Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Orientation Days in Tulkarm for Team 39

 Team 39 arrived for the "handover orientation" yesterday evening.  Johanna from our team personally escorted them as they traveled by bus from Jerusalem to Tulkarm.  The new team brought everything they would need for 3 months.  They will spend four days participating in a thorough orientation from us and shadow our team in our daily tasks.  We have written a handover document providing clear information about this area and the work that we do.  Then they will return to Jerusalem for more orientation with the other new EAs.  I remember feeling overwhelmed after my orientation stay in Tulkarm.  Questions and doubts whirled around my head.  I wondered if our team could even be half as effective as Team 37 had been. 
It has been delightful to get to know the members of Team 39 who are assigned to Tulkarm.   Coming from Ireland, Sweden, Germany and Norway, they bring a wealth of expertise and new energy.
Team 39:  Lena, Gudrun, Live & Sean with Johanna and me
Lena (Germany) has a degree in religious education and is also studying social work.   I found out that Gudrun grew up in the same area of Sweden where my grandmother was born and raised.  It’s 200 kilometers from Stockhom in the Gavla area.   I felt an instant bond with her and know a little bit about the area after tracing my own roots on a trip we took a few years ago.  Gudrun has a degree in development studies and has previously visited Israel and Palestine.  Live(Norway)  has a masters in Nordic languages and is working as a scientific assistant.  After her term in Tulkarm she will be a summer EA in Yanoun.  Sean has a masters in Community Research and works for a Belfast based youth work charity.
Yesterday, our team took the new team on a walk around the city of Tulkarm.  They witnessed the weekly demonstration of family members of prisoners.
Team 39 observing the weekly demonstration of families of prisoners
When they returned they all told us how welcome they felt in the community already.  We agreed saying:  “no one remains a stranger for very long in Tulkarm.” 
We shared with them pictures of the demonstration we observed at an agricultural gate last week where several teenagers were arrested after a rock throwing incident.

Start of demonstration march to Deir-al-Ghusun Agricultural Gate
We had a “hafla” yesterday evening.  That means celebration or party in Arabic.  We invited many of the contacts we have in Tulkarm.  We were pleased with the response to our invitation and people of all ages came to greet us, visit with each other and to meet the new team.   That meant saying goodbye to our team and hello to the new team.  We purposefully moved from table to table to each spend time with as many people as we could.  At one point it was an honor to sit with 2 other social workers-- Lena from Germany and our friend Abeer who is trained as a social worker from Palestine and who hopes to be able to work in her own field.  We all shared similar thinking about every person’s right to self-determination and how each person deserves to be treated with respect.  This led to a discussion about the occupation of Palestine and how this affects and restricts the Palestinian people.

Overlooking valley from Shufa
Today we took team 39 to the village of Shufa.  It was a beautiful day and it was fun to see the countryside with sheep grazing and donkeys enjoying the pasture. 

As the time nears for my leaving Tulkarm, I realize how fortunate I have been to meet so many wonderful people in this area.  They have been incredibly hospitable to us "foreigners".  I have also been so blessed to have developed friendships with other EA's in the program.  Well, I must get to bed as we will have a busy tomorrow.  It is a bit crowded in our flat with four guests camping out with us.

US Vetos UN Resolution on Settlements

Because of the language barrier, we seldom have the opportunity to hear what the average person is discussing in Tulkarm.  But one topic that has been buzzing this past week is the fact that last Friday the United States vetoed a resolution in the UN Security Council condemning Israel for continuing their policy of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.  The resolution had the support of all the other council members.  There was great disappointment expressed not only by the people of Palestine, but my colleagues from Europe.  I feel sort of self conscious to be from the United States as it seems to be the only government that is continuing to support Israel and their illegal actions.

Great hope had been put on the fact that the new administration would perhaps begin to substantively challenge Israel’s policy.  Obama had verbally urged Israel to put a halt to settlements.  But this veto of the resolution dims the hope of Palestinians that US policy might change.  Meanwhile the bulldozers continue their work.

My husband said that there was very little coverage of this veto in the United States.  There was no mention in our local paper in South Dakota.  The NY Times ran an article and if you are interested in reading it, I will post the url. Obed said he wrote letters last Saturday to the South Dakota and Alaskan congressional delegations as well as to the White House and the Department of State expressing his disappointment.  I guess that is one of the things we as citizens can do.

