Mazin’s report from Palestine

Image: Lach and Ian preparing for the 2021 Big Ride for Palestine. They are at the Nudgee Beach Biodiversity reserve.

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, spent35 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 work.

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 ofoccupation/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 andso 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. 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 Fund

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 therapy.

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
19 April ’21
A bedouin in cyberspace, a villager at home Professor, Founder, and (volunteer) Director Palestine Museum of Natural History Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and SustainabilityBethlehem UniversityOccupied Palestine


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