Journal in the Land of the Holy One
March, 2003
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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.)

Saturday, 3/1/03:  The alarm clock we lent to Joanna turned out to be unreliable, but she managed to wake up in time to catch her taxi down to Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, we headed off to school as usual.  Marthame's two-day absence each week means more work around the school when he gets back, trying to sandwich it in between classes.  Today, Marthame went off to Jenin to run some errands and pay some bills.  Going to Jenin is always an adventure, since we never know which way is open.  Marthame grabbed a taxi at the Zababdeh garage headed toward tariq al-mazbale (the landfill road).  This way leads the taxis to a road that bisects the local landfill, from which commuters need to walk to taxis waiting on the other side.  Someone decided that the name "landfill road" was unattractive and humorously re-named it tariq al-muntaza (the resort road).  Unfortunately, the former is more accurate.  Marthame walked towards the other side, stepping in mud up to his ankles, turning his once black shoes to brown.  In Jenin, the combination of destruction and excessive rains left rivers of ankle-high running down the middle of the street, perfect for cleaning Marthame's shoes.  When Marthame arrived at the bank, someone noticed his shoes (people notice shoes here) and said, "Have you been four-wheeling?"  In addition to running errands for ourselves and for some of the priests, Marthame picked up our "gift" from the Palestinian cellphone company for our years of faithful bill-paying (and also to keep us subscribed despite the massive service difficulties they have operating under the current circumstances): a pink clock with a green glow-in-the-dark face that plays tunes and animal noises when it chimes.  Maybe it'll work better than the one Joanna used this morning.  We have invented an adjective for such things, jenini (from Jenin).  It means anything that's a little too pink, a little too sparkly, a little too cute.  The road back, fortunately, was not through the landfill, but we had to wait for our water tanks to fill before Marthame could wash today's gunk away.

Sunday, 3/2/03:  We worshiped this morning at the Latin Church of Visitation.  Today were the elections for the Church Council, made up of seven folks who will work with Fr. Aktham on various issues concerning the life of the parish.  This is a new initiative by the Patriarchate, though many parishes have been practicing it locally for years.  The rest of the day we spent preparing for classes - Marthame for Ibillin, Elizabeth for Zababdeh - and putting the finishing touches on our latest update.  Within minutes of sending it, replies came flooding in, all but one of them supportive. 

Monday, 3/3/03:  The flood of replies continued, the most overwhelming we've had to any of our writings, and by far the most positive.  If only that energy can be turned into hard-core efforts to stop this catastrophic war that's threatening on the horizon.  Marthame went to Ibillin for another evening of classes, catching the "regular" "taxi" (a man who comes almost every day to deliver trade goods across the border and picks up extra passengers) from Jalame to Nazareth.  The checkpoint itself was routine, a check of all IDs and travel permissions, but another checkpoint awaited down the road once inside Israel.  All Arab-driven cars were being pulled over for a search.  Though the car had four West Bank Palestinians (all with valid travel permissions) inside, it was Marthame who was scrutinized the most closely by the police.  They seemed far more interested in where he had been than what he might be bringing in his bags.  This apparent fact frustrates, and many internationals who work in the Territories complain about this.  It's one thing to check for security purposes: open bags, run through x-ray machines, check for explosives, weapons, etc.  That's understandable.  It's the questions - Where have you been?  What were you doing?  Whom did you see? - which not only seem to take precedence over the searches, but also annoy, as though it is the very exchange of ideas and human interaction which is more threatening to the State of Israel than any weapons.  Marthame arrived in Nazareth for lunch with our friend Fr. Hatem and his family before they made their way to the college.  Tonight's subject?  The schisms in the papacy in the late Middle Ages and the beginning of the conciliar movement.  Of course.

Tuesday, 3/4/03: Today is a school holiday, the celebration of the Muslim New Year. Elizabeth celebrated by sleeping in and catching up on chores and grading. Marthame returned from Ibillin, fortunately not having to spend the night on anyone's couch.  In the afternoon, he visited with Fr. Firas who took him to see the progress being made on the Melkite Church.  The plastering is well under way, the window wells have been set.  As Marthame told Fr. Firas, we remember when this church was closed and was an absolute mess inside.  Now, it's simply an absolute mess!  It's a construction site.  Little by little.  He's hoping to say his first Mass here on March 25, Annunciation Day.  What a fitting sign of new life that would be.

