Background

Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) is a charity building grassroots links between civil society groups and individuals in Oxford in the UK and Ramallah in Palestine.

Ramallah and Oxford have similarities in terms of population size, universities, schools and hospitals, and many civil society groups as well as commerce, trade unions and cultural ventures. Everyday life is very different, of course, because Palestine is under military occupation by the Israeli Defence Force.

The project of forming friendship links between Oxford and Ramallah originated in March 2002, when Israeli tanks rolled into Ramallah. Volunteer observers from Oxford who were in Ramallah at the time called for support. So we formed the Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) which includes people representing a wide range of organizations.

There is an acute humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli separation wall is making matters worse. Britain has particular responsibility for this crisis, both a deep historic level (the Balfour Declaration of 1917) and a current involvement in supporting an uneven-handed US policy. As individuals we may feel powerless, but we can reach out to people who feel desperately isolated. And we can find out for ourselves - not just accept what our media say.

ORFA has sent a number of delegations from Oxford to Ramallah to meet people with whom they have something in common, such as working in the same industry. These delegations have been funded by the participants themselves, but ORFA welcomes return visits from Ramallah residents. Our main achievement has been the funding and organisation of a 2-week trip to Oxford of 8 children and 2 adults from the Al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah in 2005. We also organise awareness raising events and try to promote Palestinian culture.

Our main aim is to offer people in Ramallah support in terms of making their stories known and other practical ways, and to reduce their sense of isolation and desperation. ORFA is concerned with human contact at an individual level, to promote understanding and friendship.

Other UK organisations with similar interests:

Twinning with PalestineThe British-Palestine Friendship Forum.

Birmingham Ramallah Twinning Initiative