Exile in the Holy Land
April, 2002
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The sounds of Zababdeh: 
4:30 AM, Rooster (3 sec.) 
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.) 
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.) 
6:30 AM, sheep 
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.) 
18 hrs./day, Generator (5 sec.)
Night-time, shooting (5 sec.)

Monday, 4/1/02:  It's April Fool's Day, but we don't feel much like joking.  The reports that are coming out of Ramallah and Bethlehem are increasingly disturbing.  There was no school once again under a Ministry of Education order - this has happened only a few days during the entire seventeen months of the Intifada and siege, indicating how serious the situation is and how angered the people here by how their president is being treated.  We spent the day doing some overdue cleaning of the apartment, trying to get our minds off of the situation here.  We still turned on the TV periodically, needing to keep abreast of what is happening.  CNN brought a story about a group of international peace activists who have made their way into the Presidential compound.  We know some of them and have been impressed by their commitment to non-violent resistance to the Occupation.  It was one glimmer of hope for this day that these folks, as bullets and tank shells and suicide bombs are flying, are able to make enough of an impact to garner press coverage.  We gathered with the other ex-pats at the University to celebrate a birthday and to share in our concern and worry together.  Unfortunately, they celebrated with cheesecake, and we're still fasting for Lent...

Tuesday, 4/2/02:  School began this morning.  The students and teachers came from Zababdeh.  None came from nearby Qabatiya, and a few (and only one teacher) came from Tubas.  Only three students came from Jenin - perhaps to stay in Zababdeh rather than in that city.  Before the first period was over, the parents in Tubas were calling for their children to come home - a new military checkpoint appeared at the edge of Tubas - right in the middle of what used to be Area "A".  We sent the bus back to Tubas, the two foreign volunteers (read: us) accompanying the kids both to calm them and with the idea that a foreign passport still has more sway with soldiers than a Palestinian ID.  The soldiers, after making us wait for a few minutes, merely waved us through.  Other cars trying to enter Tubas waited, and those trying to leave were forced to turn around.  We entered the village, taking the children directly to their homes. We saw about a dozen armed men wandering around.  This place feels on the verge of unbelievable chaos.  We returned back to Zababdeh, waiting at the impromptu checkpoint for about half an hour.  We could see some figures running through the forested hills away from Tubas through the rain.  The soldiers seemed to see it too, and one of the three tanks went on the move - not a comforting sight.  Eventually, all of the tanks headed back to the nearby military base, leaving the road open for the first time in a couple of days. When we reached Aqaba, the village between Tubas and Zababdeh, we saw some kids with their shoes coated in mud - probably the same ones we had seen up in the hills.  Some were no older than twelve.  We returned to school to continue teaching.  We learned that a 20-year-old man from Zababdeh had just been killed as he opened fire at a checkpoint near Jenin.  Zababdeh's first "martyr".  The entire village turned out for the funeral (video - 7 sec.) at the mosque, as the church bells sounded the death knell (audio - 7 sec.).  No one knows what will happen tonight, if anything.  We smiled weakly at the rainbow appearing over the fields near our home. A faint sign of hope.  Tanks are moving through the middle of Tubas, Sharon is calling for Arafat's expulsion, and there is fighting in nearby Qabatiya.  The picture of Palestinians forced to dig a mass grave in a hospital parking lot is only one of many hideous images burned into our memories.  We decided, at Abuna Aktham's invitation, to sleep in the Convent.  We've packed bags for a few days and are trying to decide what to do next.

Wednesday, 4/3/02:  With no school, no telephones, Jenin surrounded, and a "martyr" from Zababdeh, we decided to head out.  The only thing left to do in Zababdeh is suffer whatever it is that the people are going to face. We can do more good on the other side of the Green Line.  We called a taxi, promised Abuna that we'd stay in touch, and headed off on our now well-traveled mud road towards the border.  The rain made what was already mud even harder to traverse, but our driver got us into the town of Jalame.  As we rode along, we could see an Apache helicopter directly overhead.  These have been used for targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants.  Even though logic told us not to worry, our bodies told us otherwise.  Our driver was too afraid to take us to the main road, given the coming and going of Israeli military, so we walked from the edge of the town of Jalame.  So many tanks had been traveling to and from Jenin that the road was an inch or more deep in mud.  We looked back to see two Apache helicopters hovering over Jenin.  We could also see smoke rising from the town and heard awful military-sounding noises.  We looked back again to see a line of tanks rumbling their way up the deserted road towards the checkpoint - thus we shared a destination.  Our legs began to grow weak - the Israeli military's behavior has always been questionable at best, but the last few months have rendered it moreso - even when it comes to internationals.  We made it to the checkpoint, where a soldier who recognized us greeted us warmly and said he would see us when we came back.  We headed up in another taxi to Jaffa of Nazareth to stay with American friends.  Considering what's happening a few short miles away, the situation on the other side of the Green Line felt absurd - people jogging, shopping, riding bikes, living their lives unhampered.  There is fear here, certainly, instilled by suicide bomb attacks.  But the atmosphere here and there cannot ve compared.  We spent most of the day on the phone with friends all over the West Bank hearing their stories and reassuring them with the hope - growing more distant by the moment - that our retreat to Nazareth is temporary.  We've left a lot behind in Zababdeh.  Leaving this morning, we took one last look around our apartment and had to come to the realization that we may never see any of it again.  May we be proven wrong.  The word from Zababdeh (by cellphone) is better than most: electricity use will be limited to a few hours at night (due to limited supplies of petrol for the generator), no telephones to the outside except the overly-crowded cellphone networks.  Friends in Bethlehem and Ramallah tell different stories, though - food shortages, no electricity, running low on water, constant shooting, no medical services, afraid to leave to get supplies to stay...The people in Jenin tell theirs - 150 tanks around the city, 12 inside, no electricity, constant shooting, an old man killed by the Catholic church at the center of town, a nurse killed, the Refugee Camp invaded again, tanks outside the door, lots and lots of fear...We also talked to two American friends living in the West Bank, married to Palestinians.  They both - as well as their children - are American citizens.  The consular officials who are arranging evacuations of American citizens from Bethlehem told our friend that her children (an infant and a toddler) cannot be evacuated, because they have also Palestinian IDs.  Our friend near Ramallah has also been told that she cannot leave with her two sons. What is the meaning of citizenship, then?  Absurd.  Stunning.  Frightening.  We've also received hundreds of emails about the situation from eyewitnesses - technology triumphs for truth.  All day we've been hearing F-16s heading south - towards Jenin and who knows where.  We remain restless and very worried about our friends.  Lord have mercy.

Thursday, 4/4/02:  Woke up to a police radio - on the main road outside where we're staying, a police checkpoint had been set-up to pull-over vehicles selectively and question the drivers.  These are fairly typical in Israel anyway, and with the fear of suicide bombings, they're omnipresent.  Can't help but wonder what kind of instructions these police may have received for profiling young Arab men.  We're exhausted, but it's hard to rest.  We're trying to find a balance between taking care of ourselves and hoping to have some positive impact on the crisis.  This is exacerbated by the fact that we have no contact at all with Zababdeh - yesterday it was the land telephone lines, but today it's the mobile phones, too.  We know that Zababdeh is small potatoes compared to nearby Jenin, but that offers little comfort - we have many students and friends there, too.  We have been able to get through to friends in that city - constant shelling, tanks, air power, that we could hear in the background.  There's no electricity and no one dares go outside, but to date the water hasn't been cut.  Even so, they're very worried.  The Ramallah stories of house-to-house searches and arrests are all so disturbing, even when people are found "innocent" - whatever that means these days.  On a practical level, though, with no electricity in Jenin their perishables will go bad.  Then what?  Word from Ramallah is that, when the curfew is lifted for a few hours, people go to buy bread at bakeries that have no flour and essentials at stores that have been ransacked by Israeli soldiers.  One friend in Jenin, when we told him we were praying for their safety, said, "Pray for the Israelis, too.  As Christians, we don't want anyone to be killed.  And pray for Sharon.  We hope he will open his eyes to see the truth."  Listening to someone under siege with words like that brought tears to our eyes.  We talked to our Dutch friend in Nablus - as a nurse, she decided to stay for the invasion, and her organization agreed that she should.  She's staying at  the Anglican hospital, since there is a total curfew in effect.  They have no electricity and are operating on generators there.  The Anglican compound at the Old City has a tank parked right in front of it - we haven't heard from Fr. Hossam, but are sure he's staying low.  Zababdeh remains foremost in our minds, though.  We heard from various friends today who had to leave their international assignments in Beirut, Tehran, and Chile.  As one friend consoled us about the difficulty of leaving, she said, "It's agonizing.  We left Beirut three times and came back twice."  We also heard indirectly from an Israeli friend who is back in the reserves.  He had filed as one of the "refusenik" soldiers, but everything happened so fast that he suddenly found himself in Ramallah doing house-to-house searches.  His previous tour of duty on the West Bank and the horrors he was forced to witness convinced him that the Occupation was wrong and that it was up to soldiers to end it.  And now he's back in it, feeling that he can't abandon his fellow soldiers in "war" and wouldn't know how to leave, anyway.  Can't help but feel some kindredness with him, given our recent flight.  Can't help but feel angry with him either, wondering how many soldiers like him are simply going along and "just following orders," though in their heart of hearts they know that they are wrong.  Can't help but worry about his safety, either - he's a thoughtful, caring, philosophical young man.  We did take a break to have lunch with friends who are working in Ibillin with Fr. Chacour's Mar Elias College, as well as our gracious hosts here in Nazareth.  We dined at an Arab-owned restaurant with largely Arab clientele - the place was practically empty, though.  The restaurant business is down drastically because of the fear of suicide bombings.  Of course, it was 2:30 in the afternoon by the time we got there.  We've been discussing lending our time and talents to folks up here while we're "out", since it looks like it'll be a while longer than we hoped before we can return.  We're expecting to help out, but our first priority is Zababdeh and the situation in the West Bank.  We finally got word from there - a text message via cellphone: "NOW THEY START IN QABATYA SO WE HAVE BAD SITUATION." Allah ma'kum - God be with you.

