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.



Gently Falling Down;

The Rain Returns;

Crashing Through My Heart

(written my last night in Galilee 2010)

‎"I do not sit at my desk to put into verse something that is already clear in my mind. If it were clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need to write about it. We do not write to be understood; we write to understand." (Cecil Day-Lewis)

These are my personal reflections on my time in Israel / Palestine as well as my view of events connected to the situation since returning (as well as the occasional randomness that is me as I seek peace in a restless world). My journal from 2008 is here . I do not have comments enabled because I have seen too many of these types of sites taken over by back and forth bickering and just plain mean-ness. but I am opening up the guests page for comment in response to several requests. At this time, only site members can comment. It is easy to become a member - just complete the subscribe request. If you want to contact me directly (to set up a presentation, ask a question, make a donation etc) please use this contact page. I have added daily journal for 2011 here.

I am no longer adding news items directly on this site. I have created an OFH fan page on Facebook for news postings. There is a link on the sidebar and it seems to work even if you are not a Facebook member (please let me know if you have a problem accessing the page. News items are continually added to that page which you will likely not see in the traditional US press. Thank you for taking a moment to like the page so I know that it is serving its purpose.

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Graduation Essay by N.O.

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 7:00 PM


N was a 15 year old female Palestinian student of mine. This is her final graduation essay.




The Train to Confidence

She was an ordinary girl, going from home to school, school to home - studying, sleeping and eating, without knowing the world. This girl was me. A girl who doesn't like to socialize with people who often feel like a traffic jam. I'm like a butterfly, a girl who loves nature, calm and solitude.

l stayed like this, until opportunity came to my door. Like a dream, a great, good and graceful opportunity.

I was sitting in my room , when my phone vibrated. I winced, then picked it up. “You’ve been accepted in the ACCESS program to learn English." This was like a bomb. Maybe you’re saying, "What is this exaggeration?!", but I'm not exaggerating. Jumping up and down, I was really happy and wanted to kiss myself. To enter this program you need to take the entrance examination. I studied a lot beforehand and it wasn’t difficult,however, I finished the test not very optimistic, so when I was accepted, it was really exciting.

I sat on my bed, thinking, smiling, then jumping. I started imagining this new journey. For the first time, I would rely on myself and meet new people. I was ready to break the barrier of relying on others. What harm is there in trying something new, to challenge myself, to see people and get to know them? I decided to be brave., This is my life and I will be the engine. Yes,I will do it!

From here, the journey started. The first day, I felt nervous , worried and scared, but deep inside I kept telling myself I can do it. I could depend on myself and be stronger than before.

I took the bus for the first time. I was afraid the driver might forget me. I was looking carefully from the window with hawk eyes. After I arrived, I entered class with some tension. My eyes searched for an empty place to sit.

As the days passed, I got used to taking the bus and walking the road alone. When I started talking to others, I became more confident in creating conversations and getting to know them.

Our teacher was a fun and kind person, more like a mother, sister and strong guide, than a serious teacher. We were like roses in the garden and she was the rain trying to water us with the largest quantities of knowledge for us to be as beautiful and clever as we should be.

I learned a lot from this opportunity. I’m more confident and independent. I’m not afraid anymore , whether to walk alone or to go out on my own. Before, the outside world wasn’t a lovely place for me. I was like a single rose, not dealing with people, then I learned how to deal with them and know their personalities and styles. Now I'm a rose in a bouquet of many different flowers. I also discovered the treasures inside myself. The most important one is how I enjoy expressing my opinion comfortably in front of others.

"Be safe, be well, see you next time," the magic phrase my teacher uses instead of saying goodbye to us at the end of class. Honestly, this phrase was able to make me both happy, because I would leave and go home ,and sad ,because one day I will hear it for the last time. We will leave. The train will take us to our next destination and end this part of the journey. I will miss my teacher and dear friends. I will miss all the events and meetings. I will miss the days of laughter as well as the enthusiasm and competition of learning. I will miss all the moments, the happy and the sad. I will miss my teacher's sense of humour. I’ll miss all the advice she gave us. Frankly, I really feel sad for the end of this amazing journey, the trip that turned my life upside down for the better.

Finally, I can say that I'm the hero of this journey and that I’m proud of myself for taking it. I won't stop here. Now, I will begin the biggest trip. “Be safe, be well, see you in the future”.


Come Dance with Me, Habibi

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:45 PM

I am sea foam. Come dance with me.


Untangle my hair and taste the salt on my lips.


I will erase your frown lines with my kiss.


I want your white noise and the dark quiet of your soul.


Let it go..let..it..all..go…



I am sand. The shore of my hips is strong but yielding.


They can carry the weight of your tears.


The fingers of my soul yearn to catch the grains of your broken heart,


form it again and place it gently back in your chest.



I am moonlit shadow.


