Journal in the Land of the Holy One
July, 2003
Journal Archive
Our Main Page
(Having multimedia problems? Download Windows Media Player for free or see our help page)
The sounds of Zababdeh:
3:00 AM, Rooster (3 sec.)
3:00 AM, Dogs (5 sec.)
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.)
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.)
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.)

Tuesday, 7/1/03:  Today was our first day of formal class.  Elizabeth is enjoying taking level one, starting with the basics (ba - bi - bu - ba - bi - bu) and expecting to move on to fill in a lot of gaps.  Marthame, meanwhile, was the only student in level two.  There are others who are scheduled to come, but no one has arrived yet.  The individual attention is good, but it'll be nice to have other students with whom to share the experience!  We returned back to Star Mountain to do our homework and to walk the grounds in the evening.  It cools off nicely here, especially in the Ramallah area, and the grounds of Star Mountain are lovely - a hilltop forested with pines, olive groves, fruit trees, with a wonderful view.  It'll be fun to work the ground here and to show this place to the world through their website.

Wednesday, 7/2/03:  Second day of class, Marthame's class expanding by 300%.  The other students are an Italian sociology Ph.D. student at UC-Berkeley researching the comparison between the Palestinian situation and the Native American context and a Cornell MBA Grad who traveled here by way of Tunis and Egypt.  After class, we went to Ramallah.  We arrived at the Surda checkpoint, which was here in an on-again off-again fashion during our time here two years ago.  Now, it's permanent (though a military presence here isn't).  We got out of the taxi on one side, walking through the chaos of taxi traffic and roadside commerce (fresh grapes, plastic toys, cold water) towards the actual road block.  After clambering over/around/through the piled dirt, stones, and cement blocks which keep cars from passing, it was a good twenty minute walk in the searing heat to the other side.  Most of the folks were coming the other way, returning from work or errands in Ramallah to their homes in Surda, Abu Qash, Birzeit, and beyond.  Donkey and horse carriage rides were being offered for fifteen shekels.  Old women in traditional dress, couples carrying newborns, and young men with their cellphones all shared the commute.  We passed the roadblock on the other side and negotiated our way through the dusty, honking, always shifting mass of taxis - which somehow manage a kind of order in their chaos. We got into a taxi headed into the middle of Ramallah, and after a five-minute walk we set ourselves up at the well-air-conditioned Baladna ice cream parlor.  We refreshed ourselves and worked on our homework for several hours.  From there, it was off to the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center for a documentary called "Bitter Water."  It was in Arabic with English subtitles, about life in the Burj al-Burajna Palestinian Refugee Camp in Lebanon.  Powerful if just for the imagery and the squalor of the place.  The consensus among those filmed was that the best place to be was anywhere but there - be it back in Palestine or not.  People have little work, and Lebanese won't employ them, part of the systematic discrimination they face there.  There's a stigma attached to Palestinians, and popular lore blames them for the Lebanese Civil War.  The filmmaker was at the showing, currently seeking ways to distribute it.  Powerful as it was, we thought it would benefit from some tightening before wider distribution.  It was good for us to get some ideas about what to do and what not to do in our film.  The film finished at 9:30, long after shared taxis would be hanging around the Surda checkpoint.  Nonetheless, we found one in the middle of Ramallah waiting for passengers.  Eventually, another passenger arrived, but after no one else came, we eventually bailed ship, finding a special taxi that cost twice what we would've paid for the shared taxi, but we're talking only a few shekels here.  We waited to arrive to Surda to see if there were any shared taxis waiting on the other side, but all we could see was darkness.  We arranged for a Birzeit taxi to meet us on the other side.  Periodically, we would pass other "commuters" making the long walk in the dark.  The place was quiet and very still.  When we arrived on the other side, we discovered a shared taxi was, indeed, waiting, but by that time our taxi had arrived to take us back to Star Mountain.  When we originally planned to study at Birzeit, we though we would stay in Ramallah rather than in Birzeit, so that we could enjoy such things like the documentary and Baladna ice cream, but today's experience underscores that we made the right decision - the Surda walk twice a day in the heat would be too much.

Thursday, 7/3/03:  After class, we met up with our friend Jonathan from the Arab-American University (who's studying at Birzeit this summer, too).  We caught a shared taxi from Birzeit towards Qalandia, quickly arriving at a checkpoint on the far edge of town.  We waited there for nearly an hour as soldiers checked vehicles.  Dust rolled into our hot van, waiting in a long loud line, two and sometimes three cars wide as drivers tried to cut in line to get through sooner.  Tempers were short, as was order.  The soldiers made a shift change in the middle of it all.  When we arrived at the checkpoint, a furious-looking Ethiopian soldier barked at the driver and demanded our IDs.  He examined them with all the scrutiny of a Vegas dealer dealing blackjack, slammed the door, and sent us on our way.  Many in the van were frustrated that we were forced to wait for such a ridiculous security check.  Others were grateful the check was quick and painless. We arrived in Qalandia and found a shared taxi headed north towards Jenin.  Marthame struck up a conversation with the driver, not recognizing him from our many journeys along this path.  He works in Jerusalem, and when he goes back home to Tamoun (just south of Tubas), he takes passengers with him to pick up extra fares.  The heat was blistering.  Rolling down the windows simply brought in a blast of hot air, not relieving in the least.  Closing the windows was worse, though - stifling and brutal.  Finding this driver turned out to be a real blessing.  His fluent Hebrew and his good nature brought smiles and jokes from the soldiers.  We were through quickly.  At one checkpoint, the soldier asked Marthame, "how long have you been here?"  "Three years."  "Really?  Three years?  Are you trying to get Israeli residence?"  "No..."  "Because I know some people, if you want..."  Quite a difference.  We arrived in Zababdeh, and word spread quickly that we were back.  We visited with Fr. Aktham and the new Deacon Imad in the evening.  They've been busy with summer camps already.  We also got caught up on the local news.  In the two weeks we've been gone, two young men from Zababdeh have been arrested.  One of them, the mayor's son, is the older brother of one of our students, and the other is Fr. Thomas' nephew.  They're both being held at Salem Detention Center.  That brings the total to five Zababdeh residents currently in detention - three Muslims and two Christians.  Welcome home.

