Journal in the Holy Land
March, 2001
Journal Archive
Our Main Page
(Having multimedia problems?  Download Windows Media Player for free or see our help page)
The sounds of Zababdeh: 
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.) 
24-7, Electrical generator (5 sec.) 
All night long, cow (14 sec.) 
Night-time, shooting (5 sec.)

3/1/01:  While we were gone last month for the International Sabeel Conference in Jerusalem, our telephone was disconnected.  Since all of our building's telephones are in the name of our landlord, and since one person recently moved out without paying his phone bill, all of the lines were cut.  No amount of pleading with them and showing them our paid phone bill would change their mind.  It seems the Palestinians have learned a thing or two about collective punishment.  In any case, the bill has now been paid and we are among the reachable.

3/2/01:  Today we made a return visit to Tubas with Zababdeh friends who have family there.  The Christians in Tubas number forty-seven in a population of about 10,000.  They seemed to be moved by the mere fact that we knew there are Christians there and welcomed us (no surprise there) quite warmly.  They just completed building a new church hall (for a supposedly dying Palestinian Christian community, what better sign of hope is there?).  On the way home, our new-old car had some problems.  The gas pedal stubbornly stuck to the floor and refused to relent.  By the time we got to nearby 'Aqaba, we were a bit anxious to solve the problem.  When we tried to bring the car to stop in a gas station, there was the wonderful sound of metal against metal as smoke began to pour from the hood.  Then there was the fantastic pool of car fluid and the sight of a busted gear.  The transmission was shot.  And there aren't too many tow trucks in the Northern West Bank these days.  Soon a tractor came and rigged a rubber hose and some scrap metal as a hitch to bring us into Zababdeh.  Hospitable, resourceful, and generous.  So many stereotypes subverted in one moment.  Here we were, the Americans whose tax dollars are contributing to their oppression.  Here we were, with Israeli license plates.  And here we were, Christians in a Muslim town.  None of that mattered - we were people in need, and they came to our aid.  What more can be said?

3/3/01:  The car is still sick.  Our mechanic is desperately trying to find a 1987 Citroen automatic transmission that can make it through the dozens and dozens of roadblocks.  Meanwhile, the school has seven teachers absent on this, the last day before the holiday.  The French teachers are still in Nazareth with their sick baby, one teacher is on pilgrimage to Mecca, one is sick, and three have left for a conference in Turkey.  Needless to say, there was a need for substitutes today.  Marthame taught the 9th grade English and French classes in a creative way - letting them play soccer!

3/4/01:  The transmission has been located, but not in time to depart for the 'Eid (holiday).  We got away anyway - our neighbor was headed down to the Gaza Strip (music - 3 sec. - courtesy of the Pixies) to see his family and invited us to come along.  Since the restart of the Intifada, access into and out of Gaza has been tightly limited, and we had been anxious to go and see life there.  When we hit traffic outside of Netanya, we turned on the radio to hear about the bomb that had killed three there this morning.  The cycle clearly continues...We arrived to Gaza and passed through the Erez checkpoint (it has been built up now to look like a huge international border, more than US-Mexico). We had no problems, as we were all American or European nationals in an E.U. car.  On the other side, we found the waiting taxis who have had little to no work for months.  Now no Palestinians are permitted to leave to work, and no Israelis - except settlers and soldiers - are permitted to enter.  It is completely cut off.  We began our fifty kilometer journey to Abasan driving along the beach.  There we saw once-burgeoning efforts at building a tourist industry.  In many ways, they stand like monuments to the empty promises of peace.  Completed hotels are vacant.  Many projects stand half-completed along the beautiful Mediterranean shore.  We then drove through the notorious  Beach Refugee Camp (most of Gaza's population are refugees and their descendants from 1948), where people have built with little or no infrastructure except the little that the United Nations is able to provide.  In Gaza City, we took a walk through the crowded souq (market) and ducked into the great mosque.  One sheikh said it was OK for a Christian pastor to enter, the other said no.  Marthame entered it - it had originally been a Canaanite Temple, then a Jewish Synagogue, then a Christian church (there is evidence of an old picture of St. Helena) before becoming a mosque.  Halfway to our destination we confronted the full absurdity of the Occupation and the Intifada.  There is a road which is shared by Palestinians traversing the Strip and by settlers entering from the East into Kfar Darom.  This stretch has been split lengthwise by concrete barriers, and Israeli tanks stand at each end of the road.  Israelis travel on one side, and Palestinians travel on the other.  When an Israeli car or truck enters the road, the soldiers halt all Palestinian traffic until the Israeli car passes.  You know it is your turn to go or stop because they fire their guns into the air.  5000 Israeli settlers, 1.5 million Palestinians, and these ludicrous moments, after seven years of peace talks.  We made it to Abasan just in time to see the family's beautiful garden and enjoy our last meatless meal for a while.

