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In Conversation with Nada Khartabil

Venandah Madanhi (VM) sat down to talk to Nada Khartabil (NK) about community, education and problem solving.

Yusuf question for Nada: Why do you do what you do?

NK: I do what I do because of passion. If I’m not passionate about something or don’t have an interest in it then I find it difficult to do it. Passion and interest help me to stay focused. I had conversations with someone about a task and I felt kind of lazy and didn’t want to do the task and that showed me that I didn’t have a passion for it anymore. If I have done something before, I sometimes feel like I don’t want to do it again. Perhaps it’s because the interest element is gone? I find it interesting when I get the chance to learn something new and if it’s an area that I want to improve on. Lockdown has made it quite difficult to start something and see it through. Doing one task seems to take a lot of energy and mental capacity. This is strange in a way because prior to lockdown, I found myself doing more tasks, piling on the pressure and getting things done no matter what. However, now I feel like as people continue to live in unfamiliar circumstances, we use interest and passion to drive us to complete tasks. Which isn’t always great because my mum once told me “Nada, sometimes in life you will be given tasks that you don’t want to do and will have to do them anyway”. I share this to show that while passion and interest can drive us, it isn’t sufficient and sometimes we need a degree of discipline to see things through. I think that right now we are having to do what we do, but not as ourselves, but as the lockdown versions of ourselves. 

VM: What does community mean to you? 

NK: Community means something that is welcoming, something that makes me feel at peace, safe and at home. Some may say community is where you live but I don’t think that’s not completely it for me. Maybe in the dictionary it’s described differently but for me it’s my friends and family. I think that community is made up of the people you connect with. My idea of community is based on a place that makes me feel accepted and safe. By acceptance I mean a community that accepts you and welcomes you for who you are. There are a lot of “communities” that will surround you with people but instead of accepting you for who you are, they impose their own standards on who you should be. You have to find that acceptance of who you are for yourself but also ensure that the communities you keep also give you that safe space that you need. 

VM: If you could solve any issue in the world, what would it be? 

NK: I would want to see an end to the conflict and occupation of Palestine. This is of personal interest to me as a Palestinian. It has been going on for years and a lot of blood has been spilled. I want to see peace in the place I call home. I think we can achieve a lot in the world if we support each other and try to understand each other’s lived experiences. 

happy diverse female coworkers giving high five after successful deal

VM: When young people and experienced people come together to solve a problem, they are able to come up with some great solutions. Why is that? 

NK: It’s like me going to my mum because she’s more experienced in life than me. Yes, we may have clashes but it can also help me solve a problem because of what she has experienced. However, me being younger, I sometimes feel like saying “yes mum I understand that but I want to experience it for myself”. This is because sometimes when you do something for yourself, you learn from it. With this in mind, my mum will be giving me advice based on what she learned however, I may experience it and learn something different. People see mistakes and life lessons from different perspectives which creates room for people to develop different ways of approaching the same problem. Young people can bring a different perspective to the table which can either change the way experienced people look at things or enhance an existing idea. 

VM: So much has happened so far in 2021 but what has shocked you the most? 

NK: The thing that has shocked me the most is how racism is increasing. It is really striking because after all these years, all these deaths and campaigns, you would expect us as people to be doing better. While I understand that this is somewhat to do with human nature, an element of the blame can be put on the government and the fact that the education system does not do enough to highlight everyday racism and how it affects society. I think we should not assume that everyone we meet has good intentions. We all get it wrong sometimes, even I have said things that I didn’t know would be harmful but now that I know, I am more conscious. In my religion, I believe that we are all made to be different and that God would want us to appreciate and love each other. I think we need to give each other room to be different and not hold each other to unrealistic standards or bring people down in order to bring ourselves up. We should try to understand each other more because as an Arab, I sometimes struggle with my identity and often have to tick the “other” box on forms. Ultimately, we as humans have created a mindset that results in hate crimes, terrorism and the rest of us either ignore it or get so used to it that it becomes normal. We need to understand that these things aren’t normal, should not be accepted and we must be willing to call it out.

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