Friday, 4/5/02:  Today after prayers there were demonstrations by Arab-Israelis in solidarity with the Palestinians in the West Bank.  Folks were a bit nervous about what response they might meet from the police, as they remembered a year and a half ago, when thirteen protesters and on-lookers were killed by police in what is here called Black October. The Orr Commission was established to "look into" police conduct and find the perpetrators of these deaths - to no great surprise, but to great anger, the commission has still failed to resolve the murders. Today, fortunately, demonstrations were peaceful and the police stayed away.  We came across a smaller demonstration in Jaffa-Nazareth by the Islamic Party, also peaceful and without police.  Despite the Israeli rhetoric crying, "we are at war", the situation here is, to us, unbelievably normal.  There is no comparison.  No doubt that suicide bombers have done their damage not only in terms of non-combatant casualties, but also in terms of fear.  But at the very least, Israelis have electricity, water, telephone service, food, etc.  People may stay away from cafes and malls, but most still can go to their jobs, schools, places of worship.  Friends in Nablus are getting by with next to nothing.  The Israeli forces tried to enter the Old City, but couldn't because the ancient streets are too narrow for tanks.  Instead, they delivered an onslaught of rockets.  "It's hell.  It's really hell," said our friend, a Dutch nurse who decided to stay rather than escape.  The television continues to show the Israeli attacks on journalists.  Nablus does not have many journalists in the city, and Jenin has even fewer - if any.  A friend from the Arab-American University of Jenin tried to return across the Green Line back to Zababdeh.  The soldiers wouldn't let her cross.  She tried going through the fields, but the tanks and Apaches were on the move.  She retreated to Nazareth, hoping to try again tomorrow.  Apparently the Israeli army passed through Zababdeh yesterday on their way to Tubas, though we haven't heard any news directly - now contact with Tubas is lost, too.  A friend in Jenin spoke with distress about the situation there.  No electricity, constant shooting nearby.  He is worried about the dozens of people in Jenin who are on dialysis but cannot get to the hospitals - even if they could, they have no electricity.  He still wishes safety for all, Israeli soldiers included.  He related a story from the first Intifada when he was a student at Birzeit University.  He came across a wounded Israeli soldier, whom he drove to Hadassah Hospital - such is his understanding of Christian faith.  The irony is that, while he is living in the midst of news, batteries on his radio will not last much longer, and he will have no idea what is happening around him.  Hope flickers as Zinni meets with Arafat and as Powell plans his trip here.  But it all feels like too little too late - so much blood has been shed, so many people have died, and are dying now.  We spent a good part of the day on the telephone with our elected officials in DC.  It feels so necessary, but like just a drop in the bucket.

Saturday, 4/6/02:  We've continued our work of writing and staying on top of what's happening on the West Bank as much as we can.  For news from Zababdeh, we spoke with a couple of folks at the University.  Our friend returned today - she didn't have to ride a tractor after all, but passed right through the checkpoint.  There are twenty-three students who have stayed on campus, and everyone is - thankfully - bored and safe.  They've had cookouts and get-togethers to keep sane.  We were able to talk to them because the University sits on a mountain top where they can get Israeli cellphone (rather than Palestinian) service.  The incursion into Tubas yesterday, as we learned, was into one building - there were six gunmen.  The Israeli soldiers went in, killed the six, and left.  The army is still in Qabatiya and Jenin - we talked with our friends there.  They are out of water and perishables.  There is no electricity and their radio batteries have almost died.  That means that, though there's a maelstrom going on outside their door, they have no idea what the news is - how ironic.  They are all exhausted, especially the children, since there is constant shooting around them - night and day.  Their home is very close to the refugee camp.  In Nablus, the story is much the same - no electricity, and the attacks on the Old City are ferocious with constant tank fire.  We also spoke with a friend in Bethlehem as we could hear tank noises through the telephone. In addition to everything else, their kids are extremely restless and want to go outside - they don't understand why they can't.  The curfew was lifted for a few hours yesterday, and they briefly went outside - but not for long, because there was gunfire and four or five casualties were later reported.  Meanwhile, those holed up in the Church of the Nativity haven't eaten since Thursday.  For all the coverage that Bethlehem and Ramallah have been getting, everyone fears that the situation is even worse in the north - however, with no media coverage, no one knows.  We headed out for a demonstration of Arab Israelis in Nazareth to show their outrage at the atrocities being committed in the West Bank.  It was also prompted by the mistreatment of Arab MKs (members of the Knesset) who were physically and verbally assaulted as they tried to deliver relief aid to Ramallah yesterday.  There were thousands in the peaceful demonstration that began at Mary's Well, continued past the Church of the Annunciation, and onto the Nazareth Municipality.  It felt good - we've been spending the last five days constantly on-line and on the telephone, so the exercise alone was refreshing. But it also felt like we were doing something tangible.  There were men, women, and children, Christian, and Muslim, together.  We spent most of the time marching near a group of women, who were enthusiastically chanting throughout the march (video - 3 sec.).  It was also quite incredible to walk together, Christian and Muslim, past the Church and the parking lot used by the shehab id-diin as a mosque.  This piece of real estate has been a place of division and hostility in the community between Muslims and Christians.  But here they were, coming together in a peaceful march.  We arrived at the Municipality, where the political speeches began.  At that point, we were approached by VPro Dutch Radio for an interview on why we were there.  Not exactly what we had in mind for getting the word out, but it'll do...We then headed to the Latin Church in Migdal Ha-Emeq.  A Jewish area, the town was built on the ruins of a Palestinian village called Mujeddel which was depopulated and destroyed in 1948.  The former residents mostly live in nearby Nazareth and travel to the church - all that remains of the Arab town.  Abuna Jack, an Arab Franciscan priest, has given a wonderful spirit to the community of faith, which is made up of former residents and other area Catholics.  Abuna led the congregation with praise songs on his guitar (audio - 9 sec.) while the lyrics were projected onto the stone wall. The Mass followed, insterspersed with guitar-led responses and hymns.  Fr. Jack offered special prayers for the situation at the Church of the Nativity, saying that the Franciscans - who have been here for 800 years - hope to see themselves as a bridge between the Israelis and Palestinians.  The lectionary gospel passage was from John 20, one of Christ's post-resurrection appearances to the disciples.  They were meeting in the house where the doors were locked "for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19).  We have always considered it important for Christians to understand New Testament references that refer to Jews negatively with caution - not only because they have been used to justify anti-Semitic violence and hatred, but because they must be taken in context, that they were meant to offer lessons to early Christians about how we need to be aware of the hypocrisy and wrongheadedness within our own communities of faith.  After all, Jesus was a Jew - as were the disciples and the early apostles.  Nevertheless, we couldn't help but think of our friends in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin who were hiding in the house where their doors are locked "for fear of the Jews".  But there is good news for those who would fear that the enemy is seeking their destruction - Christ appeared to the disciples.  Christ is with those who fear, even in the face of death.  This is the peace of the Christian message, that God knows our hopes as well as our fears, for God lived among us as human.  May our besieged friends know this comfort.