Friday, 7/4/03:  Happy July 4th.  Here, it's just another Friday.  We spent most of the day resting before receiving visitors and paying visits in the evening.  The young man who is headed to North Park University in Chicago next year stopped by.  He currently has a plane ticket, but as yet no American visa and no travel permissions.  He's traveling in little over a month, so we hope everything will get smoothed away in time.  Palestinians are having a lot of difficulty recently when it comes to traveling.  Our friend Taghreed couldn't get to a Women's Conference in Chicago a few months ago, and four of our students and their chaperone are currently hoping their travel permissions will come through in time for them to fly out Sunday morning to Belgium.  It's not looking good right now for them.  We were awoken at about 1:30 in the morning by an Israeli helicopter flying low through the valley.  And there were two searchlights shining around the town. One vehicle was in the valley below the University, a high-powered search light going back and forth through the olive groves.  Another was at the top of the road towards Tubas doing exactly the same thing.  The helicopter hovered back and forth just over the mountains to the East.  Something was up.  Eventually, a bright light like lightning lit up the horizon - no rain thus no lightning these days, however.  The helicopter soon disappeared, as did the vehicle on the road towards Tubas.  The one near the University slowly made its way into Zababdeh, revealing two young men in a tractor - some kind of undercover unit?  Who knows...

Saturday, 7/5/03:  Apparently there was some kind of unrest underway in Jenin last evening - we never did get the details, but it wasn't big  enough to get into Ha'aretz news.  The two men in the tractor, it turns out, were hunting for game.  At night.  As helicopters flew overhead.  Go figure.  We spent most of the day inside, having slept somewhat late and the temperature being far too unpleasant to venture outside.  Fortunately, there was plenty for us to do - emails to catch up on, Arabic homework to do, English-language movies to watch.  In the evening, Fr. Firas, the Melkite priest, came over with his family for a visit.  He has asked Marthame to pray part of the liturgy tomorrow.  In Arabic.  Chanted.  He chanted parts of it with Marthame (audio - 14 sec.).  Then his older son showed off his chops singing with dad (audio - 20 sec.).  Fr. Firas had also given us a tape of the liturgy some time back, so Marthame spent a good part of the evening rewinding the tape and writing in the vowel marks in the liturgical rubric.  For a beginner, a repetitive liturgy is a blessing.  As the world cooled, we ventured out to visit with a family we have come to know in our time here.  Their daughter is getting engaged tomorrow (her fiancé is from Burqin but living in Zababdeh), and they showed us some of her engagement jewelry.  Unlike in the States, the engagement is a big deal here - the extended families are invited and a party is thrown, with music, a big wedding-like cake, and a special time when family members put gold jewelry on the bride-to-be.  Yet the condition of being engaged more parallels the "serious dating" phase in our culture rather than what we think of as engagement.  The couple usually does not know when they will get married, and may be engaged for as much as two years, getting to know each other and deciding if the match is a good one.  Breaking up before the wedding, while not very common, is a no-harm-no-foul situation.  Unfortunately, we will miss this celebration because of the course back in Birzeit.  Alas.  At least we got to watch them be cute as they prepared the jewelry boxes for tomorrow's ceremony.

Sunday, 7/6/03:  Marthame woke up early to practice the liturgy.  He had done this once before with Fr. Hossam at the Anglican Church, preparing the gospel reading a month in advance, practicing it over and over again, getting the pronunciation and the vowel markings right.  And when he had it down perfect, the Jenin invasion came and Fr. Hossam was stuck in Nablus and we evacuated to Nazareth.  This time, with a full week of Birzeit courses under his belt, Marthame felt more confident.  They certainly did help, as did attending the various liturgies for three years and getting used to the patterns of pronunciation (formal Arabic can be quite different from colloquial).  Marthame also wore Fr. Firas' red vestments, standing with him throughout the liturgy.  In the end, he did just fine (audio - 15 sec.).  After a quick lunch of stuffed squash (but a new kind of squash, not the usual koosa - Palestinians seem to have a million different kinds of cucumber and squash), we met up with our taxi driver for the ride back south.  One of the plusses of this driver is usually his air-conditioner - but unfortunately it's on the fritz.  We waited for a good half hour at Hamra checkpoint (the Tayasir checkpoint is simply closed), but passed after a quick check of the luggage.  At the next checkpoint, one soldier began to examine the documents.  His superior officer came over, gave a superfluous look at the paperwork and passed it back to the driver.  "Salamaat.  Goodbye."  We reached Qalandia, where we soon found a shared taxi to Birzeit.  Entering the village, we found the checkpoint there deserted.  The roundabout trek still took three and a half hours, though, but we made it in the end.  It'll be an early night - hopefully enough exhaustion to get our sleeping schedule back on track!

Monday, 7/7/03:  Finding the simplest things can be daunting here.  Marthame left the University after class, headed to the village of Birzeit with two things to buy: shoelaces and a phone cord.  The phone cord was easy to find - the local electrician cut the right length of cord and crimped the two connectors on.  Shoelaces, however, were a different story.  Marthame found a shoe store in Birzeit, which had only long white athletic laces for sale.  Was there another store in Birzeit?  "I don't know." Thanks.  By this time, the sun had fried Marthame's noodle, so he headed back home.  The phone cord didn't work, so in the evening (when it was cooler), it was back out to continue the hunt.  The electrician re-crimped the edges.  Marthame went off to the Bible Society's Living Stones Student Center (which offers free internet and cheap snack foods - just what students need!) where our friends work.  They tried the new cord, which didn't work either.  The third time was the charm and Marthame headed back to our summer home of Star Mountain with a 50% success rate.

Tuesday, 7/8/03:  Despite our protestations, we seem to be making our way to Ramallah quite a bit.  After the hassle of the Surda walk, we managed to locate a shoe store selling shoelaces fairly easily - they even had black.  We had a leisurely dinner at Sangria's (a yuppie American-style restaurant where alcohol - and not alacrity - is their forte).  We got our nachos (with actual corn chips, good cheese and black beans!) and Elizabeth's grilled chicken salad with time to consume, but Marthame's burrito took almost an hour, and we had to be off with it packed in styrofoam.  A quick taxi ride got us to the Popular Arts Center in al-Bireh (Ramallah's twin city) in time to catch another documentary film.  Tonight's offering was "What's Next?" by a local filmmaker about the Ramallah incursion last year.  Through the film, we got to meet her friends and hear their stories, particularly their new realities following the incursion - an institute for indigent adults wrecked by the Israeli army, a man not allowed to reach his job in East Jerusalem anymore, the political complexities of Ramallah conversations.  It was very moving, particularly because of the humor and accessibility of the characters.  It was also filmed with the eye of an artist, and very effectively at that.  We and a group of other international students who went to see the film made our way back to Surda, where the scene was the same as we had left it - just darker and fewer people.  Taxis were waiting, though, and we made it back home easily.

