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Better to see with your own eyes than those of others-IAIN AKERMAN.

Excuse me while I go off on a tangent from which I may not return.

A few years ago I travelled the length and breadth of the West Bank, from Jenin in the

north to Hebron in the south. Like those I travelled with, I believed it was better to see with your own eyes the reality of Palestinian dispossession, suffering and poverty than to listen to the words of others.To see Israeli injustice first hand, not through the distorted lens of Western media.

We volunteered here and there, slept on floors, ate endlessly and wandered through the labyrinthine streets and alleyways of Nablus. We helped with the Cinema Jenin project, an ambitious renovation scheme that sought to provide a centre of culture and entertainment for one of the West Bank's most troubled cities, and got lost in Bethlehem.

During the day we would unload trucks, clear debris, mix cement, paint, saw and dig. During the evening we would talk, drink and smoke into the early hours of the morning. It was then that that life in Jenin would slide into focus, often through the simplest of things.

Cinema Jenin was nothing more than an empty shell when we first arrived.There were holes in the roof, bird nests in the eaves, and neglect had left the walls pockmarked and bare.The screen had long since been taken down, and up in the projectionist's room a dusty old projector sat unloved. The only clues that the cinema was about to be brought back to life were a stack of breeze blocks and the odd bag of cement, both of which were placed outside the cinema opposite the town's main bus station.

During the day we would unload trucks, clear debris, mix cement, paint, saw and dig. During the evening we would talk, drink and smoke into the early hours of the morning. It was then that that life in Jenin would slide into focus, often through the simplest of things.

The full story of Cinema Jenin is too complicated to explain here and subsequent events led to murder and discontent. An article published in Hretz last August described Cinema Jenin as a' West Bank tragedy', although the renovated cinema has somehow managed to keep going.

Why am I telling you this? For two reasons. Firstly, because I hold firmly on to the belief that every contribution counts, no matter how small and even if you ultimately fail. At least you tried.

Seondly, many of the problems that afflicted the Cinema Jenin project resulted from miscommunication and a failure to engage with the population at large in a meaningful and sustained way. I'll probably be accused of over-simplification of an extremely complex and troubled situation, but ideas are nothing if not communicated well. In extreme circumstances such as Cinema Jenin they can lead to death, abandonment and self-imposed exile. In our world of brands and advertising, failure is nowhere near as severe. But the principals remain the same.

I hold firmly on to the belief that every contribution counts, no matter how small and even if you ultimately fail

iain@motivate.ae twitter@campaignME

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Publication:Campaign Middle East
Date:Apr 21, 2013
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