More later.   My time here in Tulkarm is drawing short.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Mystery and Mastery of Language

Communication is the key to relationships.  In thinking about communication it is generally assumed that the spoken word is the most common way to relate.  But what spoken word?  Is it Arabic… it Swedish…is it English?   After spending three months in Palestine I have appreciated hearing so many different languages.  Each person is communicating in the language they have learned.    As an English speaking person with a handful of Arabic phrases at my disposal I have somehow been able to convey what I am trying to express.  I have found the people of Palestine to be very helpful in figuring out what I’m talking about.  Oftentimes it will involve many other ways to get the point across such as drawing a picture, using hand gestures or pointing out something that is similar.
In Tulkarm I have shared a flat with 3 other people.  We are all from different parts of the world and I am the only one of my team who learned English as my primary language.   When we communicate as a team it is a requirement of EAPPI that we communicate in English   The primary language for my teammates is not English although they have all studied English as a second language.  It takes more concentration for them to communicate in English.  One of my teammates told me she gets worn out trying to speak English all the time.  Besides their native language of either Norwegian, Swedish or German, they also know other languages besides English.  They are also more advanced in their understanding and usage of Arabic. 
I don’t always understand what my teammates are talking about as their dialect sounds different to me.  Likewise, they don’t always understand me and certainly don’t get the slang phrases I use so often. 
Susanne and Esther (Switzerland)
For example, I told my roommate, Esther, that I hoped she’d get 40 winks of sleep last night.  “what’s 40 winks?”  she asked.  In all of this I have become the official “English Language Expert.”  They rely on me for assistance in spelling, sentence structure and conveying ideas.   My English professor from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN (Dr. Prausnitz) would be proud of the distinction I have achieved.  I smile at all of this because I often have said that I am the world’s worst speller.
Continuing on the 40 wink theme, we were reading a story in our conversation group at the Tulkarm Refugee camp.  Each of us in the group was reading a page at a time of a fairytale book. 
Conversation Group Member Explaining Picture
There was a comment made by the man in the story about not being able to sleep very well.  He said:  “I didn’t get a wink of sleep all night.”  Then we all talked about what “wink” means and that evolved into what “blink” means.  We’ve done a variety of activities in our conversation classes to make it enjoyable for everyone.   We had fun one day when we took an old cowboy hat that had been hanging up in our yard from a previous group. 
Playing Word Game in Conversation Group at Kafr al Labad
We wrote down a list of words and made them big enough to set on top the rim of the hat.  The person wearing the hat was unable to see the word but he had to figure out what it was.   We divided up into two groups and gave each group the option of asking one question that might assist in arriving at what the word actually was. 

Each person had an opportunity to wear the hat to give each group an opportunity to score a point.   A simple game such as this is a simple learning experience in which each one feels a sense of participation and belonging.  Learning a language also has to do with confidence building and being willing to try to pronounce words and phrases.  The group also shared the Arabic words related to the English words and this was very helpful to us.
On another  beautiful spring day at the youth resource center in Kufr-al-Labad we decided to conduct the conversation group outside.    Our contact person for the resource center (Ameen) suggested that everyone look in the area near the center to find something meaningful to talk about.  We all scattered around the area looking for various things to illustrate.  Then we gathered again and put what we had found in the middle of where we were sitting.  

Then we each went around describing the object we had found and why we had chosen that particular piece.  It was a very moving experience for me to listen to how members of the group described soil, flower, rocks, olive trees, etc.  I remember one person holding up an olive branch and saying:  “our olive trees are more valuable than any amount of gold.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

Struggles Over Water

I grew up in Montana.   My Father was a soil conservationist and he worked for the U.S. Department of Soil Conservation Services.   He was passionate about his work and he made sure that I was well aware of the importance of good conservation practices.   I remember him saying, “the most precious resource in the world is water and this will be the source of great struggles and controversy in the future.”   It has been eye-opening to be in Palestine and observe how critical water issues are for the people of this area.  Here are some water statistics in Occupied Palestine.

“Average Israeli per capita consumption of water—including water consumption by settlers—is 4.3 times that of Palestinians in the occupied territories (including Gaza), according to the World Health Organization.  In the Jordan Valley, an estimated 9,000 settlers in Israeli agricultural settlements built illegally on Palestinian land use one-quarter the total amount of water consumed by the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank, some 2.5 million people.” Human Rights Watch, December 2010.