Wednesday, 7/9/03:  Following classes today, nearly all of the students in Birzeit's Palestine and Arabic Studies Program made our way to Ramallah together, through the crowds migrating home through Surda, and back to the Popular Arts Center for a lecture that had been arranged especially for us.  Dr. Salim Tamari is the director of the Institute of Jerusalem Studies and professor at Birzeit University.  A social historian, he shared with us some of his research into Jerusalem's modernization over the past couple centuries.  In particular, he contends that Jerusalem's religious segregation as we know it (particularly in the Old City quarters) is a relatively recent phenomenon, with its roots in modernization and gentrification under the Ottomans.  Up to the 1850's, Jews and Christians and Muslims were living largely side by side within the Old City's walls.  As economic, political and social forces of modernization begam to take root in the Ottoman empire, and the middle classes grew, a movement of gentrification outside the city walls (first especially to the north and west) took place.  (We'd note that it seems not unlike suburban sprawl, when  people with the means leave "inner" cities).  And, as today, it was the poorer residents who were left within the walls. The landscape of Jerusalem began to show a marked class separation between those within and without the city walls, and, as time went on, a religious separation took form among those remaining within the city walls. By the 1920s, especially under British Mandate rule, the Old City had largely taken the segregated form we are familiar with today: the Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter.  Those "boundaries" have been encroached recently, mostly through the selling of tenant rights.  Tenants in the Old City have nearly as many rights as the property owners.  Thus, they can sell the rights to live in an apartment, regardless of ownership.  That's how folks like Ariel Sharon have come to live in the city's Muslim Quarter - not by buying the property, but by buying the right to be a tenant there!  We also learned that the official status of Jerusalemite (those with this status have different rights, and pay different taxes than those without it) was assigned to Palestinians in one night.  Israel declared a curfew, and those who were on one side of a boundary (a virtual boundary - a line on a map, at the time not a visible boundary on the ground) were given Jerusalem IDs - the rest got West Bank IDs.  Some Jerusalemites were on the wrong side that night and were made West Bankers, while some West Bankers ended up Jerusalemites.  It was a fascinating lecture, and we felt privileged to have him speak to us. Afterwards, Elizabeth went with some of the other students for drinks and dinner in Ramallah - a treat we don't get in Zababdeh, thus we are taking advantage of it.  Another watering hole for the kit-kat young up-and-coming crowd (the term "kit-kat," for whatever reason, roughly translates to yuppie), this place had a wide selection of drinks (Elizabeth forewent anything stronger than a mint lemonade) and decent French onion soup. Meanwhile, Marthame went down to Jerusalem for an errand.  He passed through the Qalandia checkpoint and caught the shared taxi to Jerusalem.  He swung by the Latin Patriarchate to pick up some of the paperwork for our Zababdeh student who is trying to get his visa ready to study in Chicago in the fall.  By the time Marthame got to Qalandia, though, the Birzeit taxis had stopped running - it was about 6:00, so he went in to Ramallah and met up with friends at Stones' Restaurant for some beverages (iced mocha?  In the West Bank!) before heading home via Surda.  Once on the other side, Marthame ran into some of our fellow students.  Apparently the soldiers had been through a few minutes ago, one of them taking a taxi for a joyride then announcing that the checkpoint was going to be lengthened.  Who knows what'll come next - you can never tell.

Thursday, 7/10/03:  Our extended weekend begins, so after class we hopped into the Qalandia taxis in Birzeit.  While we waited, an Israeli army jeep stood at the main traffic circle, then drove back past a couple of times.  An armored personnel carrier rolled through town, too, as normally as if this was the afternoon traffic.  It's amazing what folks can get used to.  We rented a car in East Jerusalem, one of only two companies that insure for West Bank driving (even though we won't be entering the West Bank this time), and drove off to Kufr Yasif in the northern Galilee.  Kufr Yasif is the boyhood home of last year's Presbyterian Church (USA) Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel, and we have visited with his family from time to time, and they have welcomed us into their home.  We had extra reason to come this summer, though, since some of Rev. Abu-Akel's extended family whom we also know from Atlanta are back home visiting the grandparents.  Maybe they speak with a Southern Kufr Yasif accent.

Friday, 7/11/03:  Today, we enjoyed a full day with our friends in Kufr Yasif. Before dawn, the family patriarch went off to the Mediterranean to go fishing.  He came back about the time we were waking up, carrying six kilos of fresh fish - we know what we're having for lunch!  We headed into "downtown" Kufr Yasif to other members of this extended family for breakfast, a delicious round of mana'ish, bread baked with various tasty things on top - sort of an Arabic breakfast pizza.  Having been sated, we went out to tour the area a bit.  First stop was Kibbutz Lohamei HaGetaot, founded by survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto resistance.  The kibbutz is now most well-known for its production of soy-based meat substitutes.  They also have a Holocaust Museum and work on Arab-Jewish dialogue in the Galilee. Unfortunately their small museum and other facilities were closed for the weekend, but we did admire the (presumably) Roman aqueduct running nearby and then enjoyed a stroll through the residential part of the kibbutz.  It was interesting to see the workings of one of these compounds, the old socialist building blocks of the modern State of Israel.  In the past, on many Kibbutzim, children would live together in one house, cared for by childcare givers rather than living with their parents.  The old socialist origins have largely been lost by the Kibbutzim in general, but each of them maintains their own particular character and community activities.  Afterwards, we made our way towards the Baha'i shrine nearby.  We had visited the grand Baha'i shrine in Haifa and had lived within walking distance of the enormous Baha'i Temple in Wilmette, Illinois.  The grounds here are beautiful, holding the shrine of Baha-ullah, the founder of the Baha'i faith.  Magnificent as they are, they pale in comparison to the grandness of Haifa - on that we all agreed.  We then took a walking tour of Akka, the Crusader stronghold and port city through which Napoleon was unable to break.  We wandered through the town's history and modernity.  The tour was super, with the one exception of a lack of sunscreen; Elizabeth got a doozy of a sunburn on her neck (theme music courtesy of the Violent Femmes - 2 sec.).  We completed the trip back to Kufr Yasif, where freshly fried fish was waiting for us - fantastically delicious.  We devoured three kilos each (at least it felt like that) before the requisite watermelon (a summer necessity) and coffee.  We bid our friends farewell and made our way to our night's lodging in Ibillin.  A quiet, remote night was broken by the distant sound of a wedding party growing louder as the day faded further over the horizon.

