Olives for Hope

If the world is ever going to come to peace,
humanity can no longer be recognized 
on a case by case basis.

Reflections

In Country at last

Posted on October 15, 2010 at 6:53 AM

* Please see the photo Gallery to view pictures from the trip.


It has been less than a week since leaving the States. But it feels like much longer – in a good way. The adventure got underway at BenGurion airport. I had prepared so well for the possible scenarios that might play out, only to pass through with no questions at all – and receiving a three month stamp. Then it was off to find the train to the north.


Again, I note how insular Israelis appear. Not one person offered to help me board with my bags, nor did anyone move out of the way as Itried to move down the aisle. In fact, they seemed annoyed by me saying “excuse me”. Finally I arrived in Acre (Akko)and met Hanna, whom I would be staying with near Nazareth. He showed me great kindness in his hospitality.


In the evening Hanna took me to his mother’s home for dinner. As is the Palestinian way – it was an amazing spread of food. I asked about the spices in the main dish, and, because she did not speak English, mom brought out all the spices for me to smell. I will do my best to recreate it once I get home. The next day we headed for the Mt of Beatitudes and then on to Golan. Our route took us through some very beautiful countryside. If you saw the film “The Syrian Bride” you would recognize one of the stops we made. The Druze remaining in Golan and the Druze of Syria are separated. So to communicate there is an area on the Golan side and one on the Syrian side where family members gather and talk back and forth using megaphones. With the advent of the internet there is less need for this way of communication. Of all the Druze that were in Golan (100,000) only 20,000 in three villages remain. Dinner that night was at a new restaurant which turned out be a nargille (hookah) lounge – a place where women usually do not go. It goes without saying that every eye in the place was on me. I was just glad to not drop any food on myself!


The next day we spent in and around Nazareth. One thing I should note about my time in the Galilee is that, as I was living in an Arab village, I would forget that I was in Israel and not the West Bank. But, then Hannah would do something that took me by surprise – like drive into a Jewish settlement. I asked him if he was nervous being there – he replied no “why should I be?”.Yet, it is painfully obvious that the Arab villages are treated differently.The allotment from the state to provide services is half that given to Jewish areas. This means that trash pick up, sidewalks and roads maintenance and other services are below par.


Wednesday I traveled to Beit Sahour. I took a bus trip that took about three hours to Jerusalem (J-Lem). I was glad to have gotten on at an early stop because the bus ended up being very full (mostly soldiers moving around). I wondered if a soldier came to sit next to me, how I would say “no guns please”. Luckily a young girl without a gun  (that I know of) sat down with me. After arriving to J-lem, I gathered my things together and left the bus station. After getting out I realized I did not have my water bottle with me. I was really scolding myself about losing it when I saw security forces scrambling around the station. The one near me, at one moment was standing calmly watching the pedestrians, then was all of a sudden sprinting into the station. The next thing I know two security forces approach me and one starts asking me about my water bottle. I pretended to not realize that “anything” had happened and told them that yes, I had lost my bottle – did they find it? Oh –thank you so much! It took awhile after that before the bottle came back to me, but it did (without the water) – international incident averted. I did notice a couple “critical” glances from some of the security, and may have heard something like “stupid American”. Oye Vey!


I am now safely settled in with my host family, planning what to do with myself the next couple of days. Saturday I plan to be at the Paidia Center, learning more about their work. (paidia.org). I begin Arabic lessons tonight.

 

Categories: Olive Harvest 2010