Wednesday, 3/5/03:Marthame spent the afternoon working on preparations for the World Council of Churches' team who will be coming here in a week and a half.  They have an apartment, and now they have furniture.  All that remains is the telephone line.  We spent the evening with the rest of Zababdeh in a special day of prayer, as the Pope had requested (it's Western Lent as of today), for peace (audio - 20 sec.).  It was made all the more poignant by the rampant destruction in Gaza this past week and the suicide bombing in Haifa that took place a few hours before the service.  Come, quickly, O Prince of Peace.

Thursday, 3/6/03:  The Jenin bus left this morning with permission from the Israeli Military District Coordinating Office.  After long delays at checkpoints at both the edge of Jenin and the entrance to Qabatia, they arrived at the edge of Zababdeh where another checkpoint had been set up.  There, they were turned back.  Fr. Aktham went down to negotiate.  Even though the orders from above were that they be allowed to pass, the soldiers were unmovable.  This gets old.  Real old.

Friday, 3/7/03:  Thank goodness for a day off.  We rested and hung out with one of our friends from the University.  We were expecting visitors from the Christian Peacemaker Teams (with whom we've spent time in Hebron).  Because of the bombing Wednesday, they were not allowed to pass from Israel into Jalame.  The only time we've ever had that experience was during the intensive Israeli incursions into Jenin last Spring.  They persisted in their attempts but were unable to get through.  Let's hope Marthame can get out on Monday.

Saturday, 3/8/03:  Marthame was working at school when Fr. Aktham came and grabbed him.  "Did you bring the camera?  Good.  Come with me."  As part of a project to assess health of Palestinian schoolchildren, students were having their hearing, breathing, and vision tested, and - to their distress - their blood drawn.  Some of the first graders were deathly afraid of the needle.  Taking their digital picture and then showing it to them was one way to distract them.  It worked with most - but not all.  After school, the English teachers all went up to the University to take a closer look at their facilities, particularly the language lab.  We are hoping to put one in the school, but for now we are more interested in building relations between the school, the village, and the University, building on the relations we began with the American group in January.  As a side note, the group of University students has been evaluating the January program.  Among the comments (unanimously positive) was the note from one that their favorite activity was visiting the churches.  One said, "As a Muslim, it was the first time I have sat inside a Christian church." We are often amazed by how separate religious communities can remain, even when they live and work and study together.  It was exciting to help bridge some of those differences and build understanding.  Meanwhile, the recent suicide bombing in Haifa had local fallout.  This summer, four young people from Zababdeh had participated in a youth exchange program with young people from Israel, Germany, and Italy.  Two of the Israeli girls who participated lost their boyfriends in the bus bombing.  Marthame sat with the students and helped them write a note of condolence to their new friends.  This conflict has touched everyone personally.  No one knows that more now than those two young girls.

Sunday, 3/9/03: We worshiped this morning at the Orthodox Church, the last Sunday before Lent begins (Zababdeh follows the Eastern calendar together).  Fr. Thomas preached about the need for fasting, speaking about the jihad - the struggle - of the fast.  In Arab Orthodox liturgy, the word jihad is used regularly.  When St. Paul talks about fighting the good fight, it is translated as jihad.  It really jumped out today, though, for obvious reasons.  Tomorrow, the Orthodox fast (which forbids all animal products) begins.  The Latins begin on Wednesday.  We'll begin on Wednesday, too - fasting from TV.  Ooof.  It'll be a long Lent.  We stepped back into the church after Mass to say hello to Fr. Thomas.  He was blessing a newborn child (the practice here is to do it forty days after the child is born - baptism is usually around the age of two).  They grabbed Elizabeth to act as something akin to a godmother.  The mother presents the child to the priest, as a sign of his consecration to God (like Hannah and Mary).  When the priest finishes the liturgy, the mother cannot take the child from him.  Someone else must carry the child, a sign not only that God is giving the child to the mother's care, but also that the church will act as the child's family.  It's amazing what happens in this culture if you simply stumble into something.

Monday, 3/10/03:  Marthame and a friend from Zababdeh who works in Nazareth as a nurse made their way to Jalame this morning. Our Israeli-side ride had heard that Jalame was open and was willing to give it a shot.  Sure enough, he made it.  At the checkpoint, the soldier took the driver's ID and wrote down his name and vehicle registration information. As for Marthame, he looked at him and said, "You're a priest?  OK."  He didn't even check the paperwork of the West Bankers in the van (all with valid permissions, of course).  Marthame's class was good, setting the stage for Martin Luther's advent - corruption in the church, battles between church and state, the beginnings chaos in Europe and local control in Germany.  There's no parallel for the European Reformation in the Eastern Church, and thus little awareness of what really happened.  We periodically get local observations which sum up Reformation history as, "Martin Luther just decided to make his own church."  What's amazing, though, is that Marthame is teaching Reformation history in a Catholic institution!  He spent the evening relaxing with our Scottish friends in Shefa'amer talking politics and theology.  So much for an early evening.