Sunday, 4/7/02:  We slept in a bit today. After reviewing the night's catch of email over tea and biscuits (including the news that the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal published a piece on us using one of our updates), we treated ourselves to the first half of a home movie (The Pelican Brief) - nothing like a little conspiracy theory to ease the troubled mind. Then our friends invited us to join them for lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Nahariya, a coastal town near Haifa. We were initially a bit edgy about eating in a restaurant in a Jewish town, but our hosts assured us we were safe.  There was a guard at the door, and hardly any customers - so many in Israel are similarly on edge or just plain scared of public gathering places. At any rate, it was a treat to have Chinese food - not something we got much of in Zababdeh - especially the deep fried pineapple dessert. We then headed to a park on the beach, as our friends' kids roller-bladed with other children enjoying the sunny day.  We took a quick stroll by the sea and headed back towards Haifa where our friends' son had a basketball game. We cheered the Nazareth team, which is exclusively Arab kids (except our American friends' son). It was interesting to see the two teams and parents interact. We were a bit nervous that things might get ugly, as happened a few months ago when the opposing team (all Jewish boys) spit in their hands before shaking hands with the Nazareth team and called them names. Other teams have refused to shake hands with the Nazareth boys. However, today everything was done with great sportsmanship, in spite of the worsening political climate here. Nazareth won by one point in a riveting 28-minute game. Afterwards, the host team shared chocolate brownies and soda, making a point to include everyone from the opposing team. It was very encouraging.  Throughout the day we made calls to friends in the West Bank. A good friend who is in the Galilee spoke to his family (who managed to contact him with an Israeli cellphone; they called from their roof, and even then the connection was bad because of the weak signal), and they related that there is no electricity in Zababdeh now, and shops are mostly all closed; those that are open have very little for sale, and the people have no money to buy goods. The Arab-American University of Jenin, on the other hand, still has electricity, because they have their own generators and petrol reserves. Four internationals (Americans and Canadians) have remained there, spending most of their time reassuring and holding together the twenty-some female students who are stuck at the dorms. We heard from a friend in Ramallah who is trying to help the Latin Patriarchate coordinate a delivery of goods to the Sisters of Charity and their orphanage in Nablus. Even in the midst of their suffering, they still manage to think about those who might be going without.  Another friend on the outskirts of Ramallah said there is no water or telephone service at her home. We spoke to her on her cellphone, on which she can only receive calls, since the card has run out. They haven't had any perishable food for a week. She is Belgian, and she was told by her consulate that they could evacuate her this past Friday. However they could only evacuate mononationals - that is, she could not bring her two young children because they had Palestinian IDs in addition to Belgian passports. Of course, she stayed (as have many internationals in similar situations). The afternoon before the Israeli invasion, her husband broke his knee. As a result, he had to wait six days for medical attention. His doctor, a Jerusalem resident with offices in Jerusalem and Ramallah, was refused entry to Ramallah at the checkpoint. The soldier said "we donít want you operating on Palestinians with war wounds."  One of our friend's colleagues at the Belgian Technical Cooperation was taken into detention, like scores of the other men rounded up from their homes. He was taken to Ofrah, a West Bank settlement, and never told what the charges against him were. During the first 36 hours, he and the others were given no food, and made to dig a ditch and roll blindfolded in the mud in the cold and rain. In the week he was held, he was told several times that he would be released later that day, or the next morning. Finally he and several other men were released, without their IDs, into Qalandia refugee camp. They had to walk home amid fighting. He still has no ID. He was furious and humiliated and wanted to tell the Israeli government, "Now you have made me a terrorist."  So much for a war on terror. There are still many men being held at Ofrah.We have heard stories like his before, and Amnesty International has put out an appeal for urgent action focused especially on these detainees.  We also spoke briefly with our friend in Jenin.  The situation there is much the same - that is, horrifying.  His words of wisdom, which have given us strength the last week, for today: the US doesn't need to be in favor of the Palestinians, or of the Israelis.  Instead, they simply need to return to the word of God.  He then reminded us of the parable of the talents (Matthew 25) and the proverb "to whom much is given, much is expected."  Teaching - and preaching - under siege...

Monday, 4/8/02:  Another late night meant another morning of sleeping in.  The situation in the West Bank and the stories from our friends, the lack of a media presence in population centers, as well as the half-hearted response of the international community, are taking their toll on us.  Our emotions are frayed.  Colin Powell is visiting to the region, which has given the impression that help is on the way. However, he won't be here for nearly a week; he's begun with a visit in Morocco - apparently the bloody crisis there is far more urgent than the one here.  How many more need to die before he comes? Iraq has announced economic sanctions in protest of Israel's actions and America's support - they are suspending oil exports for a month (Belgium, too, has apparently put sanctions on Israeli products). This is the kind of non-violent international action we'd hope could force some redress of the situation. Unfortunately, it does not seem that other nations, especially Saudi Arabia, will follow suit. And it seems criminally unlikely that the US will threaten to stop sending billions of dollars and military hardware to Israel; George Bush I tried to tie American support to Israel's compliance with international law (by making funds dependent on cessation of settlement construction), and according to many that's why he lost his re-election. On the other hand, we are distressed by Iraq's decision, because so many people in Iraq, impoverished and crushed by post-Gulf-War sanctions, depend on the oil-for-food program to survive. Again, they are the big losers, pawns caught between a cold-blooded dictator and an unsympathetic world community. We spent most of the day with Scottish friends in Ibillin who are working with Abuna Elias Chacour and the Mar Elias College.  Marthame is weighing the possibility of working with them a bit next Spring in their theological school. If it can be worked out in a way that would connect Zababdeh more with the Galilee, that'd be something truly worth pursuing.  We had little time to check in with friends in the West Bank, but did hear from friends in Zababdeh - we called a friend who has a non-Palestinian cellphone and happened to be on the top floor at the time, high enough to get service from an Israeli tower.  We asked her to speak with Abuna Aktham - she did, and he called us not long after.  He was on the roof of the Latin Convent, using his cellphone to connect with Israeli service!  Things are difficult in Zababdeh, with no ability to bring things in from the outside, but people are doing OK; apparently there is electricity now, and people have water and enough food basics.  There's no school, because at any moment tanks could roll into town and the children would be in great danger.  On Friday, eighteen Merkava tanks rolled through town on their way to Jenin.  Qabatiya is still being hit, and today the Israeli army entered Jalqamus - not far from the University.  Everyone is simply waiting, and we are growing homesick for Zababdeh.  We visited with a friend from Zababdeh who is living and working in the Galilee.  He has not seen his family (including his two-month-old twins) in over a month.  He is even more homesick than we are, but he doesn't dare risk going now while he has a reliable - though meager - source of income.  He wept when he saw us - it was good but just compounded how much we all miss "home".  We saw scenes on the news of the Israeli army turning back reporters and Red Cross vehicles at the Jalame checkpoint, preventing their entry to Jenin.  They were broadcasting a report on Jenin Refugee Camp a good five to ten miles away. A friend in Jenin said that the Israeli army called for women and children to leave the camp, and only about 150 did in a population center of 20,000. These are families who "temporarily" left - and then lost - their homes once already; they won't do it again willingly.  What will come next to the refugee camp is frightening.  As far as we can tell, there's still no water or electricity in Jenin Refugee Camp or City. But beyond that, as the Red Cross official said at the checkpoint, "we don't know what is happening inside."  However, the human rights organization LAW has received disturbing reports.  In Ramallah, we spoke with a friend who for decades has been an activist for human rights and democracy in Palestine.  During the lifting of curfew today, a few went to see what happened to the organizations in those fields.  Their offices have been destroyed, hard drives stolen, documents confiscated.  For her, this was the murder of intellectual and cultural life.  You could hear her heart breaking over the phone line.  Her husband, a doctor and prominent spokesman in the area of human rights, is in hiding, fearing assassination or perpetual detention (probably including torture, which he suffered in prison during the first Intifada). Neither she nor their daughter know where he is; he calls her once a day to say that he's OK - that's all he can do for her safety and his.  It is simply mind-blowing that this is happening - not to terrorists, or even political parties, but to those who are simply seeking fair treatment.  The Palestinian portrait seems to have been successfully painted as "terrorist" to the point that the killing and targeting of doctors, ambulance drivers, human rights advocates, journalists, barbers and bakers doesn't make a ripple. Imagine Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. coming back now and being targeted and forced into hiding.  It seems ludicrous - "Haven't we learned?" you might ask. Apparently, for so many people who are silenced and killed for their struggle for justice, human rights, and democracy (in Palestine and around the world) we learn too late. As our friend said, "We must persevere."  She seemed to be saying it as much to herself as she was to us.

Tuesday, 4/9/02:  The Israelis pulled out of Tulkarem and Qalqilya this morning as a gesture of "good will" - meanwhile they moved into a new village near Hebron. We predict a suicide bombing within Israel with a few days, such is the despondence and anger among Palestinians at the humiliations and cruelties they have suffered.  Last week has only been one of the more pronounced and public segments in a long history - may a common sense of humanity win out over revenge, and may diplomacy bring results rather than empty promises.  In any case, the king of Morocco seems baffled by Powell's presence there and delay in coming here.  Wisdom in North Africa.  We woke up at Ibillin, an Arab town northwest of Nazareth, and got a tour around the grounds of Mar Elias School and College.  Anyone familiar with the story of Abuna Elias Chacour knows the legend of Ibillin - an Arab priest who built a school without a permit (the Israelis notoriously refuse building permits for Arabs, even if they are citizens) and avoided bulldozing orders with a great deal of persistence, stubbornness, and and connections.  Now, it's a thriving school, with a teacher training center and college - 4500 students in all.  They are hoping to open a theological school, but an Arab Christian school seeking accreditation faces another uphill battle with the Israeli government - nothing new for Abuna Chacour.  In the afternoon, Marthame went with some clergy friends to attend an ecumenical prayer service for peace in the Silesian Church of Christ the Adolescent, overlooking Nazareth (audio - 16 sec.).  The words were familiar, but ring true nonetheless, "no peace without justice." Bishop Ma'allim of the Melkite Church focused on the words of Christ to his disciples, that the peace he gives him is not as the world gives - how poignant with the American "Johnny-come-lately" intervention here.  The now familiar Arab hymn was our refrain, "Lord, make your peace rain down on us."  We spoke with friends throughout the day.  The Arab American University has six tanks parked near it.  It's not clear what they're doing with them. Birzeit, near Ramallah, is working on relief efforts for students of their university who are trapped in the village and away from home.  Every few nights the army has come in and taken a few students before rolling out again.  They have had no school, but parents are beginning to ask Abuna Iyad to reconsider - cabin fever is getting tough on them.  Zababdeh has water and electricity.  Our friends in Jenin are safe, but without water and electricity, and thankfully facing boredom more than anything else.  The word from Jenin Refugee Camp is far more terrifying.  Thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush and are asking for the intervention of the Red Cross to retrieve their dead and wounded - ironic, some would say, given their treatment of medical personnel over the past year and a half (and especially over the last ten days).  Nevertheless, we hope humanity will win out over the desire for revenge.  The word is, though, that there has been a massacre in the camp, with more than a hundred dead, at least as many seriously wounded with no access to medical care.  Even Shimon Peres is expressing fear and regret.  We fear the worst.  We have had no contact with Nablus since yesterday, and the attacks on the Old City (where our closest friends there live) - and the resistance in it - have been fierce.  This evening, Elizabeth lent a hand at our friends' English language center, since she hasn't had much chance to teach lately and they were busy with an American group who has come to minister with Christian women in Nazareth.  We also had the chance to visit with Sister Alfonse (who was in Zababdeh last year but was moved to Jaffa-Nazareth this past summer) and bring her news from Zababdeh (as little as we have of that).