3/5/01:  Today was the beginning of 'Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast which celebrates the sparing of Ishmael (in the Qur'an, it is understood that Abraham took his firstborn - i.e. Ishmael not Isaac - to sacrifice) from the knife of Abraham, and marks the end of the season for pilgrimage to Mecca.  Most families this year are using chickens (because of the lack of money) instead of the usual sheep.  We had a cow, and will spare you the details unless you really want to see them.  We spent most of the rest of the day eating meat and lounging around the house and the garden while our host went on the requisite family visits that seem to take up most of the holiday.  A nice, nice day of rest.

3/6/01:  Meat for breakfast, then it was time to feed the sheep.  The mother of these babies is ill and so the babies need to be fed by hand (video - 5 sec.).  Elizabeth cozied up to them.  We then went on a drive around the see the family's lands.  One particular stop was their tomato greenhouse.  Almost all of the produce grown in Gaza (for local consumption and export) is grown in the southern region.  But now it is impossible not only to export, but even to bring past the Kfar Darom traffic snarl to the north end of the Gaza Strip.  As a result, prices in Gaza are through the roof while prices near Abasan and Khan Yunis have plummeted to less than 10% (a big box of tomatoes now costs 50 cents).  In this family's case (and in many others), it costs more in petrol to drive to the greenhouse to pick up their own tomatoes than it does to buy them from a nearby greenhouse.  The result is that most of the produce is simply rotting on the vine while people in Gaza City have none.  Economic strangulation.  As more family visits continued, we met cousins who were Palestinians born in Algeria.  Since their father was not Algerian, they cannot have Algerian citizenship.  Having been born abroad, they don't have Palestinian identity cards, either.  They came six years ago on a tourist visa and are working as medical doctors, but have no citizenship.  This means that they cannot travel abroad - or now even within the Gaza Strip without the possibility of arrest or expulsion. There are an estimated 70,000 people in Gaza in similar circumstances. We pondered these things as we gazed at the beautiful view and peaceful sunset (video - 14 sec.).

3/7/01:  We wanted to spend one more day in Gaza (where no one tried to eat us!), but had to get to Jerusalem to take care of some business.  We took the two hour taxi ride across the Strip, Elizabeth getting car sick on the way - something about the combination of stop and go traffic, loud music, the heat, and tanks everywhere, maybe?  When we reached the split road of Kfar Darom, the bottleneck of Palestinian taxis was overwhelming.  But even worse was the loud "boom" we heard as we passed the Israeli tank (at least one gun is always pointed at the traffic) - turned out to be from an airplane, probably, but not the noise you want to hear then.  We were dropped off at the Palestinian side, and walked the 100 yards to the Israeli side (taxi drivers offering to take us for a dollar as they waited for business that would never come).  The Israeli interrogation consisted of one question, "What does the 'III' in your name mean?"  We grabbed a waiting taxi to Jerusalem, where we enjoyed the company of good friends, real ice cream, an uplifting episode of "Ally McBeal", and a rousing game of Boggle.

