Sunday, August 31, 2008

A farewell to the countryside

I'm spending my last days in Jerusalem, doing very little. I feel exhausted now (not to mention quite ill), so it feels good to have left all the EA tasks behind me.

I am a little sad that my emotional capital was rather strained before I moved to Yanoun (Hebron tends to do that to you). I couldn't get as invested in the people there as I would have liked to.

Yet, I will always remember Adla and her numerous children as some of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met. I'm really, really happy that I've lived in Yanoun. Even though I'm not cut out for country life.

And yes I know, I've gone a bit soft.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Burn baby burn!

I have encountered the remnants of Sharon's cousin. No, I'm not talking about a middle-aged conservative Israeli. I'm talking about fire bombs made by settlers and used against Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Last month settlers from the Yitzhar settlement tried to attack the Palestinian village of Burin with rockets. They were poignantly named Sharon I and Sharon II. Luckily, the Sharons failed to reach their targets. Yesterday however, the settlers took more care in their aiming.

They attacked a Palestinian home in the same village in the early morning hours, throwing several fire bombs through the windows. I arrived with my team mate Gottfried in the afternoon and was taken to the targeted house situated at the outskirts of the village.

The damage was substantial, especially in the bedroom. Everything was charcoal and the room smelt of burnt wood. The sight of the burnt-out crib made us both uneasy. The family's savings of 20 000 Jordanian dinars, hidden under the mattress, had gone up in smoke.

There are no words for this kind of behaviour. Except maybe one. Terrorism.

(Al-hamdulillah, the family was away for a wedding! I kinda hope the settlers were aware of that. It makes me think them a little more human).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I ♥ Dabka

Traditional Palestinian dance, dabka, is commonly danced at weddings. Huge groups of men, young and old, come together and just let loose. It is so wonderful and liberating to see these Palestinian men - especially the younger ones, whom I usually meet suppressed and serious at checkpoints - having fun. I loved it!

And the women can dance too. If you wonder where all those skin-baring dresses hanging in the clothes shops and on the streets are worn, I can reveal to you that they are displayed at women's wedding parties. And lord do these girls know how to move their hips! But that's for female eyes only. And husbands. Sorry guys...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

A tribute to Gottfried

This is Gottfried's third term with EAPPI. A minister by profession, you might expect his sense of justice to be strong. Yet, I am in awe of this man's lifelong determination to make changes for the better. In my head, I secretly refer to him as our freedom fighter.

His enthusiastic commitment is visible to total strangers too, something I witnessed first hand when we did a presentation together for YMCA in Beit Sahour, outside Bethlehem. I am telling you, the man was on fire! Afterwards a Palestinian in the audience just walked up to him and hugged him. I think that says it all.

We've striked up quite a lovely relationship, Gottfried and I. Despite my lack of knowledge on theological matters, we've spent many hours talking about everything and nothing. So, here's to Gottfried! Er ist ganz wunderbar!

Monday, August 4, 2008


Countryside bliss

This is my third placement and it's very different from the two previous. Yanoun is tiny and very pastoral. The village only has about 100 inhabitants, but makes up in numbers of sheep, goats and chickens. The villagers live mostly from the produce of the animals and the income they can generate from their olive groves, fruits and vegetables. It is very "bonderomantisk". Everything smells of sheep though.

Cacti fruit, so-called prickly pears. Good for digestion apparently, but not very tasty...

After five years of continuous violent attacks by the settlers from the nearby Israeli settlement of Itamar, all the villagers of Yanoun were forced to leave in October of 2002. Israeli and international peace activists took notice and established themselves in the village in order to prevent the settlers from taking it over. The villagers returned apprehensively, one family at a time. A deal was made that there would be permanent international presence in Yanoun. So, that's basically why we are here.

Gottfried and I watching settlers parading through the village on Shabbat

The house we're living in is... well, as one previous EA described it: authentic. There is no internet connection in the village. But we have all the ameneties that we need: running water and shower, electricity, cooking facilities and mosquito nets. So I'm not too bothered by the standard. And having spent quite a few nights in the cave dweller community of Susiya, the various animal noises during the night don't bother me too much. I do bless my ear plugs though.

The people in Yanoun are friendly and open. They must have met numerous internationals throughout the years. Still, they make you feel special and welcome. They invite us for dinner, for tea and coffee, give us bread almost every day, they smile and joke despite their situation and are helpful in every way. I admire their spirit, but sense their sadness under the surface. Having met so many lovely people with such a bleak future over the past few months is really starting to wear on me... Yet, I cannot even begin to imagine how they feel.

At the moment, it's the almond season. Picking almonds is quite a strenouous affair. Climbing trees and searching the ground on all fours is a bit too physical for my taste. And all the work that follows takes a lot of time. First, shelling the almonds, then drying them in the sun, and lastly cracking them open. It is a very social affair, though, and many cups of tea and coffee are consumed. However, I've gone off almonds for now. No marzipan for me this Christmas.

Shelling almonds and drinking tea with Um Hani

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Another placement, another team

These are my colleagues for the next one and a half months. Clockwise from left you have Audrey (nurse) from England and Colin (minister) from Scotland, Gottfried (minister and freedom fighter) and Christian (?) from Germany, and Paula (graduate) from Sweden.

We will share our time between Yanoun and Jerusalem, working from a rotation schedule. I will start with a two week stint in Yanoun before taking some time off.