rugged and wild beauty. It was forested in the past but conflict, initially the Six Day
war of 1967, decimated the area. More recently there have been pressures from Israeli settlers and a
growing population of Palestinian people. Areas have been clear felled for farming and building and
the mismanaged land today is a sad reflection of its previous glory. There is, however, tremendous
local support to have it replanted with locally grown, fruit-bearing trees.
Finally the ribbon will extend a whole 120km to the biblical city of Jericho. A great green ribbon of
72,000 trees.

Biodiversity, food security and education

The Great Green Ribbon will create an ecological corridor, increasing the biodiversity and resilience
of the pockets of fauna and flora that have become isolated. The project also enhances the work of
the Palestinian community centre Logica that provides support for women’s farming groups across
the West Bank.
Through the planting of appropriate species, another goal is to achieve food security in a land that
struggles to trade with the outside world.
Further providing long-term hope is the overwhelming support of children from the 17 local schools
and colleges located along the Ribbon’s course. This will additionally be an educa0onal project
raising awareness of the benefits of trees and environmental restoration. The involvement of local
students and communities will provide a renewed sense of ownership and pride in a some0mes
neglected land.
The first trees will be two- and three-year-old apricot, cherry and citrus varieties, interspersed with
hardy acacia and cactus. These have been grown from seed by women’s agricultural groups in
Tulkarem and Jenin. The planting and aftercare will be supervised by foresters from the municipal
government and undertaken by students, schoolchildren, women’s groups and international
volunteers.

Creating a difference through art

This project will have massive environmental benefits, including carbon sequestration, hydrology and
biodiversity. It will link isolated pockets of wildlife and provide food security as well as educational
benefits.
However it is also intrinsically an epic art project – a highly visible and meaningful statement. This
huge but delicate green ribbon winding its fragile path across a troubled land will help bring
communities together and provide a strong symbol of lasting hope.

Making the Ribbon a reality

The initial 1,000 trees have been kindly donated by the Bal’a municipal community council and
planting will begin in the next suitable season, which runs from November 2022 – March 2023. We
now require volunteer support from people who can join us in the West Bank for a minimum period
of a week. We also need donations to help this vital project.
With local and international support, the expense of plan0ng is kept to a minimum. The cost of each
young tree grown from seeds gathered in the West Bank is £10. This money provides a living for the
Palestinian women that grow the saplings from seed in the local tree nurseries.
Two trees are needed every five metres to create the Ribbon, which works out at 3,200 trees for the
first section of eight kilometres.

How you can help – sponsor the trees

Palestinian Cultural Exchange.  July –  August 2018

This is a three week summer  exchange program designed to promote mutual understanding and enhance leadership skills for both Palestinians and internationals. It will also provides an opportunity to experience local life in Palestine. We are looking for just seven to ten volunteers who are highly interested in interacting with youth and children in Palestine.

The project is based in the ancient city of Tulkarm in the West Bank.

 

Volunteer Work and Objectives

To enhance cultural exchange amongst young people. It aims to provide international volunteers with an opportunity to interact with local people in Palestine, while sharing their own culture with Palestinian youth.

Activities

Mornings will begin with yoga and group meditations. After a ‘freshly produced breakfast work will begin.   It will include teaching English, the arts, theatre, games and sports to local children. Trips will be arranged to local sites particularly the ones of biblical interest.

Costs and Application

The £950 cost for the three week experience includes local coordination and support, transport, airport pick up, meals, accommodation with a local family and activities. It does not cover the cost of flights or travel insurance.

Applicants need to be aged 21 or older and submit a GapArt application form along with a personal statement. The group size is strictly limited so we urge you to make an application as soon as possible. This will be particularly attractive to volunteers with an interest in the Middle East, the arts and cultural exchange.

Young people in the West Bank town of Tulkarm suffer from the stress of regular Israeli incursions into their homes and into many aspects of their lives. Due to travel restrictions they have extremely limited ability to participate in sports, they cannot enjoy the arts and are unable to express themselves in ways that most people in western countries take for granted. Stress, upset and frustration can be bottled up and lead to long term traumas going into adulthood.