Saturday, 7/12/03:  We left Ibillin around eight to arrive in Nazareth for a full day of grading.  We pulled up to Fr. Hatem's home before nine, and he and Marthame got down to translating the papers and final exams of Marthame's Church History class at Mar Elias Theological School.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth relaxed (out of the sun) with the rest of the family.  We shared lunch together with the extended family, a delicious Syrian version of stuffed squash (koosa mahshi, a regular favorite of ours) with extra yogurt sauce and pine nuts. Delicious. After fresh fruit, ice cream, and coffee, we had to be off to get the rental car back before it turned into a pumpkin. We took the Jordan Valley road, a much faster route than the roads that run past Tel Aviv which often clogged with traffic.  After returning the car in Beit Hanina, a town swallowed into annexed East Jerusalem, we took a shared taxi to Qalandia checkpoint and then again on the other side, into Ramallah. We went straight to the St. Andrew's Anglican Church to see Fr. Fadi, born and raised in Zababdeh, and brother of Fr. Firas, our good friend and Zababdeh's Melkite priest.  After a nice visit, he dropped us off at Ramallah's Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, where we caught another documentary film, this one about life in Bethlehem (A Number Zero).  Made as a final project in graduate school in England, the film won the Royal Television Society award for best foreign documentary.  It mostly showed life through the perspective of  a local barber and his clientele. Again, it was a powerful vision of daily life, with humor and frustration shining through. After the film, we joined Fr. Fadi for supper at Angelo's, a long-standing New York-style pizza restaurant - not 100%NY (or New Haven), but very good nonetheless. Fr. Fadi dropped us off at our evening's accommodations, the guest house at the Evangelical School at the edge of Ramallah where we were welcomed by one of the Sisters.  Fr. Fadi had invited Marthame to preach in the morning, so now it's time to do some prep.

Sunday, 7/13/03:  Marthame awoke early to work on his sermon, while Elizabeth enjoyed sleeping in.  We rode with Sister Najah down to the Anglican church for their 10:30 service.  Marthame and Fr. Fadi co-officiated the service, assisted by three altar-girls.  The text for the morning included the parables of the lost sheep and coin, and Marthame preached about how they illustrate the economy of heaven as something very different from the economy of earth - not bad for last minute.  After the service we split up, Marthame off to pay the cell phone bill and Elizabeth to do a bit of shopping in the open air vegetable market.  She was happy to wander among the carts, absorbing the hubbub, eying the deep luscious color of young eggplants and breathing in the scent of fresh peaches, and picking up a kilo of fresh okra.  We returned separately, both pleased that the walk at Surda was actually shortened during our absence.  We both saw soldiers force a boy to remove the goods he was hawking from between the two roadblocks - lines of all kinds of cheap plastic goods.  We met up back at our summer accommodation, where Elizabeth stayed to tend her sunburn and enjoy some recreational reading (Barbara Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer - a feast of a read).  Marthame went out again to meet our friend Deacon Humam, who served in Zababdeh this past year.  He was relaxing at the new swimming pool (an entrepreneurial enterprise of a local family) in Jifna, a small town not far from Birzeit. After a dip with the deacon, Marthame relaxed in the shade amid a flock of Rosary Sisters who came not to swim, but to play dominoes and chat.  Cooled and refreshed Marthame returned home for an evening of working on a webpage for Star Mountain Rehabilitation Center.

Monday, 7/14/03: Sunburn and poor sleep prompted Elizabeth to stay in bed today, missing her usual morning work under the pines as well as class at Birzeit.  Marthame headed off to school, where his classmate's absence (there are only two students in Level II) left him alone with the professor.  Over the past few months, we've been corresponding with a young Californian named Frank about a possible visit - today, we finally connected, so Marthame, Frank, and our friend Jonathan from the Arab-American University went into to Ramallah to eat, see the sights, and just hang out.  Frank had planned to stay here for three months, but was given a ten day visa upon entry - perhaps a similar profile to International Solidarity Movement volunteers or his Filipino ancestry prevented him from the automatic three-month visa.  After lunch and ice cream, the three met up with two friends who recently graduated from Birzeit University.  They're both from Gaza and neither has been home in years - Gazans are no longer given West Bank permissions, so a trip home can mean no exit out of the Strip.  One is going home tomorrow, the other will be going to continue his studies in London.  He won't be able to see his family before he leaves, though, because he won't be able to leave Gaza once he goes back.  Gazans seem to be bearing the brunt of the injustices of occupation and siege.  Our conversation touched on everything from non-violence to the East-West communication gap.  While sitting back in Jonathan's Ramallah apartment and playing guitar, we learned that the Israelis had announced a curfew in Ramallah.  We listened to the sounds of the streets, deciding it was safe enough to venture outside.  Sure enough, the town was open - not nearly as active as normal, but open.  Store owners sat in front of their shops, their metal store fronts half-open, as if they were ready to spring and close it with a moment's notice.  We ran into other internationals and compared notes - apparently things were quiet all around.  The three of us then went over to Ramallah's Latin Church, where an ecumenical prayer service was being held.  Never an easy feat, this one was quite well done.  Different elements of the different liturgical traditions were included, and the Melkite priest was invited to give the sermon.  We later learned that a few blocks away stones and rubber bullets were being exchanged.  Marthame made it back home via Surda with no problem whatsoever. 922

Tuesday, 7/15/03:  Marthame wandered into Birzeit tonight to take care of some errands.  On the way, he stopped by the Latin Convent.  Fr. Iyad was there with his summertime volunteers from the States, members of National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC.  Over the past few years, relations between the two parishes have been strengthened through a number of projects, summer camp volunteering being one of them.  Two of the Americans are folks we have gotten to know, staying with them during our time in DC last summer, so Marthame got to reconnect with them.  Today is also Fr. Iyad's 30th (!) birthday, so Marthame was invited to crash the party and share in the cake.