Tuesday, 3/11/03:  Marthame's return trip came earlier than desired.  Once arriving at Jalame, though, all traffic was forbidden to cross.  Marthame began walking.  A soldier who was checking outgoing traffic turned around.  "Where are you going?"  "To Jalame," Marthame said over his shoulder.  That was it.  It's a long walk into the village.  The road back to Zababdeh is slowly improving from the rain damage, thanks to bulldozer activity, but still difficult.  Marthame visited with Fr. Firas for breakfast before going to the church to check on the progress.  The plastering work is nearing completion, and the electrical work should begin in earnest soon.

Wednesday, 3/12/03:  Today is Ash Wednesday here.  In ecumenical compromise, Christmas is celebrated on the Western calendar while Easter is celebrated on the Eastern calendar.  This year, there is one week between the two calendars, meaning that there is a week between the first days of Lent.  Our Lenten discipline?  No TV - except for half an hour for news (call it a job hazard).  This morning the school held a service for the students as well as anyone in the village interested in praying in the morning (audio - 11 sec.).  Fr. Aktham and Marthame imposed ashes for several hundred kids - Marthame learned how to say, "Remember, O, Mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  Repeating it hundreds of times guarantees memorization: uthkur, ya insan, innaka turob, wa ill-turob ta'oud.  Fr. Aktham challenged the students to engage a good fasting regimen.  That coupled with prayer, particularly prayers for peace these days, were the charge to the church.  We're trying to take this to heart and will try to engage in daily Lenten reflections.  In the afternoon, a delegation arrived from World Vision today.  They are looking at the possibilities of development projects in the area.  They are meeting with a number of folks in the area, including the municipality, the local charitable society, and the area clergy.  While this was a merely exploratory visit, it is good to see the attention Christian organizations are giving to this little forgotten part of the body of Christ.  And it's a joy to be a part of it.

Thursday, 3/13/03:  This afternoon we got a call from one of the University students who participated in the exchange program back in April.  He's from the village of Saida, near Tulkarem, which the Israelis have been occupying since yesterday and are not letting anyone in or out.  Such events used to make the news, but they've become so ordinary, no one pays attention.  His older brothers and father were rounded up with the men and taken to the school.  His mother had to be taken to the hospital because of the stress.  So his little brother is at home alone with his sisters.  On top of that, his cousin (his same age) was killed.  Now the army wants to demolish the cousin's family's home, which is next door to our friend's.  On top of the fear of demolition is the knowledge that demolitions are not always precise - a wall falls into a neighbor's house, etc.  He was beside himself, unable to eat, unable to sleep or concentrate, unable to reach his father or brothers (there was no communication from the school where the village's men were herded) or speak with anyone except his young frightened brother.  He wanted to know if we knew any internationals in Tulkarem who might be able to help.  Through some connections, we were able to make contact with the International Solidarity Movement.  They had been down at the edge of Saida for a while, unable to enter or do anything.  At least we were able to force him to eat some food.  Later, an email he sent to one of the American students was forwarded to us.

Friday, 3/14/03:  We apparently missed the excitement yesterday.  Several tanks rolled through town, and thef- youth responded with the usual stones.  Reports vary as to whether a molotov cocktail was thrown, but the tanks shot back.  Somehow we missed it all, something we're not too upset about.  Last night, during an Israeli incursion into Jenin, they killed six Palestinians.  One of them was from Zababdeh, the town's second "martyr" in the last two and a half years.  He was around twenty years old.  Another among those killed was a student at the University.  The mosque sounded the mourning call to prayer while the church bells tolled for the dead.  We heard the sounds of the funeral procession as we had lunch with a couple of older members of the Anglican community in Zababdeh.  They are frustrated with the lack of Sunday morning worship for their congregation over the past many months.  One of them, who speaks impeccable English, lived in Baghdad for twenty years.  She and her husband were married in the Presbyterian church there.  The other was married in Zababdeh and then moved with her husband to Kuwait.  After three years there (and four years of marriage), they came back to Zababdeh for three weeks to see their families and baptize their children.  During their visit, the 1967 War broke out.  The Israelis placed the village under curfew, then they called all men to the Latin Convent to be registered.  Her husband was coming with her father and brother from just outside the western side of town when an Israeli sniper shot him in the head.  Widowed at age 21, with three children, and no compensation for her loss, she stayed in Zababdeh.  One of her children now lives in Jordan, another in the States, and one in Zababdeh.  Unfortunately such stories are not uncommon.