Fayez getting water to make us some tea
“Israeli planning restrictions and military orders have forced Palestinians in Area C to spend up to one-sixth of their income to purchase water at significant expense from small, portable water tankers.”  “In one case Israeli authorities cut water pipes leading from a spring to a Palestinian farm in the northern Jordan Valley, which now has no access to water other than via expensive tankers.  The spring now supplies water for a nearby settlement through pipes that run through the farmer’s land, which he cannot touch.”  Human Rights Watch, December 2010.

This site gives the complete 150 page report entitled “Separate and Unequal” which is very, very interesting.

West Bank Water Usage
  • Of the water available from West Bank aquifers, Israel uses 73%, West Bank Palestinians use 17%, and illegal Jewish settlers use 10%.
  • While 10-14% of Palestine’s GDP is agricultural, 90% of them must rely on rain-fed farming methods. Israel’s agriculture is only 3% of their GDP, but Israel irrigates more than 50% of its land.
  • Three million West Bank Palestinians use only 250 million cubic meters per year (83 cubic meters per Palestinian per year) while six million Israelis enjoy the use of 1,954 million cubic meters (333 cubic meters per Israeli per year), which means that each Israeli consumes as much water as four Palestinians. Israeli settlers are allocated 1,450 cubic meters of water per person per year.
  • Israel consumes the vast majority of the water from the Jordan River despite only 3% of the river falling within its pre-1967 borders. Israel now diverts one quarter of its total water consumption through its National Water Carrier from the Jordan River, whereas Palestinians have no access to it whatsoever due to Israeli closures.
  • Israel does not allow new wells to be drilled by Palestinians and has confiscated many wells for Israeli use. Israel sets quotas on how much water can be drawn by Palestinians from existing wells.
  • When supplies of water are low in the summer months, the Israeli water company Mekorot closes the valves which supply Palestinian towns and villages so as not to affect Israeli supplies. This means that illegal Israeli settlers can have their swimming pools topped up and lawns watered while Palestinians living next to them, on whose land the settlements are situated, do not have enough water for drinking and cooking.
  • Israel often sells the water it steals from the West Bank back to the Palestinians at inflated prices.
  • During the war of 1967, 140 Palestinian wells in the Jordan Valley were destroyed to divert water through Israel’s National Water Carrier. Palestinians were allowed to dig only 13 wells between 1967 and 1996, less than the number of wells which dried up during the same period due to Israel’s refusal to deepen or rehabilitate existing wells. 
Watershed project near Haifa seen on our tour of Israel
  • The Gaza strip relies predominately on wells that are being increasingly infiltrated by salty sea water because Israel is over-pumping the groundwater. UN scientists estimate that Gaza will have no drinkable water within fifteen years.
  • Many of the most important underground wellsprings in the West Bank are located just to the east of the Green Line dividing Israel from Palestine. Israel has built the Separation Barrier not only to annex land but also to annex many of these wells in order to divert water to Israel and illegal West Bank settlements.
  • The Separation Barrier is also a Water Barrier. Some of the largest Israeli settlements (such as Ariel and Qedumin) are built over the Western mountain aquifer, directly in the middle of the northern West Bank agricultural districts, and this is exactly where the Separation Barrier cuts deepest into Palestinian territory to surround and annex this vital water source.
  • The building of the Separation Barrier has caused the village of Falamya in Qalqiliya district to lose its main source of water. In Jayyous, a village near Falamya, all of its seven water wells have been annexed or destroyed by the Separation Barrier.
  • In the West Bank, around 50 groundwater wells and over 200 cisterns have been destroyed or isolated from their owners by the Separation Barrier. This water was used for domestic and agricultural needs by over 122,000 people. To build the Separation Barrier, 25 wells and cisterns and 35,000 meters of water pipes have also been destroyed.
  • In 2003, the losses incurred by Palestinian farmers due to the Separation Barrier diverting water resources has been 2,200 tons of olive oil, 50,000 tons of fruit, and 100,000 tons of vegetables.
  • The Separation Barrier is obstructing many water run-off flows in the Qalqiliya region that normally divert water to prevent flooding. During heavy rains in February 2005, Israeli soldiers refused to open drainage pipes in Qalqiliya, which led to heavy flood damage to crops and homes there. The Separation Barrier also caused severe flooding in Zububa and other villages.
Information extracted from fact sheets from the Palestine Monitor (

So this is my attempt to give you some idea of what the Palestinian people have to endure relative to water. One of the more interesting stories in the Bible is Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well.  (John 4)  Many of the Palestinian Christians I have met trace their religious roots to this story.  It makes their present plight concerning water to be one of great irony.