Wednesday, 7/16/03:  Marthame's level two teacher invited his students over to visit this evening.  Four of us got to enjoy the homemade pizza, chocolate cake, and the requisite Arabic coffee.  We also got the chance to visit with their kids.  The youngest performed one of the latest Arabic pop songs for us.  The oldest son did magic tricks and his latest feat - juggling!  Both Marthame's teacher and his wife are originally from the Nablus area.  Both of their villages abut the large Israeli settlement of Ariel.  They said that relations are not good, because much Palestinian land was confiscated to build the settlement and the settler roads that serve it.  Having heard quite a bit about Ariel, we later took a look at B'Tselem's 2002 report of settlements.  Founded strategically in the heart of the West Bank in 1978 under the pretext of a military base, the settlement now has 15,900 residents, 40% of whom are from the former Soviet Union.  Especially disturbing is that most of the settlement's sewage is released into a dry riverbed near the town of Salfit, often polluting their water pumping station. Road blocks and closures for the security and convenience of Ariel settlers makes travel to and between the villages (which surround it on all sides) extremely difficult.  Our hosts are probably better off in Birzeit than in their family home. . 

Thursday, 7/17/03:  Elizabeth took the first quiz today in her level one class.  Since she has more familiarity with Arabic than most of the other students, she could relax and not stress out about it.  However, Marthame's level two exam is on Monday, and he will need to cram.  After class, we headed back home, taking the requisite three taxis - one from the University to Birzeit, one from Birzeit to Qalandia, and one from Qalandia to Zababdeh.  The Birzeit checkpoint was unmanned, and only one checkpoint now separates Zababdeh from Qalandia - that of Hamra.  However, we passed an unexpected sight.  A huge 22-wheeler truck had turned over, blocking off the Jordan Valley road from traffic.  Palestinians have gotten used to driving around obstacles, but this was something new.  Hamra was reasonably painless, a check of IDs and the like, and we were on our way.  The Jenin region gets much hotter than Ramallah in the summer, so we have to spend the first few hours re-acclimating and hiding out from the heat.  In the evening, when it was cooler, Marthame went out to say hi to folks and let them know we were back around.  There are a remarkable number of people who seem to think that we had left after the summer and are surprised to hear that we're back for another six months.

Friday, 7/18/03:  Early in the morning, we piled in the taxi and headed towards Salem.  We were accompanying a family friend who was trying to get permission to get to the Galilee.  We knew she would need permission from the Israelis, but we didn't know if the DCO (District Coordinating Office) was open on Fridays or not - usually, offices in Israel are closed for Saturday only (Friday only on the Palestinian side, with special exceptions on both for various religious communities).  We arrived at Salem DCO to find a giant gate in front of the military camp.  The Wall is being built here, and with the gate closed, it appeared as though there was no passage.  But the man working the bulldozer assured us we could enter by going around the gate - after first walking between the fence and the trench running parallel to it.  We decided Marthame would go first and inquire whether the office was open or not before taking it any further - the woman we were accompanying is sixty-five years old and didn't need such a passage for nothing.  Marthame went and talked to the soldiers, who said they were sure it was open, but they'd need to see her in person.  Elizabeth helped her around.  The soldier examined her papers.  "You'll need a permission from the office to pass."  "Yeah - that's why we're here."  "But the office is closed today."  Marthame tried to explain to the soldier why his perspective was a bit flawed - but as he explained it, his job was to check bags and IDs.  The office's job was to deal with permissions.  It wasn't his fault it was closed today and she couldn't get her permissions.  There was nothing more to it than that, apparently.  We turned back, deciding to take a detour through Burqin, the village where our friend grew up, and visited the Church of the Ten Lepers there as well as paying some visits to family friends and relatives who still live there in the village's shrinking Christian community.  We returned to Zababdeh, filthy and tired from the Salem escapade, and walked home.  Fr. Thomas' son grabbed us on the way, welcoming us back to Zababdeh, and informing us that Bishop Timothy was in town for a visit.  We went up to see him and visit - he always has kind words and a warm welcome for us Protestants, as does Fr. Thomas.  He was soon off, as were we, to get relief from the heat.  It's brutal these days.

Saturday, 7/19/03:  Today was very very hot. We spent most of it hiding out at home and trying not to exert ourselves (which meant a fair amount of TV watching and web surfing).

Sunday, 7/20/03:  We knew the Salem offices would be open again today, so we left again, missing church - it seems that we're often wrestling with Israeli bureaucracy on Sundays.  After five hours, let's just say we had enough to write about - which was not the original intention, of course.  Marthame was acting as the go-between, being both male and foreign giving him some measure of leeway.  At one point, he asked the soldier, "How much longer is it going to take?"  "Not much longer."  "You mean, not much longer, like ten minutes, or not much longer, like two hours?"  "The soldier laughed, "No!  Not two hours!"  Two hours later, Marthame was talking with the same soldier.  "It won't be much longer."  "If it's not ready in five minutes, I'm walking out."  To our surprise, the soldier went to find out what the status of the application was.  "It's incomplete.  There's no letter from her doctor here."  "You mean to tell me that we've been waiting here five hours for an incomplete application?  You couldn't tell me this when we turned in the application, or any of the dozen other times I asked you about it?"  "Well, you see we have a process, and..."  Marthame had little patience for process at this point.  "Your process is nonsense!"  "It's not nonsense.  We have to..."  "If it's not nonsense, then I would have a permission paper in my hand right now."  With that, we left, dangling between the fence and the trench once more for old time's sake.  We went back towards Jenin, stopping for a brief ID check at a checkpoint before having lunch in Jenin (in one of the few places with air conditioning) to try and forget the day's troubles.  We all went home, our poor little brains and bodies fried and dried from a day in the sun and dust.  We had planned to go back to Birzeit in the morning, but the possibility of getting the permission today helped us decide to delay.  For nothing.  Did we mention how infuriating this place can be?  And this is for the people who are trying to get permission, trying to go the legal route.  And for doing so, for kowtowing to this illegal Occupation and its illegal laws, for playing along, they are punished.  Ugh.  We certainly feel punished today.