Saturday, 3/15/03:  Life remains uncertain in the face of the possible war on Iraq.  People are preparing for all kinds of eventualities - Israelis have gotten gas masks, Iraqis are stockpiling food for six months.  Palestinians are preparing for massive Israeli operations.  Today the kids had an evacuation drill to see how fast they could all get to the basement.  We remembered fire drills as kids, knowing they would almost never be enacted for real.  There was a certain amount of gravity to this drill, though, given it's possibility.  The news from the States is dire and the drive towards war depressing.  We haven't felt this helpless in a long time.  860

Sunday, 3/16/03:  Today is the first day of Lent in Zababdeh, and the church has been appropriately draped in purple.  After the service, Fr. Aktham imposed ashes for those who missed them on Wednesday.  After church, we went to visit with Fr. Firas at the Melkite Convent.  The electricity has been installed, as have the wrought iron frontings on the windows.  He is proud of the progress, and rightly so.  In the afternoon, we got some new international residents in Zababdeh.  The World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel has sent their team of three to the region as of today.  After getting them settled in their apartment (and drinking the requisite coffee), Marthame took them around with two purposes: to get oriented to town (taxis, groceries, internet, etc.) and to have an initial meeting with various folks in town, particularly the clergy with whom they'll be working most closely.  It will be nice to have a larger international presence in the area.  While driving up to the University, Marthame got a phone call from a friend who's a journalist in Jerusalem.  An International Solidarity Movement volunteer had been killed, crushed by an Israeli bulldozer as she stood in front of a house in a Gaza refugee camp.  The journalist was calling to see if we happened to know her - we didn't, but when Marthame repeated her name, Rachel Corrie, one of the group gasped.  "I know her.  I was standing with her in front of a bulldozer a couple of weeks ago."  The International Soldarity folks have been down in Rafah refugee camp mostly trying to draw attention to the home demolitions that have become routine as the Israeli bulldozers widens the "Security Zone" by the Egyptian border.  Hundreds of homes have been razed.  The man who knew her, an American filmmaker who simply accompanied the team because he likes driving around and discovering more of the area, said that the bulldozers never stop for the internationals.  "We had to jump out of the way."  How sad this news is to us.  And how close to home it hits.

Monday, 3/17/03:  While Elizabeth went off to school, Marthame made his way up towards the border and towards the Galilee. The border is closed today, so the car that usually enters the border town of Jalame had to wait at the checkpoint.  Marthame and a woman from Nazareth who had been visiting her family in Zababdeh walked the long lone stretch of road.  The soldiers recorded the woman's ID number but just glanced at Marthame's passport.  We stopped briefly in Nazareth for the woman to buy milk powder for her Zababdeh granddaughter - she couldn't find any in Zababdeh or Jenin during her visit and wanted to send some back with Marthame.  Back at the ranch, Elizabeth and another teacher went with her 8th graders on a picnic in the nearby hills.  It was a beautiful day, the sun shining on the very green blooming hills.  The kids brought up sodas, a grill, coals and turkey meat, tabbouleh, bread, and an assortment of snacks, cakes, and salad.  A few of the Christian kids were fasting for Lent, and so didn't eat the meat; most of the others fast only on Wednesdays and Sundays and had their fill.  The day passed as a usual class picnic, with eating, relaxing in the sun, and of course lots of singing. The kids re-created a popular TV show in which the fist few lines of a popular song are sung by one team. The last letter of the last verse sung must be the first letter of the next song sung by the other team.  The competition was fierce.  As a few of us took a break to wander around, we came upon five or six puppies napping under a shrub.  Two of them were brave enough to let us play with them (or too slow to run away in time).  They were sweet wiggly pups, happy to eat snacks of potato crisps and bread from the kids.  Finally, we all walked home, warm and full.  Up in Ibillin, Marthame taught his class, rounding out the context facing Europe on the advent of Martin Luther's appearance.  Back with our friends in Shefa'amer, the news had our attention.  Rachel Corrie's story has been drowned out by the build up to war, but has not been lost completely.  Before and after pictures from the International Solidarity Movement contradict the Israeli Army's story that the driver was unable to see her.  The details of her last moments, still breathing and conscious after the bulldozer drove over (and reversed over) her, are chilling. This is really the first casualty to get this much attention since young Mohammed al-Dura was shot to death while being filmed by French TV.  Meanwhile, the drive towards war continues unabated.  Bush's speech is scheduled for 4:00 this morning - it'll be hard to sleep.

