What: Pamela Olson will discuss her new book "Fast Times in Palestine," a memoir set in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at two events in Boulder. The book is an account of Olson's experience stumbling into the West Bank on a post-college backpacking trip, becoming a journalist and serving as the foreign press coordinator for a Palestinian presidential candidate, and it reveals the realities of life under the occupation.
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St.
When: 5 p.m. Friday
Where: University Memorial Center, Room 353
More info: pamolson.org
A community group hopes to make the Palestinian city of Nablus Boulder's eighth sister city later this year.
The Boulder-Nablus Sister City Project expects to submit its formal application next week, after nearly two years of work, and make a presentation to the City Council in June.
Guy Benintendi, outreach coordinator for the sister-city project, was struck by the similarities between Boulder and Nablus on a visit there in 2011. Located northeast of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank region, Nablus is just a bit larger than Boulder -- with a population of around 130,000 -- and it's also a college town, home to An-Najah National University.
He started working with longtime friend Essrea Cherin to build connections between Boulder and Nablus and prepare a case for a formal sister-city relationship.
They set up a nonprofit organization with a 13-member board to support the sister-city relationship, and they've already sent two delegations to Nablus, hosted lectures and film series on Palestine and collected donations for humanitarian projects, including most recently sending three computers to yoga teachers in Palestine.
"The purpose of sister cities is to bridge cultures and make citizens informal diplomats," Benintendi said. "Boulder has a great history with sister cities. What we don't have is a sister city in the Middle East, in particular with a city in Palestine. We felt it was an underrepresented population that is living under a military occupation. We wanted to give people in Boulder more of an opportunity to learn about Palestine."
Before the City Council ultimately approves a sister-city relationship, the council looks at whether the city provides significant exchange opportunities to "enhance mutual understanding of the world's cultural diversity," according to the city code governing sister cities.
Since the early 1990s, Boulder has established sister-city relationships with Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Jalapa, Nicaragua; Kisumu, Kenya; Lhasa, Tibet; Mante, Mexico; Yamagata, Japan; and Yateras, Cuba.
Benintendi noted that only four American cities have sister-city relationships with Palestinian towns, while 67 have relationships with Israeli towns.
Benintendi said he is not aware of any organized opposition to the proposal. In 2011, a representative of the Anti-Defamation League told the Camera that the group is not opposed to cultural exchange but that she hoped the sister-city group would be careful to avoid overly politicizing the project.
Benintendi said the concerns about politicization run both ways.
"If there is any opposition, that in itself would have to be political," Benintendi said. "Unless someone is against all sister cities and thinks governments should not be involved in international affairs, which would be a valid position, they are being political."
He noted that Nablus would not be the first sister city in contested territory for Boulder.
"When Boulder sistered with a city in Tibet, no one said, 'You should sister with a city in China,'" he said. "That didn't come up."
Benintendi said the informal relationship will continue regardless of what the Boulder City Council decides, but having a formal sister-city designation will make it easier to get grants and raise the profile of the project.
Journalist Pamela Olson, who will be discussing her memoir "Fast Times in Palestine" in Boulder on Thursday and Friday, said too many Americans don't see the humanity of ordinary Palestinians.
"Journalists tend to live in Israel and only go into the territories on the worst days of people's lives," she said.
That means Americans see Palestinians mostly as victims and perpetrators of violence. They don't see their daily joys and struggles.
In her book, she placed "funny, charming, beautiful" stories from Palestine in the context of the occupation.
Olson said she hopes a sister-city relationship will create more opportunities for Americans to get to know Palestinians.
"The Boulder-Nablus project is great because it introduces people to the other side of the conflict, and they can get to know and empathize with Palestinians," she said. "They're not just at the mercy of the normal U.S. narrative, which is factually misleading at many times."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com.