Wednesday, 4/10/02:  Our taxi picked us up at 8:30 this morning.  Since we were dealing with server problems on our website into the wee hours last night, a later start would've been welcome.  Our driver also delivered the news of a suicide bombing in Haifa.  It's times like this when you wish your predictions were wrong.  We met up with a couple of journalist friends who were trying to get into Jenin camp (like the rest of the media world) to find out what is really happening.  Our plan was to go first by way of Zababdeh so that we could deliver some milk and food to the village then send the media on its merry, dangerous way.  The Jalame checkpoint was closed.  Very closed - a "Closed Military Zone".  Somehow that didn't apply for the handful of settlers commuting across into the West Bank...This is the first time the two of us have ever been denied entry at Jalame. We had hoped to spend a few hours in Zababdeh, greet people and bring some relief, as well as taking out a few more changes of underwear. No great loss - just frustrating.  But seeing the army keep out journalists, knowing what that means, is disturbing.  It is, in essence, a press blackout - people have been able to talk by telephone with people inside Jenin, but no one is able to see what's happening, and the military is being very tight-lipped.  We headed into a nearby Arab-Israeli village to see if there was a back road across the Green Line - Muqeible, which has a handful of Christians among their Muslim population, is just three miles from Jenin, but a world away on the other side of the 1948 Cease-Fire line.  We found a dozen or so journalists, using a family's roof to get a view of Jenin, all trying to find out what was happening.  We could hear heavy machine gun fire and could see and hear the low rumble of Cobra helicopters overhead.  We then followed the press feeding frenzy for information - any information - to the village of Salem near Megiddo.  Dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers lined the roads, their movement literally shaking the ground.  Again, it was a closed military area, but the journalists found a soldier or two willing to talk.  "Sure, it's an effective campaign."  "Did you hear about the bomb in Haifa?"  "Yeah, but we just need to finish.  Then the bombings will stop." What does that mean, "finish?"  No one seems to know - there's a lot of rhetoric about "terrorist infrastructure," but the targeting of civil infrastructure, human rights organizations, and medical personnel, as well as the reports of many, many civilian casualties calls all of that into question.  Then the theologians arrived - a surreal scene if there ever was, a brightly decorated bus pulled up playing music about the Messiah (audio - 8 sec.).  A couple of Lubovitchers (hard-core Orthodox sectarians) clambered off, eager to hand out "Messiah" flags to soldiers to put on the tanks (since they're doing Messiah work) and "tephilim" to wear on their heads (from Deuteronomy 6), since they protect Jews from the enemy.  There was a bizarre carnival atmosphere, with people coming to hand out sweets and coffee to the soldiers.  Many were wearing Orange (the Israeli cellphone company) baseball hats - probably part of some giveaway. The hats had "SMILE" written in big orange letters on the front. That was both surreal and disturbing. We called a friend in Jenin as we stood there in the military staging ground - a nearby parking lot was full of reservists' cars (a "Commuter War" of sorts).  Our friend said that women, children, and old people from the Refugee Camp had been told to leave the camp, while men between 15 and 45 were told they must stay. He said that some who left were now wandering around the city trying to find somewhere to take shelter.  But it seems that only a small fraction of people left. There's nowhere for these refugees of 1948 to go now.  Within a short time of our arrival, both sides were saying that "the battle" was over.  No reports of how many dead, wounded, etc.  We also spoke to our dear friends in Nablus.  The Anglican compound next to the Old City has been hit hard during the fighting there.  Even so, they are staying put and laying low - they can't leave.  They finally have electricity, but still no water.  As we left the Salem checkpoint, we ran into a UN convoy headed into Jenin to deliver relief.  We followed them, but were turned back at the checkpoint again.  We made our way down to Jerusalem, where we will spend the next few days with friends decompressing.  But there is still work to do - a journalist with the Oakland Tribune called us tonight, working on a piece on about the situation and relations among Palestinian Muslims and Christians.  Not a political piece, per se, but politics enters every topic here.

Thursday, 4/11/02: A quiet day for us. We slept in late, and spent a good part of the day reading, napping, and watching TV, hoping to recharge our physical as well as emotional batteries. We woke up to the news that the Israeli army had entered Birzeit - no luck getting in touch with Abuna Iyad, but our neighbors from the summer said that the tanks had stayed away from our summer housing.  These days, if there's no tanks parked on your street, that's a good day.  We also talked with an American friend stuck near Manger Square in Bethlehem.  The curfew was supposed to be lifted today, but it wasn't - they're in need of milk and have tried to get some through relief convoys.  However, the army has controlled the routes so tightly for the trickle of relief that she's been left out of that.  Our journalist friend tried again to get into Jenin today, leaving early and coming back late. Like droves of other journalists, he was refused entry by soldiers, and failed to get in to Jenin Camp, or even Jenin City. The Israelis report 100 dead people in the Camp; other reports vary from 200 to 500. Without press inside, there is no way to really know. Other reports are emerging from within the camp - if even half of it is true, there was a slaughter there.  The IDF's desire to keep the press out has only made the world more disturbed and hungry to know.  What we do know is that people have been without electricity and water for over a week. We spoke with a friend in Jenin city, who said the curfew was lifted for a couple hours today. She ventured out of their home to buy candles and batteries. She said there are no vegetables, fruit, or even flour in the shops. Fortunately for them, her family has enough stocked aside for the time being. Our journalist hosts, another friend, and we shared dinner together, and we all marvelled at the news on BBC. Somehow their Middle East correspondent got into Jenin Camp today, and our friends wondered how on earth she did it. The report was short and disturbing, a sign of things to come, when the Israelis finally open the camp to journalists. Killings of unarmed civilians, refusal of medical care, humanitarian disaster. The report also showed irritated soldiers who finally spotted and evicted the BBC team.  The UN, Red Cross, and others have been promised that they could get into the Camp - promises that have been reneged on.  The world is waiting to learn the rest.  Our evening meal was interrupted by the loud boom - of fireworks.  This week has three Israeli national holidays.  With the reports of slaughters in Jenin and the Israeli public celebrating a "success", the frivolity seemed somewhere between bad taste and poor timing.

Friday, 4/12/02:  The reports coming out of Jenin are growing more disturbing almost in proportion to the resolve of human rights' workers and the media to get in and learn the full story.  We met up with a friend today in the Old City of Jerusalem to have lunch.  He studies at Hebrew University, but this summer we got to know him while we were studying Arabic together at Birzeit University.  He still tries to maintain contacts on both sides of the Green Line, a more and more difficult prospect these days.  He spoke with his roommates from Birzeit and learned that his summer quarters had been severely damaged by Israeli explosives - just around the corner from our summer quarters.  He is finding himself more and more unwelcome among many Jewish colleagues at the Hebrew University, too, as the situation gets more and more entrenched. As Israeli society collectively takes a big step to the right, he (essentially a moderate) is being branded a radical.  The student union at the university has voted to exclude Arab Israeli groups because they are too political and because they are organizing relief efforts for people in the West Bank and Gaza (those who would compare Arafat to Bin Laden would do well to remember that the Americans at least worked on getting relief into Afghanistan).  As we came back to our temporary dwellings (we've been introducing ourselves to people as "Jenin-area refugees" - theme music courtesy of Tom Petty - 5 sec.), we sat back down to our work and MTV's mind-melting music videos (theme music courtesy of Shakira - 2 sec.).  Mid-afternoon, we heard a loud bang echoing off the Old City walls, then the sound of helicopters and lots and lots of ambulances.  We turned on the news to discover that our fears were not unfounded - a suicide bomber on a bus in West Jerusalem.  The fourth young Palestinian woman in the last few months to take her life and the lives of those around her.  That, combined with the apparent massacre in Jenin, makes an ominous welcome for Powell who has an almost insurmountable task in front of him.  The right-wing radical nationalism and unfettered military assault of Israel and the desperate radical anger and violence of Palestine are colliding, and lucky Colin gets to step into the middle.  We shared dinner with friends in the media and diplomatic fields.  Some diplomatic staff went into Nablus today to bring desperately-needed supplies to their dual-status citizens.  While these nations treat their citizens as equal in the eyes of the law, the Israelis do not grant them the same status - thus they are stuck under the same collective punishment as everyone else there.  These staff were bringing water.  Water to European citizens trapped in their homes, unable to leave because Israel does not recognize their European citizenship.  The toll of destruction they witnessed in Nablus, particularly the Old City, sounded just so sad.  So very sad.  It's really hard to hear about and see (on the TV) cities that we love getting ripped to shreds.