Monday, 7/21/03:  Worn out from the weekend's frustrations, we caught the early morning taxi back to Qalandia.  We arrived at Tayasir checkpoint around 7:00, surprised to find only a handful of cars waiting in front of us.  Checked one by one, they were passed through, and it was our turn.  A quick check and we were on our way.  The path has improved drastically.  However, it is once we arrive at Qalandia that our path takes on the air of true absurdity.  Rather than passing through Ramallah and then onto Birzeit, the most logical path, we catch a shared taxi at Qalandia and double back over the route we've just come from Zababdeh, bypassing Ramallah and entering Birzeit near the village of Atara.  Otherwise, we would need to walk through the Qalandia checkpoint into Ramallah then deal with the hot long Surda walk.  Redundancy is preferable to that.  When we walked into our classroom building at Birzeit, we were met by one of Elizabeth's favorite students from the Latin School in Zababdeh.  About to enter eighth grade, he is spending part of his summer away from his home in Jenin and visiting his brother, a student at Birzeit.  We sat for a bit and chatted before class started. (Elizabeth wishes she could take credit for the kid's fantastic English, but it has more to do with a natural gift for language, and a passion for learning.) At any rate, it was super to see him and meet his brother.  Lunch at the university cafeteria (which is usually very good) was super today, with msakhan, a delicious traditional dish.  In the evening, we went into Birzeit with a couple of our fellow language students to the "Mona Lisa" restaurant.  While there, an American friend of ours came running in - she was studying Arabic with us two years ago in Birzeit.  Her in-laws are from Birzeit, so she was back visiting them.  Her ordeal at the bridge entering sounded pretty tedious.  For three hours, she was grilled, and the authorities eventually produced faxed copies of her husband's ID pictures.  She was then given a ten-day visa, rather than the automatic three-month tourist visa usually issued to Americans and other Western visitors.  Recently, because of actions of international peace activists, the border security is much tougher, refusing entry or issuing extremely short visas to people they suspect of coming here to help Palestinians. This has not only been a challenge for those activist networks, but it has also put established NGOs in a bind, since much of their Palestinian staff may not be able to come to work through the closures, while international staff and volunteers may not be able to get into the country at all.  For our friend, proof that she is married to a Palestinian is enough evidence that she is undesirable.  She was glad to get in at all, but it'll cut very short her visit here.

Tuesday, 7/22/03:  After classes we went out, we caught the shared taxi down to Birzeit to have lunch at the Latin Convent with Fr. Iyad and his American visitors.  Camp is finishing up, and this Sunday is Fr. Iyad's last as Birzeit's parish priest.  After some vacation time, he will be moving on to the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala.  He will be missed here, but we look forward to seeing him there.  Afterwards, Marthame went off to Ramallah with Jonathan, our friend from the Arab-American University of Jenin.  The two walked through Surda, stopped and questioned by soldiers while on their way.  After a look at Jonathan's passport and a quick glance in his bags, the two continued on for a chocolate milkshake at Rukab's ice cream - one of Ramallah's two parlors that make their own ice cream.  Ramallah has its rewards.

Thursday, 7/24/03:  The weekend is here, and tomorrow, we've got a trip with the other PAS (Palestine and Arabic Studies) students.  After last week's travel experiences, we're sticking close to "home" this evening.  We went down to Birzeit village where we met up with the family with whom we were neighbors two years ago when we studied at Birzeit.  Their kids have all gotten older, one of them headed off to college next year (and one remains shy of the camera).  The high school comprehensive exam results are out, and have been published in the local newspapers.  We looked through the dozens of pages to find results for the Latin School in Zababdeh - staggering, with most of the kids scoring in the nineties!  Fantastic.

Friday, 7/25/03:  We met up with the other PAS students, all Americans and Europeans, and began our travel to Bethlehem.  We caught the shared taxi in Birzeit, one additional passenger filling it up in addition to our six.  Once at Qalandia, we parted ways - she, too, was headed to Bethlehem, but because she was a West Banker, she couldn't travel through Jerusalem and thus had to go around on a several hour trip.  We passed through by way of Damascus Gate, catching a taxi to the outskirts of Beit Jala.  We walked through a simple checkpoint and caught our fourth taxi to the Church of the Nativity.  On the way, we saw Palestinian police who had returned to seemingly impotent patrols of the city there, mere yards from the Israeli checkpoint.  Once in Bethlehem, we were met by a Birzeit alum who took us on a brief tour of Bethlehem's Old City.  We were also met by dozens of freelance tour guides who wanted to take us on tours of the Church.  "It's only twenty shekels (five dollars)."  The tourist industry has a long way to go to recover here.  We visited the church and the grotto for the first time in a long time.  It brought back memories of celebrating Christmas 2000 here, a joyful time for us as Elizabeth's mother came to visit and we were able to attend the Roman Catholic midnight mass (feet away from Arafat). But it was a desperate and somber time in many ways; so many hopes (and investments) were pinned on throngs of pilgrims coming for Christmas 2000, and of course they, the lifeblood of Bethlehem, didn't come, and still haven't.  Then we climbed down under the church into a series of caves which are the purported burial site of the Innocents, the infants slaughtered by King Herod in an effort to kill Jesus.  As many times as we've been here, this was the first time we had seen the catacombs.  Supposedly, the mothers of the Innocents are buried here too, an early Christian marker of their suffering.  Secret worship services were also held here in the early years of Christianity.  After a short visit to the Bethlehem Peace Center, it was off to the nearby Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.  Badil was created to address the recommendations of several popular conferences held among Palestinian refugees in 1995 and 1996 in response to a growing sense of alienation from the Oslo process, which refugees considered undemocratic and unresponsive to their concerns.   As with the current "road map," Oslo put aside any discussion of refugee rights as a final status issue, which (in the perspective of our host), meant that not only was there no common language or framework for considering rights of refugees, but also they came to seem like no big deal to the Israeli contingent.  And so, when the issue did come up, the two sides were at widely different places, such that even beginning dialogue was nearly impossible.  Of 9.3 million Palestinians worldwide, it is estimated that 75% are displaced or refugees (4 million from 1948 who remain registered with UNRWA; 1.5 million from 1948 who are not registered; 3/4 million displaced in 1967; 3/4 million displaced after 1967; 300,000 internally displaced - i.e. fled in 1948 but at the end of the war were in the new state of Israel, but never allowed to return to their villages and many of whom live in unrecognized villages; 20-100,000 displaced during the current intifada). One especially interesting thing Badil has been doing is building connections among refugee communities around the world; last year they sent a delegation of Palestinian refugee leaders to Bosnia to see how refugee issues were being handled there.  Soon they hope to take a group to South Africa for more of the same and also to examine their Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  From there, it was off to view the refugee situation through our hosts at Ibda'a Cultural Center in nearby Dheisheh Refugee Camp, population 11,000.  We visited the Center two years ago with a group from Peachtree Presbyterian Church of Atlanta.  In that time, though the Refugee Camp's situation remains one of relative squalor and overcrowding, the Center has expanded.  It now has in internet cafe as well as a top-floor restaurant and a guesthouse which puts European youth hostels to shame.  Much of the funding for the Center initially came from its Palestinian dance troupe which tours regularly and widely.  The Center's Director spoke to us as graphic images of Saddam's two sons lingered on the TV over his shoulder, interspersed with footage of President Bush meeting with Mahmoud Abbas.  Interesting. 
One of the remaining original shelters built by UN for refugees in the early 1950s.
Dheisheh was one of 59 camps founded in response to the 750,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing the war in 1948.  From 1952 to 1956, the UN built shelters for the refugees to replace the tents.  These shelters measured 3 meters by 3 meters; our host talked about how crowded these shelters were, especially since the average family size was 6.3 members.  He also told us about the long waits he and his family had to use the toilet; for every 25 families, there were two toilets (one for men, one for women). As people managed to get their feet on the ground in the mid-70s, they began to build onto their shelters, and get indoor plumbing and electricity in their homes.  A seat of resistance to Israeli occupation, Dheisheh was subject to stiff suppression. Between 1979 and 1995, residents spent an average of 4 months a year under curfew.  There and throughout the Occupied Territories, schools and universities were required to get approval from the Israeli military for all books used.  Titles about liberation or democracy or justice (not to mention Palestine) were forbidden in schools, and also for people to have in their homes.  Refugees in West Bank camps have been under Jordanian, Israeli, and now Palestinian regimes in the past half century. Our host said, "For us refugees, the Palestinian Authority is not home - it is another host country. Our homes are on the other side of the border."  We watched a film in the evening.  A few children of Dheisheh had been taken illegally into Israel by an American filmmaker to visit the destroyed villages of their ancestors, most of them piles of stones sitting among fifty year-old pine trees.  In one case, the village had been replaced by an Israeli one.  The kids were deeply moved by these visits, rare chances for them to connect with their roots, their identities.  The refugee story seems to have been forgotten among all of the morass of political debates and negotiations.  And it also seems to be the one in which desperation and fundamentalism are most likely to find a home.  But as the Director of the Center said, "We want our children to love life.  Not to destroy it."  Amen.  Marthame met up with friends from Zababdeh we had seen earlier in the day for a late meal at Ramzi Burger (tm).