3/8/01:  Today is the Jewish festival of Purim, which celebrates the liberation of the Jews in Persia from the evil Haman who sought to destroy them.  It also celebrates the murder of the enemies of the Jews and the hanging of the sons of Haman.  A reveler in the New City decided that the parallel held up between Haman and Arafat, and decided to let everyone know.  In its more secular form, Purim becomes a kind of Halloween with costume parties.  We took a long walk around the Old City, stopping in for lunch with our friends at the Latin Patriarchate.  Today the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) has cut the road between the Christian village of Bir Zeit and Ramallah.  The parish priest Abuna Iyad was there, along with Abuna Aktham from 'Ayoub - he had been forced to plead his way across a roadblock to bring a sick child from his parish to the hospital in Ramallah.  We helped them word an English-language press release, and then shared a good conversation with Abuna Ra'ed, a native son of Zababdeh, about the potential the village holds.  After a quick visit to friends at World Vision and St. George's Anglican Cathedral, we returned "home" for more Boggle and food.  We were periodically interrupted by Purim celebrations which consisted of really, really loud firecrackers (is that such a good idea right now?), and then headed off to meet peace activist friends, old and new, Jewish and Japanese.

3/9/01:  Traveling back was a little more complex than we had anticipated.  Normally, taxis leave for Ramallah from the Damascus Gate.  Given the increased closures (Ariel Sharon took office this week), taxis to Ramallah meet on a side street and are unmarked vans.  We arrived in Ramallah and visited the vast resources of the British Consulate before meeting our taxi back to Zababdeh (he goes once a day roundtrip).  One of our stops was the ar-Ram checkpoint to pick up Heineken for a Zababdeh liquor store.  On our way there, we saw two ten year-old boys running across the street and into an open field, ducking behind a big rock.  We slowly realized what was happening, that they were throwing stones at the Israeli soldiers across the street guarding an empty field from their bulletproof jeep.  We turned just in time to see a soldier aiming his gun at them, realizing that we were driving towards the line of fire.  As we passed, the gun went off - we all ducked in reflex, but the car was untouched - not sure about the two boys who apparently posed a great security risk.  Only one word can describe the scene we witnessed - obscenity.  The route back took the usual detours, but as we approached a yellow-plated settler car from behind, our driver quickly slowed.  Apparently this route has, more than once, brought him into range of stone-throwing Israeli youth.  Thankfully, there was no incident this time.  We made it home safe and sound, getting rest for our first day back at school tomorrow.

3/10/01:  The school is well, the car is well.  We exchanged the usual greetings with our fellow teachers after the break ("May next year bring you grace" - "Praise God you're safe").  After Mass tonight, we went with Abuna Louis to visit the two sheikhs from the local mosque.  We drank coffee and tea, talked about politics and religion.  It's clear that a strong relationship of trust and mutual respect has been cultivated, as they discussed particular passage in the Qur'an and the Bible.  We then had a chance to share with Abuna Louis some of our conversation with Abuna Ra'ed in Jerusalem and are anxious to work together to explore some potential projects in the village.

3/11/01:  A late Sunday afternoon walk in the mountain with our friends.  Our presence seemed to have aroused the suspicion of some locals, who stopped their truck and came to find out if we were Arabs or Jews.  Apparently our friends from Zababdeh passed the test, leaving us free to picnic, play some 'oud (Marthame flails - audio - 11 sec.), and enjoy the beauty of the local flowers and a breathtaking eagle's eye view of Zababdeh.  Our day of relaxation was rounded out by watching a movie (!) with our neighbors - that's been a long time coming.