Saturday, 4/13/02:  Shabbat Shalom.  We were able to rest today and get some emotional distance from the troubles, something that's long overdue.  But politics is never far from anyone's mind here.  Journalists are still trying to get into Jenin Camp, so the Israeli army has expanded their curfew control over neighboring Burqin.  There was also a large protest at Salem checkpoint today by Arab and Jewish Israeli peace activists.  All eyes are on Powell's mission impossible (theme music courtesy of TV - 3 sec.).  Friends in Nablus had the curfew lifted for the first time in ten days, just enough time to look into the damage.  One friend who lives in the Anglican compound (by the Old City) returned to find all of her windows blown out.  She's been staying and working in the Anglican hospital since the Israeli invasion.

Sunday, 4/14/02:  Happy Birthday, Mom (your son didn't forget - check's in the mail).  We headed early this morning towards Damascus Gate to the Syrian Catholic Patriarchate and the church of St. Thomas for worship.  Abuna William from the Latin Patriarchate officiated, since the Syrian Catholic parish priest is stuck with his other parish in Bethlehem - members of that community have taken refuge in the Syrian Catholic Convent.  There is a marked difference in liturgy between the two rites, but because a Latin Rite priest was officiating the only difference was the recitation of the Lord's Prayer - done in ancient Syriac.  Normally, there would be much less Arabic than there was today.  After church we were supposed to go to Zababdeh at least to see some folks, drop off some goods, and grab a few more things - it was winter when we left, and now it's approaching summer weather.  However, our driver decided that with the news from Jenin that today was not a day to go.  Instead, we visited with a friend from Zababdeh staying with her family in Beit Hanina, just outside Jerusalem.  They have the benefit of having Jerusalem IDs (kind of a second-rate Israeli citizen status), but because our friend moved to Zababdeh, her children's status is in question if not in jeopardy.  Since the annexation of Jerusalem by Israel, the municipality has been notorious for its overzealous revoking of Jerusalemite status for Arabs.  In any case, for us it meant another day on the lam.  We made our bed at our favorite hostel near Damascus Gate which has become a sort of staging ground for the growing international solidarity movements and for freelance budget journalists trying to uncover what's happening in the "Closed Military Zones".  We spent a great deal of time wondering about what it is exactly that we're doing here.  There's no school in Zababdeh, so teaching there isn't an option.  There's no telephone, so even if we decided to stay out of solidarity in the relative quiet of the village, we couldn't communicate with the outside world - something with which our parents would no doubt take issue.  We can write, but feel like frustrated by the collective silence (or is it horror and thus silenced shock?) that the world seems to be expressing at the situation here.  We could leave, and go on a speaking tour, but that simply feels like abandonment.  We took a walk in the Old City to grab dinner and to re-evaluate - perhaps we were hoping that the empty streets would be symbolic of clearing our minds.  It helped, no doubt.  But this will require much discernment and prayer.

Monday, 4/15/02:  A friend of ours has an expression for coordinating efforts among journalists in the heat of a breaking story: "herding cats," he calls it.  The hostel's DIY photographers and other freelancers were trying to herd themselves up to Jenin, now that the Israeli army has lifted the strict closure. Four days has been enough for the army to complete something there; we still wait to learn exactly what that "something" is.  In the meantime, we were herding cats on our trip back to Zababdeh.  We found a Jerusalem taxi willing to take us most of the way up to Tayasir.  We picked up our friend in Beit Hanina and headed along the Jordan Valley road.  Amazing to see how much new building - both militarily and settlement-wise - there's been since the last time we drove this road.  We passed two checkpoints with soldiers who were quite friendly.  The third one was just bemused, but let us pass anyway.  We were picked up in a Palestinian taxi on the other side and arrived in Zababdeh.  It was very, very good to be home and to see our friends there.  We had left so quickly that we hadn't had a chance to explain our departure, so we began to make the rounds. As we walked around, folks were happily greeting us, welcoming us home. And so it took a while to get to our first stop, with Abuna Aktham. We conferred about what we can do in the foreseeable future.  We decided together that it would be best if we mostly stay outside Zababdeh, but close enough to help bring things in, get things out, and be a communication link to the outside world. Depending on what we're able to get done today, we'll probably head out tomorrow.  The most frustrating thing is not being able to check e-mail, but that seems fairly superficial right now.  Everyone here is afraid.  Many men are staying awake at night and sleeping during the day to be vigilant in case the army enters.  The school is struggling with what to do - recognizing that things are relatively good here, but not wanting to have a curfew imposed with 500 kids stuck at the Latin Convent. When the tanks passed through Zababdeh a week or so ago, everyone from the village fled to the Latin Convent, seeking shelter and sanctuary.  Fortunately, it wasn't necessary, but the images of men being rounded up and the absolute carnage - in terms of both people and property - in other places has effectively frightened the population.  In that sense, the military operation is a success.  But in terms of future prospects, people are very angry and have little hope for a solution.  And while it's good to be here, it's hard to hear their stories, too.  The school has been affected indirectly by the recent attacks in the area.  One of our seniors lost an aunt in the Jenin Camp destruction.  We've had no word from teachers and students in Qabatiya, so we don't know how we've been affected there.  The house that was rocketed in Tubas was in the Christian quarter, killing six occupants.  It's all hitting very close.  We also ran up to the University for a quick visit with the foreigners, most of whom have stuck around. It was great to see them, but they were heavy-heated too.  They know at least one of their students has been killed.  Watching the news, as most of it drifts away to the diplomatic front and Sharon's and Arafat's new promises, is nothing short of depressing.  On the bright side, there's nothing like seeing a friend's new baby to ease the helplessness a bit.

Tuesday, 4/16/02:  We decided to stay in Zababdeh an extra day.  It has been a week since we last saw everybody, and it was good to reconnect - one day wasn't enough to do it justice. Neither, we suspect, will two days. Apparently the generator is low on diesel fuel - about enough for four more days. A new tank of fuel costs $5000, which the Municipality doesn't have right now. They don't have it because nobody is able to pay their electricity bills because there's no work.  In order to save, they've been keeping the fuel-usage down by leaving it off between 5 and 11 AM, so the sleepy little town is even sleepier these days. We had begun making our visiting rounds in earnest and stopped for lunch at friends who have new twins in the house.  Their father is living and working in the Galilee, so we will bring him pictures when we see him sometime next week.  They were showing off the spot on their roof where they can get spotty cellphone service (just what every home needs!) when we spied five tanks on the main road near the Israeli training camp.  That was about this time that we began to regret staying here an extra day.  There was some exchange of gunfire in the distance, but we're still unable to tell whose guns are whose.  But there was no mistaking the firing of the tank.  We had just sat down to lunch, when a sound shattered the air and shook the foundations of the village - or so it seemed.  The electricity cut out at the exact same moment.  Everyone gasped and hunched over. No one could really tell what was happening because everyone was too scared to go out or back up to the roof or even peek out the window. In the course of the next few hours, there was sporadic gunfire and two more tank shells.  Their sound is reminiscent of a sonic boom in your living room.  No one was without fear, though everyone tried to reassure each other - and especially the children - that nothing was wrong at all.  The men all began joking about stripping down to their underwear and making their way to the Convent - like the scenes that have been repeated around the West Bank the past few weeks.  We were trying to imagine what it's been like for people in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus, and Jenin who have endured not just a mere handful of tank shells but hundreds upon hundreds, 24-7.  One was enough to send us running and ducking under the covers (so to speak).  Eventually the collective "military wisdom" of the village discerned that the tanks had headed off to nearby Misilye and had left Zababdeh.  The rest of the day, as we wandered around the village (but never too far from the apartment after that), several things were immediately evident.  First was that living under this military Occupation is emotionally and physically draining.  Everyone looked wiped out and had short fuses, and quite a few people are fighting colds.  The other thing is that people are afraid.  Everyone's trying to guess what'll happen next, and many are assuming that the Israelis will eventually do house-to-house searches in Zababdeh.  In the afternoon, many families on the outskirts of town were relocating to stay with relatives in locations that are considered safer.  Some are talking about sleeping in the Latin Convent tonight.  The elders of the village were reminding Abuna Aktham to have his robe ready to wear when the soldiers came and gathered the men.  The now steady and familiar sound of F-16s overhead adds to the paranoia and fear which just seems to feed itself.  We dropped off some relief support from the Sunday School children of Park Ridge Presbyterian and First Presbyterian of Wilmette - something sorely needed these days - and vowed that we will definitely head back to Nazareth tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4/17/02:  Fled.  After a couple last-minute visits, we grabbed our morning taxi and headed off, loaded down with the essentials we'd need for the next few months, including our upcoming trips and our summer trip home (we're planning on getting back to Zababdeh at least once, but you never know).  We took the roundabout journey past the University and through several nearby villages before our driver dropped us off in Jalame.  Laden with backpacks, bags and sacks, we walked up the road towards the checkpoint, a few military vehicles making up the sparse traffic.  We could see the soldiers at the checkpoint wondering what this strange sight was.  We called out from a distance, "Hi!  Good morning!"  "Stop right there." (we did)  "Put all of your bags down." (we did)  "What are you doing here?  Where are you coming from?  Where are you going?  You - come here with the IDs."  (he did)  One of the soldiers took our passports and called into whatever HQ is responsible while the other chatted with Marthame.  A reservist, the soldier had been called up and had been stationed at the checkpoint recently.  He said they didn't know about any foreigners in the area, nor any Christians for that matter.  He was quite friendly.  They got the OK that we could go ahead and pass through (we've been denied entry, but never exit, so the fact that we now needed permissions was something quite strange), but informed us we wouldn't be allowed back in - at least not in the next few days.  Military orders change every few minutes and even within the change of command - so we've noticed, and so we've learned from friends in the army.  Then there was a cursory search of all of our bags, accompanied by the somewhat apologetic and now-familiar phrase of "sorry, we have to do this - we're just following orders."  We arrived at our friends' place in Nazareth and got back on-line for the first time in a few days (158 messages waiting - most of them encouraging, some challenging, a handful nasty).  Given the stress of today and yesterday, that was about all we could accomplish.  We're not sure when we can return to Zababdeh, but it may be a long time....