Blessings to you,


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tulkarm Farm Family

Fayez and Mouna Taneeb are farmers in the Tulkarm area.  As is common among farm families, their farmland has belonged to the family for many generations.  Fayez says he learned how to farm from his father and his father learned from his father, etc.  They have 4 sons and 1 daughter.  On the day we visited their farm Mouna was not able to be there due to the death of her mother who lived in Nablus. Fayez graciously showed us around the farm and explained the challenges they face.

Fayez showing Johanna & Vidar his land
Israeli Factory Abuts Fayez's Land
Their farm is bisected by the separation barrier on one side and an Israeli factory on the other side.  The factory is illegally built on Palestinian land and was moved to Palestine by Israel a few years ago.  It is one of eleven Israeli factories moved from Israel and rebuilt to operate illegally on Palestinian land.  There are many alarming considerations about how it is impacting people and the environment but that is another topic by itself. 

“Near the city of Tulkarm itself are 10 Israeli factories. These factories were forbidden to operate in Israel because of the environmental and health problem that they caused the Israeli population. Consequently they were moved to Occupied Palestine from about 1984 onwards. Israeli authorities, despite being responsible for moving them there originally, have claimed that they can’t do anything again with them as they are no longer in Israeli territory. Israeli soldiers however are still provided to offer the factories protection and nothing has been done against them, even with Israelis undertaking complaints from Israeli villages on the opposing side of the wall.

The wind usually passes from West to East, so the pollution, the gas, the dust and the smoke expelled from the factories all goes in the direction of Palestine and essentially passes over to Tulkarm. The factories further contaminate both the water and land as they continue to pump out noxious substances, however despite them being Israeli owned factories, Israel chooses when and how they implement their influence in the Occupied Territories, as such they wash their hands of it and claim it is for the Palestinians to deal with. Samples of both water and soil have been taken but the Israeli courts do nothing against it.

The pollution has a direct impact on the local community. Asthma is present and rising at an alarming rate in the children of Tulkarm and the incidence of cancer is the highest in the whole of the occupied territories.”  Tulkarm Struggles Against the Wall, Settlements and Israeli Chemical Factories 8/17/2007

As I’ve discovered when writing about certain topics that one thing often leads to another.  However….back to our visit at the farm.

Fayez has been very active in the Committee against the Wall and Settlements.  Their organization holds meetings once a month and arranges non-violent demonstrations and other activities.  The events of the last few years have been troublesome and emotionally draining for Fayez and his family.  He showed us a brick of his shed by a greenhouse with a bullethole in the middle. 

He said:  “In 2001 there was a shot from a gun of an Israeli soldier aimed for me but he missed.”  Now his farmland is surrounded by constant reminders of how the Palestinian farmers are being pushed out of their own land.  One might say he is very fortunate in that he is able to access his land without going through an agriculture checkpoint.  That means he lives within the wall and his farm is located within the wall.  However, in walking around his land I really felt “closed in.”  On one side is a huge factory with a wall by his farmland.  On the other side is the 30 foot concrete separation barrier that divides Palestine from Israel.  A major Israeli North-South 4 lane highway is directly on the other side of the barrier. (Actually, we saw Tulkarm barrier from the highway when we went on our trip to Israel.  But the barrier does not even look like a barrier from the Israeli side because they have put dirt up to within a few feet of the top so it looks like a 4-5 foot wall.  The Israeli population mostly sees a nice grassy slope.  I was not able to get a picture of it as I was on the wrong side of the bus when we passed it.)
Fayez' Beans (Greenhouse plastic used in winter)
Visiting Fayez on his farm was delightful.  He showed us everything growing in the  greenhouses plus all  the outside produce.  We had tea sitting in the warm sun and talked about his life and how much he loves the everyday work of being a farmer. 

He remembers a time when he and an Israeli neighbor were the best of friends.  He said they would share farming ideas and information with one another.  Then the separation barrier was erected and this put an end to their ability to relate to each other.   When asked what he thought about the future he said:  “I fear for my children… is very difficult when we don’t know what will happen from day to day.” 