Even unseen, I am there.


Because there is nothing so beautiful as passion and nothing as risky as “safe”, set the wind to your sails and find me.


I am here, where I have been...always…


waiting for you…


beneath the stars…



The Sound of You Gone

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:40 PM

you come...quiet


like the breeze playing the curtains


you fill the empty spaces


and tangle my hair






like the pulse moving my blood


your breath fills my ears


and tosses my mind




you leave...loud


like the storm filling the sky


the sound of you gone roars


and rends me jagged




....the sound of you gone


is the loudest thing,,,,,,


I will never hear....

There's Got To Be a Morning After

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:35 PM

March 2020 - Pandemic Quarantine 1.0


There’s Got To Be a Morning After


So here's the thing - I feel like I am living through a Stephen King novel and facing the zombie hoard, literally, on my own. No, I am not sick, but I am not OK. I am the one that is most comfortable reassuring others. I am the strong one, I am independent, I can take care of myself. These are the bedrocks of my identity, my security. That's largely been enough. But none of that works now. Before all this, I was already dealing with a couple heavy emotional blows and didn't have the emotional bandwidth to take another one. So, I played the denial game.



That is until I read an article the other day which stripped the last vestige of denial away. What was normal, doesn't exist anymore, and it’s probably not coming back. Today my dad asked me if I was given the chance to to be evacuated, would I take it. I couldn’t answer him - had no idea what my answer would be. This life I live has always come with its share of uncertainty, but there was always a semblance of a framework. Now, I don't have the slightest guess what is coming next, and that is terrifying. Yes, I do know that out there, somewhere, is the me that got through this, and she is a badass. But right now, I am like everyone else. I am not OK, and please do not let me tell you that I am.



There are some things I am doing that seem to help me a little, and might help you too. The first is giving myself permission to not do it "right": I give myself permission to not worry about recycling, I give myself permission to leave the lights on if I need to push away the dark (and turn the heater on in March), I give myself permission to not be informed about every single development, I give myself permission to feel overwhelmed and I give myself permission to not be overwhelmed. Second, you've heard it before, only because it is true - exercising. It releases endorphins and uses up a lot of time where I don't have to think about anything other than the next set. Finally, finding inspiring things to listen to. I am someone that has always found grace in music. That means so much now and dancing is good for the soul. I have also added podcasts to the que. If you are looking for a suggestion, I recommend this one from Brene' Brown, where she talks directly to what we are all going through.






We may have to slog through the mud for a while yet to find it, but I do believe that there will be a rainbow out there somewhere. We can get there together eventually. I have to hold on to that. [Which reminds me of a song (of course) from Poseidon Adventure (70’s era disaster movie) https://youtu.be/_KClpLzFftU ]


Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:30 PM

Gravity - not the stuff of science class, but hot and oppressive, like a sticky Alabama August before a storm. That’s what it feels like, to be a spectator, watching impotently, as the life I’ve known for nine years starts to be pulled away in front of my eyes. Or maybe it is more like a star, imploding on itself, leaving a black hole. I have never, even in the darkest moments of my life, felt this helpless to change the course of things. A reality my mind rejects, but my heart feels.

 September, 2011, nine years ago, I arrived at this place unaware, unprepared. My commitment was just one year, not even that, really just nine months. How did those nine months become nine years? How did this place become home? Each year was filled with light and dark, love and fear, nightmares and daydreams. But whatever the cost, it became a part of me, essential.

 It is the place where I first learned how it felt to make a life that is my own. A life lived according to my own north star. It is the place I first understood a life’s purpose, my purpose. The thing that all that had passed, had prepared me for.

 I understand doors closing and windows opening. I know I will start again, again….even though, right now, I don’t know how. How do I even carefully box up all my memories, not knowing how to send them on during a pandemic, to meet me across the ocean? How do I begin, when I can’t say goodbye - goodbye to the home I made, to my students - the profession that gave me purpose, to the ones I love, to the one who is the other half of my soul? COVID has built a wall around us, and I will leave, as I arrived, on my own, unprepared.

Yes, I knew that this day would come - eventually, but not today. I thought I would get a goodbye of my own design, not one dictated by circumstance beyond influence. I will persevere, I will be OK, just not now, just not today. Today my heart breaks, and I give in, to gravity.

Written September 2021


Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:25 PM

No storybook tale;


No beautiful maiden;


No brave knight to the rescue;


Just two souls seeking shelter from the storm.



We have seen the darkness,


Which only defines the light.



I know who you are when you have forgotten;


You remembered me before we met.



I am here to shade you from the sun,


And to dry the rain.



When you weary of the wilderness;


I am here where we began.



