My involvement with Palestine began in 1992, became more concrete from 1998, intensified from 2002, fully committed by 2009 and now I can't extricate myself! I've become part of the lives of many people young and old, and what I do out there has grown wider and deeper - less to do with carrying out specific tasks and roles, and more to do with playing a part in projects, events and people's lives, part of the scenery.
My main focus and base has been the Hope Flowers School and Center for Education and Community Development in Bethlehem, where I work as an adviser, webmaster and outreach editor. But I do plenty of other things too.
This humanitarian work involves several main activities:
Webmaster and English-language outreach editor, to help Palestinian people and organisations state their message well.
Strategic ideas, perspectives and solutions for individuals, groups and NGOs.
Counsel, emotional and spiritual support for peacemakers, humanitarians and social leaders, to keep them going under difficult circumstances.
Photography: giving the wider world a look at real life in the Holy Land, beyond stereotype and prejudice.
- Beavering away in the background: fixing and facilitating things, sometimes financing them, sometimes making a critical difference and sometimes being part of a process or team.
I feel I make a greater contribution to society in Palestine than in my own country, and people are grateful for my presence and input. One thing I've had to learn is that it's not really about what I do, it's about being there for people. One person simply said, "Palden, when you're here, we feel safer".
Bethlehem is like a second hometown to me. Except I cannot live there permanently, for visa reasons. Also, since my main contribution is offering clarity, insight and perspective, it's best to remain something of an outsider so that I can best contribute what I'm really good at.
See my book Pictures of Palestine - a humanitarian blogging from Bethlehem (published 2012).
Some Israelis think I'm anti-Semitic. No, I'm pro-human, dedicated to helping those who suffer most. Israelis aren't the only people who are important in this equation.