Thursday, 4/18/02:  Happy Birthday, Dad (check's still in the mail...).  Not much to report on today - such is the advantage of leaving behind the tank shells and checkpoints of the West Bank for the relative tranquility of the Galilee.  We were able to take care of some errands for folks in the village and at the University who have less mobility than we do these days.  We also checked in with a friend in Ramallah.  Yesterday they were the lucky recipients of the house-to-house search sweepstakes.  Fortunately, there was little to report - they and their kids were just a bit traumatized by the whole experience.  Even without the violence and theft which has accompanied some searches, having soldiers and automatic weapons in your house doesn't instill calm.  We've also begun arranging our summer schedule - trying to find a balance between doing talks and enjoying some much-needed rest and time with our families.

Friday, 4/19/02:  Another day at the ranch. Today we made calls, wrote, and worked on our summer plans. We checked in with friends in Bethlehem, who are living very close to the Church of the Nativity. They can't get any sleep because Israeli forces have begun blasting noise (screeching, screaming) at the Church, where a couple hundred people remain holed up. A kind of psychological warfare that is taking its toll on our friends and their two kids. In Birzeit, the Latin Patriarchate School re-opened two days ago.  We touched base with Abuna Iyad, who was anxious for news from Zababdeh - not only do they have many students at Birzeit University who are from Zababdeh, but he and Abuna Aktham are dear friends.  It so happens that Abuna Aktham had just called, using his cellphone up at the Arab-American University to touch base with us.  It was good to hear his voice and his persistent sense of humor.  In the afternoon, we received a call from a friend, a Korean Presbyterian missionary (and elder at St. Andrew's Church of Scotland in Jerusalem) who runs a kindergarten in Bethlehem.  He and his wife and two kids have been ithere for ten years - something we greatly respect, seeing how hard this place can be to live in. They fled just before the most recent incursion, and, like us, have been going from place to place waiting to go back home.  There's a restlessness that accompanies moving around so frequently and relying on the good graces of friends.  They've got the additional burden of two children having to go through this, but better that than the continued hardships of Bethlehem.  Their kindergarten has experienced minor damage - shattered windows from the war noises, a knocked-down front gate, cars outside crushed under the wheels of tanks.  They've come to the Galilee for a few days both to get away and to get to know some of our connections - particularly the Presbyterian ones - here.  This place can be so bizarrely insular - Bethlehem is one universe, Jerusalem another, and the Galilee yet another (Zababdeh falls through the cracks again).  We'd hoped to rent a car, but discovered that we can't do so because our credit card has expired, and the new one is stuck somewhere between Lubbock and Zababdeh. We're trying to arrange an emergency replacement (and getting a courier to deliver to an address with no street or apartment number).  We'll see.  It would beat the fearful uncertainty of busses (which we've avoided) and the extravagance of taxis (which have become our chariots).

Saturday, 4/20/02:  Today we got an invitation to return to Kufr Yasif, an Arab-Israeli village in the Galilee.  We have gotten to know a family there through our good friend Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel who might be the next moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)Since we don't have a car, and Arab hospitality being what it is, they came all the way to Nazareth to pick us up - a good hour one way.  We spent most of the day with the family, visiting with them and sharing a delicious meal and lots of coffee and fruit.  They also showed their video of their trip to Atlanta and Washington, DC - what a treat to see home!  We were hoping to spend a few days with them, including going to church with them tomorrow morning, but our credit card "emergency" will require us to be "home" tomorrow to receive the replacement, due to arrive sometime between 9 and 5.  We headed over to the three-hundred year-old Kufr Yasif Orthodox Church of St. George (most Orthodox churches are "St. George" in this part of the world), running into some friends from Jerusalem by chance.  It's a most impressive structure - the church itself has the appearance of antiquity, but it appears in good shape, clearly it's been lovingly refurbished. However, it is far too small for the parish's 2000-some members, most of whom have to sit in the outside courtyard during Sunday services.  And so Abuna Atallah, a native son of Kufr Yasif, is building a new church, as well as a school building which will accomodate about five hundred students next fall.  Currently he's also helping to spearhead a drive to bring some relief into the Jenin area.  We wished we could stay and worship with him and the community tomorrow morning, but Nazareth calls.  Despite our pleas to take a taxi back, our hosts brought us all the way home.  We promised to return soon.

Sunday, 4/21/02:  "Stay awake..."  We spent the whole day waiting for UPS Israel to deliver our replacement credit card - we were given the precise time of "between 9 and 5."  Knowing that UPS was trying to find an apartment with no number in a building with no address on a street with no name, we decided to wait by the window for a spotting.  Around lunchtime, our Korean Presbyterian friends from Bethlehem joined us for some lunch and some waiting.  While the Israelis have pulled back to the borders of Nablus and Jenin, Bethlehem has stayed under intense siege - especially the area around their Kindergarten.  It has clearly had its affect on them; they're as worried as we are about friends left behind.  We checked up on a friend in Jenin, who thankfully told us that they have electricity and water again. We got a call at 5:30 - the UPS driver was in town, but wasn't sure how to find us.  An Arab shopkeeper downstairs guided him in Hebrew to the building, and we did a little victory dance.  It's the small gains that keep us sane.  Then we headed off to worship at the Anglican Hospital in Nazareth.  Every Sunday evening, they gather for English-language worship, a simple service of prayer, singing, and reflection.  Among the prayer requests shared were the needs of the thirty-some patients of the hospital from the Jenin Camp.  Among them are seven who went without dialysis for the last couple weeks, one of whom will likely die.  These people were snuck out of Jenin through the hills by doctors and medical staffers concerned about their condition. They were turned away from several hospitals before they found unconditional acceptance from the Anglicans.  The Scripture passage from John, "I am the gate," seems that much more appropriate...

Monday, 4/22/02:  After yesterday's thrilling saga of window-gazing, getting outside was the first highlight of the day.  The second highlight was securing a car for the next month - getting around without one can be quite a challenge (in the West Bank, having a car seems to be the liability, since most roads are unnavigable).  We headed back up to Ibillin to have a look at Mar Elias College. The new building which will house a church in addition to the new school of theology (eventually) is progressing nicely.  In addition to the lovely poppies (which have a cross pattern on their petals), we could see the current school in all its chaotic glory - 5000 students heading home in busses to the villages around Ibillin.  We took care of some errands for folks back in Zababdeh and talked both with Abuna Aktham (the Latin priest) and Father Hossam (the Anglican priest).  Palestinian cellphones are now back and working in the northern West Bank, which is a big relief for communication.  School started up again yesterday at the Latin School, which is also a big relief for parents and their cabin fever.  Still no land lines for the telephone, but shway shway (little by little).  Fr. Hossam isn't able to get to Zababdeh and was glad we were in the Galilee.  The Anglican compound in Nablus, next to the Old City, sustained a great deal of damage.  But fortunately, the people within are all safe and sound.  While he was leading Mass recently, the Israeli soldiers came and informed him that they needed to search the premises.  But they were willing to wait until after the Mass.  They were quite polite, he related.  While in the Galilee, we were able to see our dear friend from Zababdeh.  He has hopes of finishing up the Melkite ordination process, but in the meantime, he's spent two months doing construction work instead. With such desperate times and high unemployment, he's lucky to have work at all.  He related that he feels God put him here prior to the most recent incursions like God sent Joseph to Egypt as a slave prior to the famine in Canaan.  This way, despite his limited means, he can help provide some relief for his family in the Jenin area.  We also met up with dear friends who are working at Mar Elias College.  Marthame is probably going to do some teaching in their theology school next year, which could be quite interesting.  We shared an interesting and personal theological discussion.  The school at Mar Elias has the potential to be the crucible for some incredible contextual theology for the world.  This place is certainly the focus of world attention, and it is also the front-line of the clash of civilizations taking place.  While academics in the West may know Greek philosophy, there is a dearth in knowledge of Arabic thought.  And while Western Christian seminarians may study Catholic and Protestant theologies, Orthodoxy barely registers on the map.  Scratching the surface of so many schools of thought and practice here immediately sends one into important discussions: Zionism contains elements of Nietzsche's thought; Palestinian "martyrdom" is a version of child sacrifice; the Church's emphasis on "peace" has strayed from the centrality of the cross.  It's exciting to explore, and we hope to do more of that.

