Monday, May 19, 2014

Make new friends, but keep the old...

From Barbara Hanst, teaching English in Nablus:

Do you know that song from your childhood? I learned it as a Girl Scout and its message has stuck with me through the years.

On Wed I traveled to Jenin to make some new friends, the parents of Ayman Alawneh. Ayman is a Palestinian studying for his PhD at CU. He and his wife, Nancy, have become good friends in Boulder and Ayman wanted me to meet his parents and deliver a phone to them. I was happy to do so and enjoyed meeting not only his parents but also several of his siblings. What a LOVELY family!! Now I know why Ayman is so special!! His mother not only prepared a feast for me, but also sent me home with her homemade za'atar.

On Thursday I went to Beit Jala, a suburb of Bethlehem, to see old friends, Kamal Mukarker and his family. Kamal had been my tour guide both in 2010 when I traveled on a Sabeel tour and again in 2012 when I ret'd to Bethlehem on my own. Normally I would have taken a service (pronounced ser-veeese; a van holding 7 people) first from Nablus to Ramallah, and then from Ramallah to Bethlehem, but Kamal was going to be in Ramallah with a group so offered to pick me up and drive me the rest of the way. Lovely idea, I thought, but it ended up being a bit unsettling.

I was traveling on the anniversary of the Nakba ("catastrophe" in Arabic), the time in 1948 when about 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and made refugees as a result of Israel's War of Independence. There are observances of the Nakba all over the country and, for sure, in Ramallah where Yasser Arafat is buried and Palestinian governmental offices are now found. I was to meet Kamal in the City Centre. Hah! No way!~! It was packed with people, so I was relieved when he suggested an alternative spot about a 10 minute walk away.

I finally found it and was enjoying an ice cream cone when suddenly the proprietor ran into the street and then lowered the steel rolling door that closed his shop. "What's going on?" I asked. Two Palestinians had been killed as they were demonstrating outside a near-by Israeli prison, and when news of it came to the City Centre, the people there were enraged and began marching and shouting. The ice cream shop as well as other businesses were closed to protect their property, I suppose. Other customers left by a rear door and I was there alone until Kamal came to get me. Fortunately by that time the shop had opened up again.

The ride to Beit Jala was filled with lively conversation during which Kamal told me of his plans to be married, the development of his tourism business, and recent time he had spent with Rick Steves. He is also in the process of building a 3 story home attached to his parents', which home I got to see during my full and somewhat tumultuous visit with his family.

The next day, not long after breakfast, Kamal's father was rushed to the hospital, fearing a heart attack, as his mother prepared to host a group of Swiss tourists, providing lunch and lecturing on Palestinian history. She, too, is a tourist guide. I ended up on kitchen duty, not that I was asked to do that, but because I wanted to do something to make myself useful!

Returning to Nablus late that afternoon via 2 service rides was also eventful, probably because of the Nakba observance and the killing of the two Palestinians by the Israeli military the day before. First we encountered the remnants of tear gas which, even though the driver quickly rolled up all windows, made it uncomfortable for both lungs and eyes. Since I feel sure that was from the previous day, I can't imagine the impact of it "freshly sprayed".

On the 2nd service we passed through two checkpoints, but only at the 1st did we have to show our IDs. At both checkpoints the lines were long and slow, inching forward, unless you had a yellow license plate, indicating yours was an Israeli car, which enabled you to zoom right by.

When I finally got back to Nablus, I was feeling tired and dejected as I trudged toward my Project Hope apt, backpack weighing me down. (This time I was carrying apricot jam made by my host from their trees.) What a surprise to be accosted by shouts of "Barbara! Barbara!" There were two of my students pleased to see me........but not nearly as pleased as I was to see them!! It was a joyous "Welcome Home!"

1 comment:

Unknown said...

It's good to reconnect like this, and also to see firsthand the daily pattern dating back to 1948 of disrespecting the Palestinians. The protest over the death by the authorities of protesters alas doesn't make the news over here!