Saturday, 7/26/03:  Hebron is close by, but is once again a multiple taxi ride.  The first took us from Dheisheh Camp off to the village of Al-Khader where piles of dirt and large stones similar to those at Surda (near Ramallah) keep all but foot traffic out.  From there, we caught the next taxi to Huwaywar, along the main settler road down to Hebron.  Normally, the taxis would turn off, but piles of dirt and rubble taller than us blocked us once again.  A jeep stood watch, seemingly to linger as the noticeable group of foreigners passed.  We then caught another taxi to "the bridge" which runs over a settler bypass road.  The bridge, too, is blocked by piles of dirt, these topped with barbed wire.  We paused to see how many cars passed on the exquisitely-paved road beneath - two, maybe three.  Just inside the enclosed area stood the Coca-Cola distribution warehouse for the Hebron area - not much distributing happening these days - under the shadow of a magnificent villa on top of the hill.  The top floor is covered in military netting, and a large Israeli flag flies atop it.  One week after the owner finished the house, the army moved in.  The man and his family stay inside, fearing what will happen if they leave.  They must call the army when they come home so as not to be fired upon.  It was simply a small taste of what we were about to see as we entered the city of Hebron.  Our guides were a local and a Spaniard volunteering with the International Palestinian Youth League, an organization which has had to redefine itself in this intifada.  Before, their major projects were youth exchanges and cultural camps, but few young adults will come now, and it is almost impossible to get Palestinian youth out, so these exchanges are all but defunct. Instead, they focus on local projects, youth centers, democracy and citizenship classes.  Our first stop was the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), where we learned about their attempts to conserve and renovate structures in the Old City, many aging between 500 and 1,000 years old. The committee's work has a strong political aspect, trying to restore the city and maintain its Palestinian residents in the face of settlement expansion.  Like a chess game, the residential conflict is strategic and square by square: Palestinians move back into a historic home near a settlement; settlers take over residences linking two settlements.  Recently HRC has been given a verbal order from the Israeli military to halt all renovation work in the Old City.  From the HRC offices, we walked down to the Old City of Hebron.  Hebron is divided into two parts: H1 and H2.  H2 is Israeli-controlled and includes the Old City and the radical settlements within.  H1 is nominally Palestinian-controlled, though that is largely irrelevant these days.  In any case, H2's boundary has been physically expanded well-into H1.  Just to underscore that fact, an Israeli jeep stopped us to ask us what we were doing.  Some of us stopped, others ignored and kept walking. We tried three different entrances to the Old City - at the first two, we were turned back (the second one more through the insistence of the settlers than the young soldier standing by).  At the third, no one was watching, so we slipped through - not far from the second checkpoint.  We were soon in the middle of the abandoned Old City, under curfew and military closure.  It's standard these days, particularly on Saturday.  Soon, we were met by members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an organization which has now been there eight years.  They were originally invited by the mayor as part of a violence reduction program.  We have stayed with them a couple of times, the last time being almost two years ago.  Since then, the situation has gone from bad to worse.  Their apartment is now in an officially closed part of the Old City.  They are not allowed to enter H1 anymore under threat of arrest.  They also are now been told they are subject to the same curfews as Palestinians (but not as the settlers), although they still manage to move about fairly successfully.  Since we were there last, new barriers and barricades have been put up, and soldiers have welded shopkeepers' stores shut.  Settlers break in and steal from them anyway.  Graffiti is everywhere, some of it lovingly written by the settlers in English for the benefit of the Internationals who come.  One of the most disturbing and puzzling is that which is right outside the CPTers apartment: "White Power.  Kill N---ers."  Other racial slurs abound in the hate graffiti as well. That one seems to be for the benefit of the two African-Americans currently serving with the CPTers.  Throughout this conflict, there are many points of disagreement: settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, etc.  However, there are some things on which there is near universal acceptance.  One of these is that the Hebron settlements must be removed in any kind of final status.  Seven years into Oslo (now ten), the Palestinians could always point to the continued presence of these settlers as evidence of the Israelis bad negotiation faith.  We stopped by Hebron University for lunch.  Opening in 1971, Hebron University is the first Palestinian University in the Occupied Territories; before that year, Palestinians were not permitted to build universities here. In January, the University was closed by Israeli military order for two weeks.  That then became six months.  The administration punted by offering classes at night in secondary schools throughout the city. After six months, the closure was extended for another six.  The students had had enough, and a month ago busted through the welded gates and reopened the University.  At any point, the military could come and reseal, but the students have spoken - it's time to have school at school.  In the twenty-some years of the University's existence, it has been closed for a cumulative total of six years by military order - all in the name of "security."  We dashed off to meet with the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, set up in response to the 1994 massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque, where Baruch Goldstein (a Hebron settler from the USA) entered the mosque during Friday prayers and emptied several rounds of ammunition into the congregation.  Twenty nine people died, and many more were injured. The UN Security Council issued resolution 904, condemning the massacre and calling for a measure to protect Palestinian residents in Hebron. Hence the TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) was formed; not so temporary, TIPH is still in Hebron, administered and funded by six countries: Sweden, Italy, Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark. On the ground and taking notes, TIPH issues daily, weekly, and three-month reports, which are sent to the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority, and to the 6 sponsoring states.  TIPH is forbidden, however, from sharing their reports with anyone else. However, our host did say that approximately 9,500 infractions of international law had been recorded since 1994.  All in all, a visit to the dark heart of the Occupation.  Once back at the bridge, we stopped at one of Hebron's many glass factories to do some shopping - Hebron is famous for its glass and ceramics, but we have never had the chance to visit any of the factories.  Elizabeth did minimal damage, but promised to come back for more.  It took only three taxis to get back, and only three checkpoints, though two were practically in sight of each other.