Pockets Full of Green Peppers -- Gifts from Fayez
Before we returned to our flat,  he made sure we had an ample supply of cucumbers and peppers for our evening meal.  As my time here is drawing to a close, I must say that I will miss conversations with wonderful people like Fayez.  Their hospitality and generosity has been wonderful.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Olive Conference at Kadoorie University

The first official Olive Conference for this area was held at Kadoorie University on Feb 8-10 in Tulkarm.  It was held in the  new auditorium at the University Drama and Arts center.  There were also several vender booths set up in a nearby building with information about the products, samples and items for sale. It was exciting for us to be invited and we attended during times convenient for us.

Palestine is called ‘the land of milk and honey’ for a reason.  For centuries olive trees have grown in this climate and soil.  It is a natural process where the trees are rain-fed and directly exposed to sunlight for long hours during the day.  It’s what I’d call the perfect growing conditions for this type of tree.  Once established, the tree survives whatever the weather conditions are.  Palestine has extremely hot weather conditions in the summer and rainy/ cooler weather in the winter.  It doesn’t seem to matter to the olive tree as it spreads its branches and continues to thrive.  Besides being used for cooking and eating, it is used for medicinal purposes and  also made into soap.

Olive oil is considered a blessed tree by God which in turn reflects this blessing to human health.  The two main varieties grown in Palestine are Nabali and Souri olive varieties.  These two types are distinguished by their special flavor and taste.  They also contain higher concentrations of anti-oxidation components which prevent cancer and heart diseases.  The harvesting of olives in Palestine is done manually by experienced Palestinian farmers who know the best time to harvest their olives…..not too early and not too late.  Cold pressing and modern machines are used to produce high quality virgin olive oil.
Olive oil has wonderful properties for people of all ages.  For pregnant mothers and for her fetus, it provides unsaturated fats which are essential for the formation of nerve tissues, bones and other body cells.  For children it assists in improving their ability to learn and understand.  For men it reinforces their physical strength and mental abilities.   For older people it reinforces the nerve system in the body and strengthens memory.  It impedes symptoms of brain and nerve aging besides restoring body cells.
The EAs who have been in Palestine during the olive harvest have written about accompanying the farmers to their fields.  Being with the farmers on such occasions has brought about lots reflection and inspired writing.  We have learned that it is important for each family to have a supply of olive oil.   We have also learned to use it in our own cooking.

What has been heart breaking is to realize how difficult it has become for farmers to access their olive trees and give the trees the care they deserve.  Farmers are given only a limited time to pick their trees and for many, harvest time has become a time of increased tension as some settlers use this as an opportunity to harass and bully farmers.   The confiscation of land has been accompanied by destruction of thousands of olive trees.

As I have written previously, it takes at least twenty years for a tree to produce olives.  So for farmers to plant trees is a testament to hope.  To witness this hope and determination in the face of the roadblocks, quite literally, placed in their way, has been a real blessing to me and my colleagues at our early morning gate watches.
Please include these brave olive farmers in your prayers.

I will list several resources for you to learn about the difficulties that Palestinians face in maintaining their olives groves.


Friday, February 11, 2011

The Freedom Theatre In Jenin

The Tulkarm Team was looking forward to traveling to Jenin to attend the Palestinian production of Alice in Wonderland at the Freedom Theatre.  We managed to clear our schedule and coordinated travel plans with the EAPPI team in Jayous so that all of us would arrive about the same time.  The theatre is located in the refugee camp in Jenin. 

We were met by the staff and were given a warm welcome and  royal treatment throughout the day.  This included a prelude to the production, the performance and a postlude including a smorgasbord of delicious food.  
A well-known actor/director from Israel named Juliano Mer Khamis and his mother succeeded in making this nearly impossible dream become a reality.  Juliano’s mother, Arna, wanted to do something for the children of the Jenin Refugee Camp.  Together they secured grant money and established the Freedom Theatre. 
There have been many tragedies for the people of Jenin.    Some of the students at the acting school were killed in 2002 by Israeli forces.  The grief and loss has left a deep scar in the hearts of people of Jenin.  The acting school has been therapeutic in helping students work through the fears of this tremendous and unforgettable experience.  Juliano made a documentary film about his mother called Arna’s Children in 2004.  It was given many awards as a documentary film and his mother died of cancer two weeks after it was filmed.  For more information, please see:
In December of 2006 they reopened in the Jenin Refugee camp in the North of the West Bank of Palestine.  Their original model of using art for social change remains the same.  Through their daily work in stage and drama they empower the children of Jenin to envision possibilities beyond the refugee camp.  They emphasize freedom for men and women in a way that avoids the idea of victimization.  Juliano said:  “Palestine is a depressed society that has lost its identity.  It is a traumatized society that suffers from PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder.)  Through theatre, we attempt to change that image and find ways of expression for the healing to begin.” 
Alice in Wonderland opened January 23rd and performances will continue throughout February, 2011.  The production is directed by Juliano Mer Khamis and includes both classes of the Freedom Theatre acting school.  The play features a revolving stage, aerial and acrobatic stunts, spectacular costumes and extraordinary lighting. 
Curtain Call - "Alice in Wonderland"
It is the most ambitious production the Freedom Theatre has attempted.  It is an adaptation of the famous novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, written by Lewis Carroll in 1865.  This version of the story has characters such as Alice, Ahmad, Caterpillar, Cheshire Cat, Mad Hatter, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, the Red Queen and the White Queen. First and second year acting students along with professional actors and actresses were all part of the performance. 
Future actor and actress??
It was truly a thrilling experience to attend this spectacular and very special event. 
Mr. Khamis (3rd from left) and his wife (2nd from left)
and actors host us for refreshments after performance


Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Taste of Honey

 On Wednesday, Esther and I represented our EAPPI team in Shufa.  This journey involved contacting Muawya, our regular taxi driver, to see if he could accommodate our request.  He brought us to the road blocks placed in front of  the long hill up to Shufa.  This has been blocked with huge concrete road barriers by Israel for several years to protect their use of the road to the illegally built settlement near Shufa.  It can only be used by the Israeli Military and the settlers living in the settlement.  I only shake my head when I see how ridiculous and inconvenient it is for the residents of Shufa to travel anywhere and especially portions of their own village separating Upper Shufa from Lower Shufa.   There is a service vehicle on the other side of the roadblock that will drive us around the long way to Upper Shufa.   I call my EA friend, Esther…..the Swiss Trekker… she is  more readily able to go straight uphill than I am.  So we decided to compromise by catching a ride uphill and walking down for the return trip.

Immediately upon arrival at the Women’s Resource Center a member of the conversation group signaled us to follow her around to an area in back of the resource center.  Once we saw everyone assembled we realized we would have a lesson in bee keeping. 

Two agriculture engineers from Kadoorie U. had already started their lecture and demonstration about the fine art of bee keeping.  Each household that wants to try bee keeping will be given two hives under this particular program.   Many women and children from Shufa were intently listening and watching as the instructors carefully showed and outlined how to take care of a bee hive. 

Since all of us were standing very close to the hive I was a bit apprehensive at first about being so close to hundreds of bees.  The instructors did not have gloves or netting.    None of us had any type of protection against the buzzing bees.  However,  no one was bothered by the bees or stung throughout the session.  One of the instructors blew smoke around while the other instructor opened up the hives and worked with the bees.  There were no men present at this training session…..only women and children.   Everyone was very enthusiastic and after the outdoor session we went inside the center to watch a video about bee keeping.  The instructors passed around honey produced and sold in Nablus.  We each had a taste of honey which was certainly a good incentive to try raising bees.
All of a sudden it was lunch time and we sat outside enjoying the nice warm sun in the courtyard of the resource center.   We had a wonderful picnic of falafel sandwiches provided by some of the women of Shufa.  I was amazed with the simplicity and good taste of this fine feast.   Then we divided up into two groups.  Some joined our conversation group and the rest continued learning more about honey bees.
Walking  down the hill from Upper Shufa we enjoyed the beginning of springtime in Palestine.  The almond trees were just starting to blossom with beautiful little white blossoms. 
There was a red flower between the rocks that may have been a cousin to the crocus which is the first blooming flower in Montana in springtime. 
We passed a shepherd and his sheep on the hillside.  A man riding a donkey carrying fresh herbs passed us on the road.  Ah….another beautiful day in Shufa.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Visit to a Bedouin Community

On February 2nd I was fortunate to be able to accompany Sherry Ann (an EA from Canada placed in Jerusalem) on a weekly visit to a Bedouin community outside of Jerusalem.  When I think of desert places a vision of this population comes to mind.  For centuries Bedouin tribes have made the desert their home.  Like some Native American tribes in North America they moved from place to place according to the seasons.  They lived in tents which could be moved very quickly when the group decided to relocate.  The goats and camels were always part of their lifestyle as they settled in different places.