GapArt works in close conjunction with Logica, a Palestinian Private Community Centre whose aim is to reduce tension and aggression in the educational system through sports, debate and the arts. The sports and debating programmes are expanding with excellent results in 22 West Bank schools. GapArt has been asked to assist with the art and performing arts project.

Initially we need volunteers to run a series of workshops for young students based in the Tulkarm area. The pilot scheme has been successful and we were inundated with so many eager participants that our art teachers had to turn people away. Our art programme aims to reduce conflict among children from different backgrounds (towns, villages, and refugee camps) and integrate them through art workshops, sharing their fears, their challenges, their opinions and their dreams.

In our pilot programme we were overwhelmed with enthusiasm and delighted in the results achieved in just a few days. We were also moved by the discussions and language of the students.

We now need volunteers with art skills to run workshops for our numerous eager, budding artists. The aim is to improve their skills, give them a means of expressing themselves and to enjoy art for art’s sake. Volunteers are needed for periods of a week to three months from 1st July – 30 September.

For further details, see our Palestine country page. Then simply contact us or complete the application form.

El Hamshari is a wonderful, thriving school for 500 girls aged 10–14 in the centre of Tulkarm. The head teacher Mrs Shafiqa speaks good English and is very keen to expand the rather narrow curriculum that the girls currently follow. Due to a lack of space, resources and teachers, sport, art, music and drama have been neglected for several years. Severe travel restrictions caused by the wall exacerbate the situation, the girls suffer from daily trauma and little room is allowed for the release of energy. It is recognised that art can be a powerful tool for the healing of trauma and expression of anxiety.

GapArt has been asked to bring volunteer artists to the school to teach both art and drama to the girls. Most of the art work would take place outside and would be a combination of teaching and creating permanent murals on the rather drab external walls. Both the girls and staff seem enthusiastic to support this but need volunteers with art skills to get the project off the ground. Supervision and all the materials would be provided by our Tulkarm coordinator. We just need you. The best time would be for a few weeks at some point between September and April as part of an ongoing project.

For further details, see our Palestine country page. Then simply contact us or complete the application form.

Kadoorie University on the edge of Tulkarm was established as an agricultural college during the time of the British Palestinian Mandate in the 1930s. As such it is one of the oldest colleges in Palestine. It has maintained its land-based courses and became a fully-fledged university in 2007 with specialist faculties in agriculture, energy research and veterinary science. It has approximately 7,000 students.

Student life is constantly disrupted by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and in recent years the campus was divided by the wall. Academics have been inventive in finding ways around curfews and continue to produce good students with some excellent results.

To the distress of both staff and students, parts of the campus are regularly used as training grounds for the Israeli army. In 2016 there were 83 campus invasions by Israeli soldiers who did their best to intimidate and provoke. During protests about this, Palestinian students have been arrested and detained. Not only is the wall a physical barrier, it is also a constant reminder of the suppression and restrictions on daily life that Palestinians feel.

GapArt volunteers have been asked to coordinate a wall painting project working alongside Palestinian students and artists. This has been successfully achieved in other areas such as Jerusalem, where wall graffiti has been humorous, political and aesthetic. The Banksy Walled Off Hotel and associated wall graffiti is a prime example of this. Regardless of the actual artwork it can raise awareness of the aggressive, unfair divide that the wall creates.

For periods of two or three weeks, in a well-organised programme you would work with Palestinian students on the university campus side of the wall creating works of wall art that are likely to be viewed by human rights groups across the world. This is a benign form of artistic protest against the infringement of human rights that the wall creates.

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” Nelson Mandela

Volunteers with metal and welding skills have also been asked to turn old Israeli ordinance and wrecked vehicles into works of art that could be placed alongside the wall as the central piece of a weapons into art protest project.

The best time to support this project would be between January and April when the academic calendar is at its quietest.

For further details, see our Palestine country page. Then simply contact us or complete the application form.