3/13/01:  Following school today, we were anticipating a visit from a group of fifteen Americans, mostly pastors, coordinated by World Vision International 's Jerusalem office.  We got a call from them that they had made their way up the Jordan Valley and would be at our friendly little checkpoint in about an hour.  Elizabeth and I went to meet them.  As we drove from Zababdeh to the Jalame/Afula checkpoint, we noted all the things they would see on their drive - bulldozed roads, taxis stuck trying to get around roadblocks to take people home, Israeli settlements, IDF camps, etc.  We arrived at the checkpoint and waited for them, talking to the Israeli soldiers while we waited.  It turned out that they needed permission to enter (which was granted).  The soldier we talked to was clearly interested in practicing his English.  He was also a lot more interested in the possibility of going to hang out with his friends on the beach than on further military service.  We talked with him about many things, among them his experience in Hebron . "I'm not allowed to tell you this," he said, "but the problem there is the Israeli settlers - not the Palestinians."  He also talked about the settlers that come through the Jalame/Afula checkpoint.  They're not religious idealogues, just people interested in affording a certain standard of living.  West Bank settlements allow them that - all eighty of them.  "But the Palestinians are much nicer," he commented.  Just then two Israeli police vans pulled up from the Israeli side, depositing Palestinians at the checkpoint - apparently workers who had snuck in illegally and had been caught.  They were reading pieces of paper, likely telling them how much their fines were.  This was also about the time that we re-established phone contact with our coming guests, who had come through a different checkpoint and were now on their way to Zababdeh.  We caught up with them at the school, where they were receiving the grand tour.  There was traditional Palestinian dancing by the children (video - 13 sec.), and then each of the visitors was paired with a different family in the village.  The idea was to connect them with older students in the school to give them a chance to practice their English.  We then took a short tour of the village, seeing a traditional Palestinian house or two and the ancient mosaics, before they split up for the evening with their families.  We joined one, eating some of our favorite local dishes and enjoying the famous Palestinian hospitality.

3/14/01:  The World Vision group came to the school assembly that morning, to share words of encouragement and to get a further tour of the school and the new hall (where the old hall once was) now under construction.  They headed off that morning for further tours of the area, but it was clear that the trip already had made an impact.  Many asked questions about how to be involved in grassroots peace efforts in the States.  Following school today, the Scouting group met.  They have not had many meetings this year, partly because of the situation and partly because of leadership strategy - the keys to their meeting space were turned over to two of the youth who were told that they would get full support if they would take the first step. They did, so we'll see how it goes from here.  Our evening was rounded off by a visit to one of our neighboring families.  The father has severe psoriasis, to the point that he aches so bad he can't work but a couple of hours a day.  Their house is crumbling and they're in legal battles with their landlords.  Between medical problems (and costs) and the escalating economic crisis, they are a family in much trouble.  They asked us quite frankly if there was anything we could do to help them.  Such requests are coming more and more as the economy crumbles and as people are aware that we are a bridge to the west.  We're not sure where this will all lead us, but we are having to do some real discernment now about how to engage such a facet of our ministry faithfully and in a way that won't build dependence.

3/15/01:  Usually the students of the school get a chance to go on a couple of field trips during the year - Nazareth, Haifa, Jerusalem, Ramallah - but they haven't been able to do any such things this year.  The seventh grade teachers decided to take them on a walk through the mountains for a nice picnic.  We tagged along.  Every one had their piece to carry - the fruit, the meat, the grill, the drinks, the drum (the drum?).  While we waited for the food to cook, several of the students led in singing popular songs while using the simple rhythm of a drum ( video - 5 sec.).  It was something we had seen many times at wedding celebrations, but this was something unique to see it in this younger generation.  Elizabeth began to get quite a following as she photographed the local creepy crawlies.  Many students began to run around and find bugs for her to take pictures of, including colorful spiders, something called "Moses' stick," and a scorpion, which they crushed with zeal. (Take a visit to the newly redesigned and updated Zababdeh Nature Page to see these, spring flowers, great picts from our trip to Gaza, and more!) After several hours of releasing pent up energy on the beautiful hills around Zababdeh, we all headed back into town.  That evening, as Marthame got his haircut, the sound of shooting erupted (audio - 5 sec.).  It went on for quite some time, back and forth.  But strangely, it seemed that the Palestinians shooting at the IDF camp were using tracer bullets, too, which readily revealed their location. (We have grown accustomed to seeing tracer bullets only used by the Israelis shooting from the camp.)  Not something we understood fully.  From our vantage point on the roof, we could see several flares go up from the IDF camp (video - 7 sec.) to illuminate the sky as day time to see what they were firing at.  This has now become all too routine, happening every other night with some regularity.  We still have not heard of anything too severe in the way of damages, except for the one house that was hit a few months back.  But one student has written a particularly creative piece inspired by the night she and her family had to flee their home because of warnings from the camp.

