Work is therapy – Mazin Qumsiyeh

This past week was rich with experiences, feelings, and had its ups and
downs. I share things sometimes because our human experiences are similar
and our emotions and responses to the rapidly changing world around us
compels us to share and work together. World wildlife day and Palestinian
Prisoner day passed on us this week. One prisoner just released, spent
35 years in jail and it was touching to see him visit his mother’s grave
for the first time.  We remembered thousands of Political prisoners in
Israeli jails and we remembered we need to stop harming people and nature
(they are intertwined). Thoughts can be depressing and our only remedy is

The week for us at the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and
Sustainability was especially exciting as finished a crowdfunding campaign
whose target of $5000 was exceeded (raised $7709 for children space) and
had a number of webinars  including one where we discussed how we respond
to Climate Change in our region (two other speakers were from Turkey and
Iran). Online discussions were also held with museum leaders from other
countries (Jamaica, Zimbabwe, Georgia) on how we promote cultural heritage.
We try to do our (volunteer) work despite enormous challenges of
occupation/colonization  (including the mental type that makes people less
motivated or apathetic). But more land confiscation and more indifference
globally as the dangers keep getting more palpable (climate change,
colonization, risk of catastrophic wars, famines). So many needy people and
so many imperiled earth ecosystems!

We worked this week on a new project to facilitate sustainable tourism in
Cremisan Valley. The valley is being targeted for colonial settlement
expansion (Gilo and Har Gilo sit on both sides of it). The Cremisan
Monastery and the people of Al-Walaja are trapped, The valley is rich in
biodiversity (we discovered many rare and endemic species of plants and
animals in it). We scheduled a first test tour of children in the area to
study nature. But we had to contend with Israeli soldiers blocking the road
on that day (Friday) and thus potentially canceling the event. I
volunteered to go talk to the soldiers and after some give and take I was
given the green light and told the staff to get the people there. The
activity went on superbly and the children really enjoyed and learned
(pictures at

Work is therapy . We got our paper on rare plants in the West Bank Accepted
in the upcoming volume on imperiled ecosystems. This si part f our
scientific work funded by among others the Critical Ecosystem Partnership

We had a meeting (I facilitated a breakout group) about the upcoming
restructuring at Bethlehem University. This restructuring is necessitated
by challenges of administration and drying up of resources. To change
yourself, your institution or your country really requires that first you
believe in the need of (revolutionary) change, have courage to pursue it
(empowerment/self emancipation), and be willing to face inevitable
setbacks, Playing it safe is not a good option. I was also thinking of
several young people I know who suffer depressive attitudes and share with
them a bit of life experiences. (see also ).
What matters most is actually doing things including making mistakes. Being
present, trying over and over again, and always keeping hope alive. Work is

Some of us are fasting Ramadan even those who are not Muslim find it good
for both body and soul. My late grandmother Emilia Matar born in Nazareth
used to fast Ramadans which also inspired us. She was a really giving
person. Never thought about her own self. Raised 8 children (including my
mother who is now 89) really well. I see her in my mother’s eyes and in her
actions daily.

Finally, three members of our team (I, Rami, and Mohammad Najajrah) went up
to Jenin Yesterday where we bought some bees and got some donated to us
from Nasser Jaradat (who heads a beekeeper association). He also grows
interesting and exotic plants. See

The weather is turning hot and there is much work to be done in the garden
(planting, watering etc). I try to do at least one hour of garden work
daily. Being Sunday I did 2 hours. Jessie and Zohar and others work really
hard. I wish more people join us in these activities. Resentment and hate
do not help.  Doing something positive is therapy for all that ails our
society. Lighting a candle is better than cursing the darkness.

I am getting older (not sure if any wiser) and I only hope the new
generation I have been working with inherit our work and better handle
challenges than my generation.

Stay Human

Mazin Qumsiyeh
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home
Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine
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