Two Bedouin Girls - photo taken during bus trip
The Bedouins have encountered numerous problems since Palestine has been under occupation by Israel.  They basically are not wanted anywhere near all the Settlements that have been illegally built on Palestinian land.  Their tents have been demolished by Israel and they have been forced to live in inadequate housing.  This style of living is very different from what they are used to.   Staying in one place is not at all familiar to them.  Because they are the poorest of the poor, they don’t have many material belongings and it is apparent they can’t afford to buy much. It makes it even more difficult for them to accept many practices so common to other people.  The change has been rapid and they are having a hard time becoming acculturated.    Many have said that they long to feel the wind and be able to breathe the good air like they used to just by going out of their tents.
EA Sherry Ann and and children at Bedouin Community
Resource Center
Going back to my visit with Sherry Ann, we visited some families in the Bedouin community who have been very accepting of weekly visits from the Jerusalem EA teams.  Sherry Ann helped a women named Miriam send a  reply back to a former EA who had sent an e-mail to her through the Jerusalem team.  The way this was done was by the having the woman dictate her letter to Sherry Ann which would later be written and sent by e-mail. It was an enjoyable experience for both of them as they carefully crafted the letter.  Another very touching part was when the woman also wanted to send a bit of sage for her friend’s tea.  This had also been a special part of their relationship on each of their visits.   Since it couldn’t be sent over the internet, a picture was taken of the collected sage followed by a picture of the woman’s signature.  All this would be sent later by Sherry Ann by e-mail as there is no mail service of any kind in the area.  Tea was served to us as we sat outside of the structure where they live.  Sherry Ann later told me that they don’t always have an adequate water supply coming out of their faucets for making tea and they have to get it from someplace else.   (I will write another blog just about the water situation in Palestine.)

Then, along with several children, we walked up the hill to where their “caravan” community center is.  It’s a very simple portable building but it is very important for all sorts of gatherings.  We were introduced to the staff person from the center.  Together we met with 4 teen-age girls for their weekly conversation group.  We balanced each other out in what proved to be a very lively discussion.  The most difficult thing for the girls was to stop talking and listen to one another.  Doesn’t that sound familiar in any culture?  Through the group process I think everyone felt heard and understood.
The Bedouins are very camera shy but I was able to get a picture of one of the young girls.  So my entry into the very special world of the Bedouins came to a close just as the sun was setting.   

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's In A Name?

As accompaniers we often go out for a stroll in Tulkarm wearing our EAPPI vests.  Because we are quite recognizable, children will often come up to me and ask:  “What’s your name?”  When I tell them “my name is Susanne” they recognize that and say, “Ah, Susanne, you are welcome.”  Apparently Susanne is a common Arabic name and I am appreciative while living here that my parents gave me this name.  I was told as a small child that my name means lily. 

 After spending time in this area of the world, I find that my name is especially interesting.
Susan is a feminine given name, a form of Susanna, deriving originally from Middle Egyptian "sšn" (lotus flower), first reported on an 11th Dynasty sarcophagus dating from approximately 2000 B.C. However, the Hebrew root for the name for the lily, שושן is derived from the root שוש or ששנ , meaning "to be joyful, bright, or cheerful", which is the basis for the word and name ששון Sasson, meaning "joy of life". The Persian name for lily is سوسن sausan. The name of Susa, an ancient city of Persia, may be derived from the lilies which abounded in the plain in which it was located. (Wikipedia)
The EAPPI organization rents the flat we live in Tulkarm.  Our landlady’s first name is Susu which I understand is also a derivative of Susanne.  A contact person in a nearby village is also named Suzanne so I feel in good company with my name.  We are taking Arabic lessons from a neighbor and she has a 1 year old daughter named Noor.  Her name means “light” and this precious little being is a true ray of light.   

A local Christian businessman’s first name is Daoud which is a version of David.  The Christian  owner of a coffeeshop whose name is Samir has been very gracious to us throughout our stay.  His name means “a pleasant companion” and he represents his name well by being a genuine friend to everyone he meets.  His sister’s name is Mouna and her name means “wish.

In our conversation classes we always introduce ourselves and then invite other members of the group to introduce themselves.  I have found it very helpful to remember people by their names and actually write their names down for future reference.  
Women's Conversation Group in Tulkarm Refugee Camp
Nearly everyone I have been in conversation with knows the meaning of their name.  That also is another way for me to connect and remember them.  I think it's wonderful that Palestinians choose the names for their children with great care and that children are very aware of its meaning.