3/17/01:  After school, we were approached by some of the other Americans (connected with the University) living in Zababdeh, asking about particular needs of the people of the village.  It seems that this issue is forcing its way onto our laps and will be one that we will need to seek guidance in addressing.  But today was to be a day of travel, following Elizabeth's adult English class.  We have been hoping since we arrived that we would be able to visit some of the other Arab countries around us.  One of the obstacles is the Israeli stamp in our passport.  With the exception of Jordan and Egypt, no Arab country will accept a passport (or the person attached to it) that contains the Israeli stamp.  As such, it becomes necessary to receive a second passport from the Embassy in Amman.  Fortunately for us, issuing these is a routine practice.  We drove our car to the Sheikh Hussein bridge and spent what felt like an hour being asked questions by the Israeli border guards.  The place was completely empty - the tourist trade has all but dried up.  From the other side, we caught a special taxi to Amman (one of the few in the parking lot) and arrived just after dark.  We are staying with friends from the Zababdeh diaspora living in Jordan-- 60% of the population is Palestinian, but they tend to enjoy a lesser status as Jordanian citizens.  The city is huge - about two million - and makes up almost half of Jordan's population.  The journey has us weary, and we have much to do tomorrow.

3/18/01:  Amman is an interesting mix between East and West.  Clearly Arab and clearly a monarchy (King Abdallah's pictures are everywhere), nonetheless almost every street sign and storefront is bilingual - the years of British influence have clearly left their mark.  We picked up our passport photos at the Safeway (18 different kinds of mayonaisse!) and headed to the heavily-fortified American Embassy.  Within minutes, our paperwork was finished and we had but to return later in the afternoon to pick up our new passports. In the meantime, we headed off sightseeing with our host (who was so kind as to ferry us here and there).  Our first stop was the town of Madaba (pop. 60,000), one of the important Christian centers of Jordan.  Christians make up about 5% of the population of Jordan, twice the Palestinian percentage.  Madaba is currently 30% Christian, and has been an important religious center since the early era of Christianity, partly because of its connection to the ancient land of Moab.  Several ancient churches are here with important mosaics.  The first was the unearthed Church of the Apostles from the 6th century (now owned by the Latin church) with exquisite mosaics of birds and youth (video - 18 sec.) and John the Baptist.  It has been fairly well preserved.  Then we saw the Orthodox church of St. George with its historically important map mosaic of the Holy Land (video - 22 sec.).  From this ancient map, scholars have been able to locate the likely historical site of Jesus' baptism by John.  We met with the priest, Archimandrite Inno Kentios, who was born in Greece but has been here for forty years.  He showed us around to their new school and hostel, and chuckled that he was grateful that we were Protestants (since our ancestors protested against Rome, not Byzantium).  Our last pilgrimage site was Mt. Nebo, from which Moses viewed the promised land before he died.  There, too, is an ancient church, again with remarkable mosaics, now maintained by the Franciscans.  It is quite the view across the Jordan Valley into places like Jericho.  Our lunch was the fulfillment of Amman's mix of east and west, as we ate Popeye's chicken (here called "Bobeye's") and drank Pepsi ("Bebsi") while we also dined on homemade "malfouf" (meaning "rolled", cabbage leaves with meat and rice).  After picking up our new passports, we made one final stop in Amman, visiting the ancient Roman theater briefly before coming home to relax in front of the TV and admire anatomically-correct teeth carved out of soap.

3/19/01:  This morning we met the head of the Bible Society of Jordan, snugly located in one of Amman's beautiful neighborhoods.  The purpose of the Society is to support Christian communities in Amman by giving them Bible-related resources - including Bibles published in many different languages (including Arabic, English, Hebrew, Russian, Armenian, Korean, Sri Lankan, etc.).  After a wonderful lunch of Middle Eastern food, we began the long journey back to Zababdeh.  We climbed into a 1974 mint condition Mercedes (complete with a manual gear shift where an automatic one normally resides) and wound our way through the hills.  We had to change taxis once we got out of the hills because of the wear and tear on the brakes, so we completed our trinity of taxi drivers - Ibraheem (Abraham), Mussa (Moses), and Issa (Jesus)--all Muslims.  Mussa wanted to know if Marthame was a "48" (meaning a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship).  The border crossing going the other way was much less painful, except that Marthame had left the car lights on over the weekend.  After a jump from a friendly Israeli motorist, we began the drive back to Zababdeh.  We noted the Israeli use of sprinklers (at 3:30 in the afternoon, in hot weather).  We also noticed that Zababdeh's new Lily Internet Cafe has opened!  The place was packed for the price of $1.25/hour.  How he had managed to open the cafe in the middle of an economic freeze is a testament to his initiative.