Sunday, 7/27/03:  We went down to Birzeit this morning to worship in the Latin Church.  It is Fr. Iyad's last Sunday before heading off to the seminary in a matter of weeks (after some well-deserved vacation).  We worshiped with the community, as well as with their guests (and our friends) from National Presbyterian Church.  He will be missed, and no doubt he will miss this place.  We spent the rest of the day working on the final touches on our latest update.  Word is that the Surda roadblock is opened, which means traffic is going and coming from Ramallah.  People are happy, and are hoping - though dubious - that this is permanent.

Monday, 7/28/03:  We have been sorting through responses to our latest update.  One came from one of Marthame's former students who is now studying in Romania.  He was back home this summer in Jenin, after spending five hours at security at Ben Gurion Airport.  They gave him a two week visa, which he overstayed because they delayed him on exit.  He returned back to Jenin to wait for permission to overstay his visa, which eventually came.  As he says, "when you live in palestine even for a few days, you think its the hell on earth."  At times...  We went to Ramallah after classes, the first time we have done so unhindered by the Surda roadblock in more than two years.  The rumors were true.  We took care of some errands, having lunch at Charle's (sic) Fried Chicken, the proprietor of which lived in Houston for twenty years and has American citizenship (and a detectable Texan accent).  The word from some is that other checkpoints will soon open - Qalandia, for example, but others are far more cynical: Sharon is in Washington, so he has to show that the Israelis are opening the ways throughout the West Bank.  In the end, it's probably somewhere in between.  However, on the way home, we found ourselves face to face with a different checkpoint.  It was a "flying checkpoint" (a couple jeeps and a few soldiers stopping traffic) which - lucky for us - was only stopping traffic going toward Ramallah.  But the line was three cars wide and very long, slowing us down as we crept past them off the edge of the pavement, passing people who'd given up and started walking back.  Things like this give the appearance that the grand opening of the checkpoint was all smoke and mirrors.  This checkpoint was within yards of Star Mountain, our summer residence, so provided some spectating for the next few hours.

Tuesday, 7/29/03:  We've been busy with planning our return to the States in 2004.  That, and learning Arabic.  Meanwhile, Sharon is in DC with Bush.  The issues of the Security/Separation Wall is high on the agenda.  It has become the new stumbling block in the negotiating process towards a settlement of the conflict here.  Somehow the Israeli argument that it doesn't mean a border when it is costing three million dollars each mile doesn't quite hold water.  That and the destruction of Palestinian farmland - and the separation from that farmland - that goes alongside it is not building any trust in Israeli goodwill.

Wednesday, 7/30/03:  This evening, the Birzeit students came over for a little potluck party at Star Mountain. We set up a grill for marinated chicken (Marthame's specialty)  and made some all-purpose lentil soup (Elizabeth's specialty). Folks brought all sorts of good cook-out stuff: steaks, potatoes, beer, 'arak and so on. It was a nice relaxing time for us all. 

Thursday, 7/31/03:  This morning, Marthame skipped class.  Going to Ramallah, he found a checkpoint set up at Surda, the place that had been opened to so much publicity a few days before.  Though cars were passing, they were doing so slowly.  Many, it seems, were so accustomed to walking at this spot through the past few years that they simply got out.  Marthame and the rest of the taxi waited in the queue.  His playing hooky wasn't all checkpoint fun and games, though: it was to accompany one of our Zababdeh students into Jerusalem (even though he obtained permission, sometimes there can be trouble) for his visa interview at the US consulate.  He won a four-year scholarship to North Park University, and is supposed to fly there at the end of the week to join them for freshman orientation. The visa process has taken very long, with a longer wait than usual for the I-20 form from the US government.  He is scheduled to travel on August 10, orientation beginning on August 15, and classes on August 23.  We stopped by Sabeel, the local coordinators for the scholarship, a chance for our student to meet the staff there.  They welcomed him like one of their children, clearly proud of the last fourteen years of sending such young scholars to the States.  After that, it was time for a quick trip down into the Old City to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the first such visit for him in more than three years.  Finally, it was off to the Consulate.  Marthame tried to enter with him, but new regulations don't permit anyone except the applicant to enter - at least, if he's an Arab.  Marthame waited outside for two hours: no visa, simply "provisional approval."  He has to wait for another process - probably being an eighteen year-old young man from the Jenin area set off some buzzers.  Now his application goes back to Homeland Security, which could take anywhere from a few days to a few months.  This is a young man who has been involved with a number of Israeli-Palestinian peace exchange programs, but his profile isn't right.  For North Park, this is the first time in fourteen years that their scholarship recipient has been treated so.  Nothing left to do but wait at this point, and hope that this nonsense will come to an end soon - the system has known for six months now that this young man is planning to come and study, but apparently that's not enough time.  We're used to this place making us sick - now it's our own country.  Disappointed and frustrated, the two made their way to Qalandia, where Elizabeth met them (after a non-eventful day at school) at the Jenin taxis. We all went back to Zababdeh together, fortunately without incident.  Once back home, we spent the rest of the evening trying not to sweat in the heat.  952

Journal Archive
Our Main Page