Tuesday, 3/18/03:  The 48-hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein has been given (and returned).  As a result, Marthame's return to Zababdeh was up in the air.  At school, the children celebrated Mother's Day three days early because the war was likely to intervene on celebrations on the 21st.  Classes ended early so that the party could begin at 12 noon; the event actually began at about 12:20 - not bad timing by local standards.  The program seemed to weigh heavily towards the littlest kids, with each section of the first grade having prepared a song or dance.  They were very excited and proud to be gussied up in their performance finery, especially with a camera turned to them.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth could not stay for much of the event, since we had made arrangements to bring some of the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students to the University for a special opportunity to experience their language lab. The head of the language lab had prepared a listening and speaking exercise for the kids centered around music, finishing with a rousing Byrds' sing-a-long (audio - 5 sec.).  She returned home after shepherding the kids back to Zababdeh, and the Jenin kids onto a bus to Jenin.  We heard from internationals who had staged a vigil and a peaceful action in the site of Rachel's death.  The Israeli army arrived to disperse the crowd, even bringing the bulldozer that had run over her.  A little salt in the wound... Marthame and our friend who works in Nazareth as a nurse left that town around 3:00 in the afternoon as the rain began to come down.  All day long the sky had been a nasty yellow color.  We arrived at the border where the driver tried to drop us off in the village.  The soldier said no, so we walked back without so much as a look at our papers.  We've found that giving Israeli soldiers something to say "no" to (driving the van in) increases the likelihood that they'll say yes to something else.  The taxi took a while to get there because of the sorry condition of the roads - exacerbated by the rains - but Marthame was able to get home, to both of our great relief.  Being apart with war on the horizon was not a pleasant prospect.  We've stocked up with supplies (flour, rice, lentils, oil, candles, water, canned goods) for the coming possible periods of curfew and closures.  Marthame also brought with him from Nazareth some goods we can't get here: bacon, curry paste, chutney, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.  We feel well stocked, and more important, extraordinarily safe and at home here in Zababdeh.  We had not planned to evacuate if and when a strike takes place on Baghdad.  That all changed this evening - we got an email from PCUSA headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.  We have been asked to leave for a while given the uncertainty of the coming days.  With a heavy heart, we went around town to tell people.  They seemed to have a general sense of sinking, as though our evacuation meant that American intelligence information indicated not only a certain war, but also that the West Bank was facing trouble.  We tried to reassure them, but our own personal dismay at having to leave wasn't much comfort.  We spent most of the night getting ready for departure - trying to find flights, packing, etc.  There is consolation in the fact that we'll be going to Cyprus rather than the States.

Wednesday, 3/19/03:  Elizabeth suggested and Fr. Aktham agreed that we say a word to the students at assembly this morning.  There was a general murmur when we told them we were going to Cyprus. Some of our students were happy, mostly because it meant they would have extra free periods.  Others were in tears - some from thinking this was permanent, others because they, too, thought this meant certain dread for the West Bank in the coming days.  Elizabeth spent the next hour visiting with her seventh and eighth graders, writing little notes in their diaries/autography books, taking down their email addresses, and accepting their adorable bright jenini gifts.  We caught a taxi with one other passenger - an AAUJ student with a Jerusalem ID - going to Qalandia.  The Tayasir checkpoint is completely closed.  Hamra is tougher than usual. Every passenger and every bag was being inspected when we arrived.  The driver wanted us to insist on our VIP status as Americans - we were less anxious to jump places in line and to reinforce the Israeli apartheid any further.  But when the soldiers announced that no more cars were going to pass at all, Marthame walked towards them with passport in hand. "Shu! What!" shouted the soldier in Arabic.  "Hi.  Good afternoon."  "Go there."  He waved his M-16 towards a concrete barricade.  "Where are you from?  The United States?  Sh**."  He then spat on the ground - not sure how to read that one.  After a reasonably quick check of our taxi (which did end up jumping places in line), we were allowed to pass.  As we pulled away, the next car was being called to the checkpoint.  Perhaps our presence had pushed things on a bit.  We called the travel agent in Jerusalem to tell him we would be running late - two hours at Hamra was much more than we had bargained for.  We arrived at the next checkpoint, near the settlement of Ma'ale Ephraim.  One of the two soldiers asked us in American-accented English, "Where are you guys from?"  "Well, Chicago most recently."  "That's cool.  I'm from Brooklyn.  OK.  You guys are cool.  You can pass.  Take it easy."  We were simply waved through the third checkpoint near Taybeh and arrived at Qalandia.  Two more taxi rides and another checkpoint in Ar-Ram and we arrived an hour late to pick up our plane tickets.  The kind man waited for us, then gave us a ride to our hotel, the Notre Dame.  We wouldn't normally stay here, but given the situation and the fact that the place is outfitted with a bomb shelter and a sealed room (for potential chemical attack) made it a good choice.  We visited with our journalist friend and some of her friends, eating a delicious meal and playing with their new stray puppy.  Her husband's in Eastern Syria waiting for the coming war (soundtrack courtesy of Edwin Starr - audio, 3 sec. - or Bruce Springsteen if you prefer - audio, 3 sec.).