3/21/01:  Happy Mothers' Day! (?)  Here, the event comes in March, not in May like in Europe and the States.  It is a big event in the life of Zababdeh and is celebrated quite widely.  First, families visit the graves of their departed loved ones to place flowers on the headstones.  Then in the afternoon, there is a special Mass, following which is a big celebration in the school hall upstairs.  A number of families turn out for this event, Christian and Muslim, including many parents of kids in the school who come from nearby villages to attend. The event seemed big to us, but apparently this year it was much smaller than usual, due to the situation.  Flowers are given out, and students dance traditional dances (video - 13 sec.).  This year, one of the teachers - who had just returned from Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca,  read some selections from her poetry.  Marthame also accompanied some of the eighth grade French students as they sang a song (fortunately Marthame is bilingual in guitar).  The event was not without its sobering moment, though, as moments were taken to remember the mothers who had lost children during the Intifada.  Overall, it was a joyous occasion, a moment which is often needed these days.

3/23/01:  It has been a while since we've been able to take a walk in the fields, but the land all around is becoming greener by the day!  The flowers are out in bloom, the sun is shining.  Now is peak beauty time in Palestine, and beautiful it is. (Visit the Nature Page!)  Particularly striking are the ubiquitous purple thistles.  We joined with our neighbors for a little cookout on their balcony as we enjoyed the weather.  Noting that it was Friday, and we were grilling meat, we chatted with them about Lent and fasting. We find Lent a powerful opportunity to take on spiritual disciplines, to prepare for Easter, and to deepen our relationship with God. That said, we don't follow prescribed rules about what those disciplines may be. However, most of the Christians here, being Orthodox or Catholic, fast from meat and dairy products either for the entire forty days (except Sunday) or only on Wednesdays and Fridays. 

3/25/01:  Sunday is here, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and we had an invitation to worship in the evening with friends in their church in Shefa'amer (north of Nazareth).  Following morning Mass, we headed up by way of Nazareth - we had to make a delivery to one of the sisters in the convent there.  Even though it's only half an hour's drive from Zababdeh, no one here can make the trip these days because of the closures (many can't even get to Ramallah), so several times we have found ourselves couriers for various things, including medicine and birthday presents.  Our hosts in Shefa'amer, the Anglican priest of St. Paul's and his family, took us to the Sea of Galilee as a nice surprise.  Near Tiberias (after the October anti-Arab rioting in that village, going there with Palestinians is not advised), we had lunch at a kibbutz's restaurant overlooking the Sea and dined on St. Peter's fish (there's something ironic about eating meat on Friday and fish on Sunday).  We then went back to St. Paul's for their 6:30 PM evening prayer service.  A group from Michigan had been there all week putting on programs for children and visiting refugee camps and closed villages on the West Bank. They had planned several pieces of liturgy for the evening service at St. Paul's, including songs and two dramatic pieces.  One of the dramas involved the children (video - 29 sec.).  A fellow American Presbyterian who runs a ministry in Nazareth called The Harbour was the preacher, the first English sermon we've heard in a while (quite refreshing).  We went back with the Michigan group to their hotel for a late night supper and talked about their - and our - experiences.  We crashed for the night in The Harbour.

