We have just completed our three-day “taste of Yanoun” and have returned to Jerusalem to complete our orientation. My head is literally bursting and I have to empty it to make space for new information in the morning and to be able to sleep tonight.
Rocky hills dotted, but only near the bottom, with sheep and goats; men or boys riding donkeys along the roadside; groves of olive trees; newly cultivated fields (often with primitive hand tools) already planted with wheat, beginning to turn green though there is a drought and water shortage this year; an occasional lemon and almond blossom and spring flower; the rooster that begins crowing promptly at 3 am each morning;…illegal settlement outposts on the surrounding hilltops.
“The International House”…a rather grand name for less than grand living conditions, but donated to the program by the Yanounis; we are grateful for their generosity and will manage just fine (while secretly lusting after a real bathroom and hot water!)
People…our driver, interpreter and protector extraordinaire; so many families we have already met both in Yanoun and neighboring villages that are also a part of our responsibility, who exhibit such dignity and generosity in spite of the harassment, humiliation and intimidation that is their daily life; beautiful, laughing, well-loved children; delicious meals left on our doorstep at dinner time; dozens of cups of (overly) sweet tea and thick Arabic coffee shared in living rooms, on mats on the floor of homes that are barely more than sheds, and sometimes in the women’s area while the men talk elsewhere; there is a hierarchy here and we must remember to first meet the Mayor (elder) of any village before we begin to introduce ourselves to the villagers.
Checkpoint at Huwarra…has recently been ‘upgraded’, but we see that there are no toilet facilities for people who must frequently stand in line for many hours; bags that previously went through an xray machine must now be opened on a narrow window ledge and items of clothing or fruits and vegetables tumble out onto the ground, at which point soldiers shout and curse through microphones; returning from Nablus later in the day while going through the checkpoint on foot we find that while nearly anyone can enter Nablus, it’s difficult to leave (Huwarra separates Palestinians from other Palestinians, it’s not on an Israeli border). This will likely be one of the most difficult of our duties for me. It’s embarrassing to see people being humiliated while simply trying to go about their daily lives.
Visits in Nablus with Project Hope, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Relations Officer of the Nablus Municipality, to introduce ourselves and clarify how we interact with them in various situations; worship at the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd which will be our ‘home church’ while in Younan; Father Ibrihim greeted us so graciously during the service, calling us ‘gifts from God’ and speaking of the congregation’s appreciation for our willingness to ‘walk with us’; an excellent lunch with the team assigned to Tulkarem at the Hotel Yasmeen; and an introduction to kenafe, a sweet treat, which surely must be a gift from the gods; the differences between buses, services, and taxis and their fares…enough!
A highly emotional 3 days…I was weepy several times (and those of you who know me well know that I hardly ever cry …yeah, right!); so many questions…how can a person whose faith prohibits him from lighting a match to cook on the Shabbat justify lighting a match to send a flaming tire into the yards and homes of the people living below them on that same Shabbat? Our team is bonding well and when we return to Yanoun on Sunday we will be on our own; I only hope that in 3 months, when we are ‘handing over’ to Team 31, we be half as competent and self assured as the current team!