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.


Pure Palestine

Posted on October 29, 2011 at 2:25 AM

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" ~ (Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 2)

In Palestine you quickly learn that there is a different sense of time – Palestinian time. According to Western standards Palestinians are notoriously late, but they will always expect foreigners to be on time. If a Palestinian tells you “five minutes”, expect 15; if “15 minutes” expect 30; if “a half hour” expect an hour. If they say “tonight” – well - for more than a week now I have been without water, and every day I am told, “Tonight, Inshallah (God willing)”. This is “Pure Palestine”.

If I understand correctly, someone forgot to fill our tanks (my apartment and one other are the only ones affected). Now they can’t come back until the next regular delivery. However, they don’t want to tell us that, so every day it is “Tonight, Inshallah”. Directness is not a value here. For someone like me, that believes it is important to “say what you mean and mean what you say”, this is very difficult. This is “Pure Palestine”.

Palestinians live in the moment. They have learned that there is no other choice. Even in relatively quiet times, like now, they know it can change in an instant. In the States, in general - at least in the "mid-west", people don’t ‘go out’ during the week; if they do, they don’t stay out’ late – “It’s a school night”. Here people take every opportunity to enjoy life. Any night I can go out on the terrace and hear music and laughter (and yes, fireworks). This is “Pure Palestine”.

The downside to living in the moment though, is that people here tend to not make plans. There is something positive about being spontaneous, but sometimes you just need to make plans. Since I left last year I have wanted to attend the commemoration of the massacre in Eilaboun (my post about Eilaboun is here). But, because I have not been able to make a solid plan to get there and back, it looks like I won’t be going. This is “Pure Palestine”.

But, in the moment, Palestinians are incredibly generous. A visitor quickly learns to be careful in a Palestinian home when admiring something – you just may have no choice but to take it home with you. Once, a friend of mine admired a cane being used by an elderly man that she met on the street. He insisted she follow him home, where he then insisted she take his cane. This is “Pure Palestine”.

The one exception to the reluctance to make plans are weddings. Weddings here are huge affairs full of traditions and expectations. A young man I work with is planning his wedding. I think he referred to it as a modest wedding – with at least 500 invitations. Yes, I said “he is planning”; here the groom pays for everything, even the bride’s dress. And they do not do this once, but twice. The engagement party (which looks a lot like a wedding) can cost more than the wedding itself. This is “Pure Palestine”

If you ask a foreigner who has spent significant time here, what they love about Palestine, they may have a hard time answering you. But when two foreigners meet that have been here, they just understand. And when we are away, we feel the absence of a loving friend – one that infuriates us, and that supports us, and that disappoints us, and that embraces us.

Within three minutes of posting on Facebook that I would be without water at least until Monday (and without clean clothes) I had an invitation to stay with someone until the water is delivered. This is “Pure Palestine” - gotta love it!


Categories: Olive Harvest 2011, Random Thoughts