Today we ran errands and prepared to return to Zababdeh tomorrow. Marthame spent most of the day running Zababdeh-related errands. Entering shops in Israel means becoming accustomed to the search of whatever it is that you're carrying, as well as the question, "Do you have a weapon?"  Elizabeth finished grading her mid-terms, which she gave her seventh-graders on April Fool's Day, the last day of school before the current crisis. Abuna Aktham told us that school has reopened, with the students and teachers who are able to come.  We look forward very much to seeing all of them tomorrow. We talked briefly with one of the school's tawjihi (high school senior) students in Jenin. He told us that his cousin was shot and killed from helicopter fire.  "That's life," he said. Actually, it's just the opposite, but it certainly is par for the course in this place, and very hard to stand.  He said the road from Jenin to Zababdeh is still too dangerous, so he's still missing school: that's nearly four weeks now, in addition to four weeks in December. We returned to Shefa'amer, where Abuna Nadeem and the Melkite parish have collected food and clothes for the West Bank. We packed as much baby formula, rice, oil, flour, sugar, and other non-perishables as we could fit in our rental car, hoping to return soon to bring another load into Zababdeh next week. We also visited Mar Elias College in Ibillin, and had a chance to sit with Abuna Elias Chacour, who just returned from Europe.  We shared news from Zababdeh with him, and shared embarrassment at Bush's description of Sharon as "a man of peace" - "a man of pieces," Abuna noted.  Probably more accurate.

Wednesday, 4/24/02:  Early in the morning, we headed home.  We had the rental car packed (and loaded down) with supplies (rice, corn oil, flour, baby formula, etc.) for Zababdeh and headed towards the Jalame checkpoint.  The number of soldiers hanging around and loading tanks onto huge flatbed trucks gives some credence to the "pull-out" - at least in this area.  We spoke with one of the soldiers, who was quite friendly and helpful, and after a bit of bureacracy (and after we explained that the rental car would stay at the checkpoint - our rental agent would have a heart attack otherwise), we passed.  We arrived via taxi to Zababdeh in time to unload the food and goods at the Latin Convent just before school let out.  School has returned, but not at full schedule - in the abbreviated shool day, students have been studying the "foundation" courses (English, Arabic, sciences, math). We spoke with one of our friends at the Arab-American University of Jenin who was coordinating student volunteer work within Jenin Camp and invited us along.  We met up with them in Jenin itself, which looks like the Camp did a month ago.  Every building along the roads near the Camp is pock-marked with bullet holes.  Lamp stands and electricity poles are hunched over at 90 degree angles.  We actually saw a few policemen (quite a shock), but they weren't carrying guns anymore - only batons.  "See how civilized we've become?" quiped a friend.  "Just like British Constables." The air was thick with dust, most of it coming from the direction of the Camp.  We arrived there soon after.  As much as we've seen on TV and in newspapers, nothing really prepared us for the panorama of destruction (video - 39 sec.).  We walked up what once had been narrow roads, where street-level homes and businesses were smashed open to make room for tanks.  People were picking through rubble, and we saw journalists and Palestinian Red Crescent/Red Cross workers here and there.  There was a moment, though, when we turned a corner and entered the center of the wreckage.  People have described it as a "moonscape", or a very severe earthquake aftermath.  Some are calling it "Jenin Ground Zero" - the scene reminded us of images following the World Trade Center attack.  Nothing but crumbling buildings and rubble, cloaked in an other-worldly haze of smoke and dust.  A handful of bulldozers were moving about, scraping away.  "Danger" is scrawled in Arabic across buildings. Every now and then we heard the sound of rubble falling.  People were sitting in the second stories of half-destroyed buildings that surround the central area, sipping on tea and surveying the destruction.  Here and there you see something in the rubble that has not been totally destroyed  - a baby's chair, a section of furniture, a piece of a garment.  There is a hushed awe about this place.  Rarely do you find silence in Arab society, but here in this gaping wound is silence.  We watched for a while as medical volunteers and family members, wearing latex gloves and face masks, dug at a pile of rubble with shovels and their hands.  Before we arrived, some of the University students told us, a torso and a leg had been found. We saw the white plastic bodybag, and waited a bit. Before long, a decomposing hand (or so we were told - it looked like a maroonish lump to us) was added to the bag. The students from the University have offered their services in whatever ways they might be helpful.  Their biggest duty right now is acting as translators for aid workers and foreign journalists.  We joined one group of students and a journalist as they spoke with a 15 year-old girl.  She has been keeping a diary since the beginning of the Intifada, the makings of an intriguing story.  When asked if she wrote about her feelings, she said no, she only wrote the facts - from TV, radio, and her window. Numbness might be the safest reaction to this place.  Her family was kept in one room for a week - twenty-four of them - while soldiers took over their house to shoot at the rest of the camp. When anyone had to use the bathroom, they knocked on the door and asked the soldiers for permission. For meals, one woman was allowed to go to the kitchen and prepare food. The rest of the time, night and day, they were crowded together, hearing the sounds of the war outside and the soldiers in their home.  The girl's father spoke about that first moment of stepping outside, after the seige was lifted, and feeling like they were alive again, like a new birth. And then he said that feeling dissipated into horror as they realized the extent of the devastation. We continued up to the mosque, which the Israeli army used as an outpost.  From there, we got a fuller vision of what it looked like below (click for larger view).  Ironically, we could see verdant farmfields in the distance, stretching out past the Green Line and on into the relative normalcy of Israel itself.  Anger bubbles up, as does sadness and overpowering grief - for for what is known, what will be known, and what may never be known about what happened here.  We returned home in time to hear an Israeli spokesman on TV summarize what happened in Jenin as a "fierce gun battle."  The lies around here are thicker than the dust that emanates from "Ground Zero".

Thursday, 4/24/02:  School is back to full capacity, apart from a handful of students and one teacher who is getting married tomorrow (normalcy welcome).  The ilhamdulillah as-salaame ("thank God you're safe") greetings we heard around the Camp yesterday echoed here in school.  We are getting a lot of ribbing about "running away," but it's good-natured (little do they know we have a rental car to return!). Around nine this morning,  Marthame and Abuna Aktham left school for Jenin to meet the Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah.  He was on his way from Jerusalem with a convoy of relief goods headed into the city for distribution - Caritas, Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Federation, Mennonite Central Committee, World Vision, and others had coordinated their work.  They waited near the Jalame checkpoint for four hours.  The soldiers were refusing entrance to Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs, but eventually they were let through.  Then there was the waiting at the Benevolence Center to unload the four trucks - another couple of hours - before heading into the Camp.  Around a hundred people all told, Jerusalemites and foreigners alike.  Marthame ran into some students from the University and spent the rest of the afternoon with them, similar to yesterday.  There are a few more bulldozers, which have begun to find walls of buildings buried in some places.  You can't get used to this scene, though (video - 27 sec.).  Men carrying armfuls of clothes, children digging at the rubble with bent pipes, women just sitting and despairing.  This work will carry on for a long, long time, but the journalists and international attention will likely go away.  It's awful.  Truly awful.  As we put the day to rest back in Zababdeh, gunfire sounds again from the military camp.  There's nothing quite like getting used to it all.

