Saturday, May 26, 2007

I am writing now, partly because of drinking so much coffee, partly because this is the first time I have been able to be alone today. These last two days have been great, but definitely a blur. I haven’t hardly had a chance to process it all it has come so fast. On Thursday I met my group and came to Bethlehem, Palestine (AKA west bank, occupied territory, etc) driving through a big checkpoint in what’s famously called the “seperation barrier” or "wal"l that Israel is building, effecting cutting off Palestine.

After arriving in Bethlehem I met my host family and they took me to their home. I am staying on the third floor of a building in the ‘Azza refugee camp. Most of the families, if not all, (including my host family) are originally refugees from the 1948 war. This camp is also called Beyt Jibrill because that is the city where they all used to live in what is now Israel.

My family is a Muslim family, with 6 kids (I think). There is Lu’ay, who is 25, and Hameed, who is maybe 11. They are the one’s who I have spent most of my time with. The first night here we all went to play some soccer , allowing me to effectively meet seemingly half the kids from the camp, it was great. My family has been extremely welcoming and hospitable, following the Arab way. They have basically shoved mounds of food (extremely tasty, of course) down my throat and cup after cup of Arabic tea and coffee (w/ mint).

I requested a family that doesn't speak anyEnglish so that I would be forced to use my Arabic everyday. PSE granted my request and my family speaks no english, which is somewhat unusual for Bethlehem. Conversation, thus, has been sparse for the last couple days, but I have already learned a lot of new Arabic since arriving. It is humbling (and often frustrating) because even the simplest of requests becomes very arduous and it is easyto embarass yourself. Still, I LOVE it! :)

Bethlehem is a very quiet and safe place. On the news tonight there was trouble in Gaza, in Ramallah and in Nablus, but Bethlehem usually avoids this, thus making it a great place to begin to dive into Palestinian life.

The other people who are here doing the PSE program with me are great. Tonight we went out to eat and just chat and I had a blast. They are very interesting people with many backgrounds. One guy, who I think I’ll get along well with is, from Switzerland. Some of the PSE participants are Christian, many not. This allows for some fun conversations about faith, justice, etc.

It seems that one challenge will be to find some quiet and solitude time, not because there isn’t enough time, but because here at my house it is impossible to be alone. I know that I will really need regular time to pray and process. Please pray that I will find a regular way to do this. Finding spiritual community with other believers and going to church is going to be a challenge too.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. I have really needed them and continue to do so. Time to sleep!



Anonymous said...

Good on you, Jonathan! I love it that you love living with your family and learning Arabic. It does sound like your head is full and emotions maxed ('tho in a positive way)so I will pray for that 'alone in the hills' time like Jesus needed as well. MariMom

Anonymous said...

From MariMom: Hey, Jonathan!! Maybe you could help us all out by telling us what an NGO is (although of course I KNOW!-HA.

Anonymous said...

Again, Marimom writes to definitely recommend that fellow bloggers watch the movie "Paradise Now" to better understand the Palestinian reality. The movies is an award-winning foreign film in Arabic with English subtitles.It is very impacting and well-done.

Anonymous said...

From MariMom: The wall with the razor wire was sobering and actually sickening. I'm so glad that Jesus tore down the wall that separated us from God.