3/26/01:  After the treat of going to Shefa'amer yesterday, we had yet to accomplish a couple of simple tasks: 1) Meeting with folks from Hope International as they begin to explore their ministries in this area; 2) Transfering the paperwork on the car into our name.  For both, we needed to go to Jerusalem, but first Marthame had to take Elizabeth back to Zababdeh for classes.  Numerous transport trucks were entering the checkpoint to the West Bank empty.  We had heard rumors that the camp at the edge of Zababdeh was going to be abandoned soon, but that's a rumor that's been around at least seven years to no effect.  More likely is that there is a changing of the guard after a three month stint, which means that the soldiers who now know our car and our faces will be leaving and will be replaced with new folks.  The  roadblocks are still in place, with a new unofficial checkpoint as an IDF jeep waits halfway between Zababdeh and the border to turn cars around.  There are also new electric lights going up along the settlers' bypass road, as if to further emphasize the difference between Israelis and Palestinians living on the West Bank.  Marthame's route took him down the Jordan Valley, which is where the brakes went out on the Citroen.  Nevertheless, he managed to drive all the way to Jerusalem (not many advantageous places to stop before then, and no AAA), and called a very good friend, who came to his rescue.  Our friend from Hope International was waiting for Marthame in the Old City, a five minute walk from where the car was.  Marthame called him to tell him to come talk there, rather than in the quiet cafe they were anticipating.  As he was giving directions, the battery on the phone died!  Nevertheless, our friend was resourceful and found his way.  Marthame spent the rest of the day recovering from the anxiety of the trip.  News came today about the ten-month old baby killed in Hebron.  This is the kind of stuff that knocks the wind out of your sails as you think about the mounting suffering, so naturally we write about it.  Even so, the intensity makes us need a few moments of escapism, which Marthame found by watching a rebroadcast of the Oscars.

3/27/01:  Task number 2 (the transfer of paperwork) was slated for this morning.  As Marthame prepared to rendezvous with the relevant parties, word came of a bomb going off in the Talpiot neighborhood (which is where we were headed).  An American and three Arabs is not good company after such things, so Marthame headed back to Zababdeh by way of Tel Aviv rather than the Jordan Valley.  Once inside the West Bank, you immediately notice the instantly-recognizable settlements (red roofs, perfect rows, on the hilltop) towering over the Arab villages nearby (video - 9 sec.).  Along the way, the Citroen began to live up to its translation (i.e. "lemon") as the carburetor began acting up.  In Zababdeh, another trip to the mechanic took car of that.  While Marthame watched the mechanic at work, two Palestinian soldiers pulled up and asked the mechanic questions about him: "Is he Jewish?  A settler?  An Israeli?"  They had noted the yellow plates and the not-quite-Arab look he was sporting, and inquired.  They were quite friendly and joked with Marthame afterwards.

3/29/01:  Last night we met with Abuna Tomie, the priest of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Zababdeh.  He told us about the project on which he has begun working, which is to rebuild the church in its old location.  In 1974, the church was built without plans or an architect.  The foundations shifted in the sands over time, and until in 1986 it was unusable.  Abuna Tomie became priest in 1990, and the smaller church was built on the ancient site with funds collected from families in Zababdeh.  This space is far too cramped for special services (feasts, weddings, etc.), and so they are back to working on the old spot (with an architect this time).  He took us to see the work (video - 13 sec.), which began again about ten days ago.  The total cost of the project is around $50,000, and there is no help coming from the Patriarchate in Jerusalem. Consequently, they do work little by little, as money is available. The project gives work to people in Zababdeh, something desperately needed in times like these.  It's a good project, one that is sorely needed, and offers more hope to us.  As people lament about the vanishing Christian population (which is true), there remain these signs that people are planning for a future.

3/30/01:  Marthame's family is here!  We drove the Citroen (no excitement this time) down to Tel Aviv to do a little mall shopping (have you ever been asked for your passport to enter a mall before?) and get our taste of the global monoculture before heading to Ben Gurion.  Their flight was an hour late, which meant we'd be getting into Zababdeh a little after dark - not ideal, but usually not a problem (sense the foreshadowing?).  When we got to the checkpoint, there was a problem.  A few minutes ago, apparently, a Palestinian vehicle had driven from Jenin and shot at an IDF jeep before fleeing back into Jenin.  Welcome to Palestine!  After twenty minutes, we were allowed to pass, which happened without incident.  We sat down to a late-night, exhaustion-filled dinner.  The nighttime shootings didn't disappoint, either.  Welcome to Zababdeh!