Friday, 4/26/02:  We both joined with the students from the University in their volunteer work at Jenin Camp.  There wasn't as much to do as there had been over the previous few days, maybe because it was Friday.  Elizabeth joined a couple students and went off looking for needy journalists. After a couple spins around the camp and no nibbles on the line, they returned to the UNRWA girls' school (the staging area for most NGOs and our designated meeting spot).  There, they got notice that a translator was needed by a journalist with Time magazine. Elizabeth and a student headed off to help him interview a political leader in the camp. They saw his home, which was not obliterated in "Ground Zero," but rather blasted and burned by missiles from a helicopter attack. He wasn't there at the time. When he and his family went to prayer at the mosque, they (Elizabeth, student, journalist, and journalist's fixer) stayed and discussed violent and non-violent resistance to occupation, especially comparing India and Palestine. When our host returned, they had lunch (a generous spread of bread, chicken and kebab) with him and his family - humbling to be fed by people without a home. As the meal ended, someone from Bill Moyers' PBS show "Now" came to do an interview as well. One question she asked was why Palestinians had refused the goods sent to the camp from the US. He responded that the helicopters, tanks, missiles, and bullets that destroyed Jenin Camp were from America--how could people be expected to forget that and accept gifts. If America didn't want this disaster, then it should have prevented it. Additionally, many of the goods offered by America were made in Israel. Like salt in a wound. After the interview, they followed the team around as they moved through the camp, ending at the UNRWA school again. It was rather heady to be around such big-time journalists, and Elizabeth wishes she could say she helped them a bit, but the truth is that her Arabic is still not that good, and the AAUJ student translated for them expertly.  Meanwhile, Marthame headed off with a couple of students to scout out.  For a while, they worked with a group of French firemen who had come to help identify undetonated explosives (a few are set off each day as people scrape through the rubble - both Israeli and Palestinian booby traps) and identify which buildings were too unstable for people to stay in.  It's hard to imagine that any of these buildings could be safe for habitation.  They also joined up with a couple of Greek journalists who were doing a story on the destruction in the Camp.  The stories that they heard ran along these lines: the area that is now known as "Ground Zero Jenin" was initially covered by a green tarp by local community leaders in order to prevent air surveillance from aiding the Israeli invasion. Fire bombs dropped from Cobra helicopters soon took care of that cover, as well as beginning some of the initial destruction.  It is suspected that a collaborator was somehow signaling the Israeli air force which homes to target (we heard both by some kind of laser pointer and also by some kind of marking powder).  When he was discovered by leaders of the Camp, rather than carry out their revenge, they made him do the same to one of the houses in which the Israeli army had set up base.  This is where the thirteen soldiers were killed.  This differs widely from the Israeli army's story, that they entered a booby-trapped house.  Neither is far from what is possible in this place.  Marthame's group also accompanied a Japanese photojournalist who is working on a book.  He is interviewing fifty 18 year-old Israelis and fifty 18 year-old Palestinians to help the Japanese public understand the conflict.  Searching the Camp for an 18 year-old girl proved difficult, it turned out.  Many families have relocated, seeking shelter where they can - in Jenin itself, with families in other parts of the Camp, in nearby villages like Rummane and Burqin.  You slowly begin to notice how few men are around, especially young men.  It is mostly women and young children sifting through the remains of their homes.  Many others have been arrested, many are presumed dead.  There was, in parts of the Camp, the unmistakeable stench of death.  Elsewhere, it's simply raw sewage that permeates the air.  Back in Zababdeh, the unwelcome sound of gunfire has returned to the Israeli military training camp (audio - 5 sec.).  Heck of a lullaby.

Saturday, 4/27/02:  A much quieter day for the two of us than most we've had recently.  Elizabeth taught her classes at school. A new plan has been mapped out for the rest of the year which will focus on fundamental classes and try to make up for lost time. Marthame stayed at home recovering from the stress of the last few days - a sunburn, a migraine headache, and (no doubt) the emotional toll knocked him for a loop.  The generator turns off about 11 AM in the morning, giving a much better hearing of the shooting from the military camp (audio - 7 sec.) - though the birds' chirping provides a nice counterpoint.  Several students from the school are making web pages about their experiences over the last few weeks.  A ninth grader kept a journal of what was happening in nearby Qabatiya, including when he and his father were summoned to the town's school by the Israeli military.  An eighth grader has been spending quite a bit of time recently at Jenin Camp documenting things and expects to have a site up soon.  Others, including teachers, have been volunteering in the relief efforts. Again, the students at the school are taking a collection to help people in the camp.  Word came on TV tonight about another Palestinian attack on a West Bank settlement.  Unfortunately, we're not surprised.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday (we celebrate here on the Orthodox calendar) - it's time for something holy in this land.

Sunday, 4/28/02:  Happy Palm Sunday. We're on the Orthodox calendar here, regardless of denomination, as a sign of Christian unity.  The bells were ringing loud and clear this morning as people headed to church in the warm sunshine. Kids were dressed in their best clothes, carrying home-made "palms," sometimes actual palm leaves but more often than not olive branches tied together with roses or other flowers. Palm Sunday is a big deal here. Before thisIntifada and siege began nearly two years ago, most of Zababdeh would ride in busses to Jerusalem for the massive march from Bethpage into the Old City. Now, even if the roads were open, getting into Jerusalem is next to impossible for these people. Last year, the priests in Zababdeh coordinated a march through the village. But this year, we didn't even do that. Wanting to see Fr. Hossam, the Anglican priest, we stopped by St. Matthew's church early. People were gathering, and the church was decorated with beautiful tall palm branches at the entrance. But Fr. Hossam was not there. He did finally make the long, difficult trek from Nablus in time to celebrate with the community.  We made our way for the Latin Church of Visitation. The churchyard was full of people and palms. The congregation gathered around Abuna Aktham as he blessed the table piled high with olive branches.  Then a line of excited and proud kids led the short procession from one end of the convent to the church doors.  Abuna knocked three times, and the doors were opened to the singing of "Hosannah Hosannah." (video - 12 sec.).  After church, we went to visit friends and share lunch. Our host worships in the Latin church, but her daughter (with whom she lives) and grandchildren and greatgrandchildren worship in the Orthodox church.  Since married women usually "convert" to their husband's denomination, mothers and their daughters sometimes wind up in different churches. We relaxed in their courtyard as we waited for the Orthodox worshippers to arrive - Orthodox services being reliably longer than Latin or Anglican ones. After a delicious meal, good fellowship, and plenty of coffee, we headed home. On the way, we stopped to visit with Abuna To'mie, the Orthodox priest. He was on his way back to church for the daily Holy Week prayers (from 4 to 6). So after a short pit stop at home, Marthame headed out again to St. George's.  Not many people come for daily prayer, usually just Abuna and a handful of liturgists.  Today was an exception, as several dozen joined together in the ancient liturgy of prayer and chanting. Marthame stayed afterwards to help Abuna ready the church for the rest of Holy Week, changing the colors of various decorations to a somber liturgical black.  Our day finished with a nice visit from a friendwho is studying at An-Najah University in Nablus. Assuming the university doesn't have to close again, he will complete his final semester in a couple months, and graduate with a BA in Music.  We hope so...

Monday, 4/29/02:  At assembly this morning, a student showed Marthame a huge shell, which he found near his home in Jenin. Later at breaktime, the kids excitedly displayed it for Elizabeth. It is a little disconcerting to be so close to such things, especially as kids parade them about.  On the lighter side, a round of mabrouk (congratulations) was in order for one of the school's English teachers, who got married this weekend. In better times, the school's teachers would have gone to nearby Tubas for the party, and the newlywed would distribute sweets at school upon return. But there was no party and there were no sweets. Like the first Intifada, the current struggle mutes celebrations in respect for the dead and suffering - his family alone had four killed in the recent Israeli operations. He still managed to look the part of the newlywed, though. Marthame went to the University to take a look at their language lab, as the Latin school is interested in installing one as well. Such a facility would be a boon for our students, who rarely have the opportunity to hear and speak English or French outside their lessons. We'll be working on grant-writing for this project. Later today, Marthame bumped into a friend who said his cousin was killed in Qabatiya. It was hard to hear how this young man, a good student involved in civic and peace initiatives, was killed with a bullet in his head. His fatal mistake was leaning out the window to get better cell phone reception as tanks entered the village. Few families have been left untouched.  After classes today, we headed back to Nazareth, to make good on a committment to help the folks who have so kindly put us up during our exile. They needed two people to help with their weekly youth English class, which had kids from sixth to eleventh grade. We helped with online tutorials, SRA reading packs, and a rousing game of Outburst Jr. We then fueled up on hummus and set about writing an overdue article for Christian Century magazine - they just published another piece of ours in their most recent issue.

Tuesday, 4/30/02:  We woke up in Nazareth and headed south to the checkpoint. Marthame dropped Elizabeth off and she walked across, first being checked by some baffled soldiers. She walked maybe fifty meters to the gas station on the checkpoint road, where a taxi was waiting to take her back to Zababdeh in time to teach her seventh-graders.  She only has one class a day now that the remainder of the school year has been concentrated. She misses teaching especially the first and second graders, who are so cute and sweet. She misses teaching most of the eleventh graders, too - but she's just as glad no longer to discipline the more mischevious ones. School is still (since last Thursday) running at full steam, with all our students and all our teachers able to attend and eager to make up for lost time. And today, the electricity schedule was extended, so that there are only three hours (from 1 to 4 PM) without power. Oh, the luxury! The school now offers only one religion class a week, which Abuna and the sisters are covering, so Marthame is staying in the Galilee until Easter (Orthodox Easter - and thus Zababdeh Easter) to take care of some work.  After Elizabeth was successfully across, he headed up to Ibillin to make some visits.  After picking up some clothes from Mar Elias College, he headed off to see the St. Joseph Sisters of Ibillin.  They had stockpiled some food for the West Bank, particularly for Zababdeh.  They were proud to show off their church and their very own native saint.  St. Mary Jesus the Crucified was a miracle child who was soon orphaned.  While fleeing persecution in Egypt, she had a vision of the Virgin Mary, after which she entered religious life.  She died while ministering in Bethlehem in the late 19th Century - at the same moment, the bells rang by themselves in the church in Ibillin.  In 1983, she was canonized, but - the sister confided - the people of Ibillin have called her a saint since the day she died.  Marthame also visited with our Korean friends who are still marooned from their home in Nazareth.  The longer they stay out, the more homesick they get, and the more concerned they get for their friends still stuck under curfew.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be lifted for four hours for people to do shopping.  Other friends stuck in Bethlehem are counting the days - 30 now - that they've been confined to virtual house arrest.  It's hard to remember how many civilians are still caught by the tight siege.  At least a beautiful sunset over Ibillin (along with a home-cooked Korean meal) could bring some comfort.

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