One Day I Understood

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:20 PM

One day, I understood.... There are people that spend much of their lives searching for enlightenment. They read the 'right' books, learn the ancient verses, quote the 'best' philosophers and know all the obscure mantras. But it is a wasted endeavor, if they never practice compassion (at least not with anyone outside their "tribe"). Enlightenment then just becomes an exercise in individualism, of seperatness. Compassion teaches us we are connected, in the good and in the bad. My neighbors sad heart is my sad heart, as is his glad heart. To seek enlighenment without compassion is like a mole hoarding the mirror, or the bull in the china shop blaming the broken goblet for being too fragile. I have often said (and others have said for me) that I cry too easily. Better that, than not being able to cry [for my fellow man] at all. If enlighenment is what you seek, first remember that everything you wish for yourself, you first must give.

Soul Crimes

Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:20 PM

Is it better to know the hour of your death, or to live as if you will never die? If I had known that my world was about to be turned upside down…would I have opened the door? He has killed before – this stealthy hunter of the heart. What makes me think I am strong enough – that I can handle whatever awaits? Whatever it is pushes me out and into the storm. Even though we have not yet met this time – I would recognize him always. It is in the eyes. Does he recognize me? I thought so, but maybe I was wrong.




He told me things about his life, secrets I let myself imagine were only for me. When I left – no, I didn’t really leave, I still did not know it was my last chance to escape. He asked me to stay – I could not. But of course, like the moth to a flame, I returned. This time by bus – I was late – he was scared – he thought I might have been blown up – it happens here sometimes.




More talking, more dreaming, more moonlight on the Galilee. He asked me what I knew of him – I said I knew I was safe. He told me I was wrong (he was right), that I don’t really know him (he was wrong). He thought he would scare me. Foolishly, I still think I am stronger than all his demons. I told him that I was sorry he had been hurt so badly that his only companion was fear.




He said being with him would mess me up – a self-fulfilling prophecy. In pushing me away, he sealed my fate (that wasn’t the cruelest thing), I just didn’t know it yet (which was more than cruel). He sacrificed my heart on the alter of his cowardice. I did not know it until I left. Then it did not take long for me figure out something had gone terribly wrong. My sheep in wolves clothing had disappeared, leaving a hole where my heart should have been.




How many tears does it take to wash away a memory? No, not a memory – lifetimes of memories – soul memories. Not enough yet. I know he has followed my life and reads my words. Breadcrumbs I leave, hoping he will find his way back home.




Now, I am back at the scene of the crime.




Just a train or a bus and a couple of hours could take me there. But this time he won’t be waiting, worried I had been blown up (it happens here sometimes). Is it better to know the hour of your death or to live your life as if you are never going to die?


Posted on April 28, 2022 at 5:15 PM

I love butterflies!


Ya know, some people say to live without expectation, because expectations only lead to disappointment. I call it anticipation, and it is not a bad thing. Anticipation is that excited butterfly feeling at the start of anything (or anyone) new and worthwhile. It is hope, it is wonder, it is a secret smile, it is fresh starts and second chances at life and love. Sure, it can lead to disappointment, but disappointment just means we tried for something meaningful. The trick is to not let disappointment keep us from gathering more butterflies :) ♥ Cat



Dear Mr. President

Posted on March 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Dear Mr. President,

So I hear you were in my neighborhood. I want to ask the question I am asked here all the time, “How do you find Palestine?” But, you were not here long enough to find much at all. What did you see traveling to Bethlehem in your limo, “The Beast”? ; Perhaps more than if you had gone as planned by helicopter. Did those tinted windows let you see the wall as you passed through the checkpoint? I know you didn’t see the refugee camps with the narrow streets and garbage spilling over. Did you see the signs in support of the prisoners on hunger strike? Do you know about Samer Issawi,who is now close to death after more than 200 days on hunger strike? Did you see the boys selling packages of Kleenex on the street just to make a few shekels?, Of course not.  Did you know why you didn’t see them is because Bethlehem was pretty much cleared of its people, so wouldn’t have to see real life here?

Do you realize just how much you have lost here? Just over four years ago I was here when you were elected the first time. I know how excited people were to see you become President. There was only good will for you then. But I knew how you would soon enough disappoint them…it was inevitable as you are a politician before anything else. Anyone with any doubt would be cured of that after seeing how you handled the young man who interrupted your speech in Jerusalem.

But,you are a human being. Does the sheer weight of this place pull you down just like it does me? In those quiet moments when you retreat into your own thoughts, do you ponder the hypocrisy of it all? A man who has benefited from the life (and death) of others who struggled for equal rights, human rights, arrives to Bethlehem by motorcade the day before Palm Sunday, to honor the baby who became a revolutionary. But, you couldn’t be more different from the one who arrived to Jerusalem by donkey. That man identified with the poor, slept with the outcasts, the lepers. He risked everything, to do the right thing. Something you just cannot do. Do you understand, like Pontius Pilate, that your hands are dirty?

You could have resurrected the dream. Instead you chose to crucify it once again.