Technically, my house in Israel is about a four hours drive away from Damascus.
In reality, google maps tells me that in order to get there, I will have to drive trough Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq – which would take 42 hours.
Israel shares a border with Syria. Throughout the civil war there have even been several cases where the fighting was dripping into Israel. There are areas where we can actually see and hear the war. There are hundreds of Syrians that got medical treatment in Israel – but despite all of that I still had to go to Germany in order to meet Syrian refugees.
On the first day of the PNJ workshop in Bonn we visited a sports center that provides integration programs for refugees and immigrants, the Post Sports Club. We met a few members of their team. One of them was a young Syrian man – a refugee who now volunteers to help others find their place within the German society.
After this we carried on to „interKultur“ – a state-recognized institute for further education. This institute offers German courses for refugees, free of charge and available for all. We attended one of those classes. I was sitting in front of the teacher, looking at him from the student’s desk. The subject of the lesson was „how to rent an apartment in Bonn“. He taught his class the vocabulary they need to know for getting an apartment, and the differences between all the housing options the city has to offer.
I did not understand a single word. I sat there, quietly, and thought the whole scene was bizarre. Me and the Syrian students might have lived four hours from each other in the past, maybe had the same weather, probably ate the same food – but lived under completely different circumstances. Now we are all far away from home, and somehow – here, of all places – we are more equal than ever.
Text: Mika Nachtailer, Photo: Felina Lottner