Thursday, 3/20/03:  Our flight was at 7:00 am.  Tel Aviv security requires arriving three hours early before departure, and staying in Jerusalem meant another hour even earlier.  So the taxi picked us up, weary and bleary-eyed, at 3 am. War was scheduled to start as soon as we arrived at Ben Gurion.  Yay.  This is our first time flying out of Tel Aviv.  We've always flown out of Amman, largely because the security hassle here has quite the reputation, particularly for people who live in the West Bank.  One friend lost her laptop to them, another had hers broken.  We were anxious, but it couldn't have been more streamlined.  We sat waiting for our flight near a group of young Jewish men with a guitar singing praise songs and watching others carrying their hat boxes - haberdashery is a lucrative business in this country.  Our flight took off a bit early - mostly full, but not as full as we had expected.  Many airlines had canceled flights for today, but not Cyprus Airways.  Marthame was excited to read the Greek - a leftover present from his seminary days.  Our theological and biblical language is very infused with Greek.  For example, the word for thank you, efcharisto, is where we get the word eucharist in English.  The sign for "Operation of Emergency Exit" had both liturgy (operation) and exodus (exit) in the Greek translation.  When the pilot announced the landing, we half-expected an analysis of Paul's view of grace.  We arrived in Larnaca and began sizing up the situation.  We're expecting to arrive at the Church of Scotland guesthouse in Pafos tomorrow, so we split the difference and arrived in Limassol, about halfway down the coast.  Our guidebook suggested a relatively cheap hotel - $12/night with breakfast and a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean.  Not bad. It certainly helps ease the sense of dread we've had about leaving.  We got a Cypriot chip to put in our cellphone - again, for about $12 - and began sending text messages to everyone back home.  The replies came almost right away.  They were quite varied, everything from, "we have no school just 2day 2 have the occasion 2 watch the war,"  to "erplans al the time everyone fear."  Except for no school, sounds like life is normal back there.  After spending some time at the internet cafe (and catching up on sleep - why would we need to do that?), we wandered out for dinner - man, is this place cheap! - and an early night.

Friday, 3/21/03:  We called and checked up on the Church of Scotland guesthouse in Pafos, and determined that it would be cheaper  - whatever that means on this island - to remain in Limassol in a hotel apartment.  We found one with a kitchenette and a porch (not overlooking the Mediterranean, alas) for $7/night.  We could get used to this.  War continues, but news from Zababdeh is sparse.  We do know that some visitors from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program are using our apartment - a friend sent us a message from the University: "your ministry is continuing in your absence."  Good to hear. 862

Saturday, 3/22/03:  Our hasty departure from Zababdeh has left us with a bit of work to dig through before we can adopt a "vacation" mode - journal updates, writing and emailing mid-term exams, cleaning out email inboxes, all had to get out of the way this morning.  Once we finished, though, we could settle down.  Cyprus, being an old British colony, has its British quirks: using the pound, driving on the left side of the road, and - perhaps most advantageous - the pubs.  An island with a population of 1/2 million, Cyprus sees a million tourists every year.  80% of them from Great Britain.  When in the tourist areas, you can walk out your door and find a pub advertising steak and kidney pies, fish n' chips, and an assortment of ales.  We stopped by the "Ship Inn" to taste a little "local" flavor (meat pies and Woodpecker cider) and catch the match between Manchester United and Fulham.  After lunch, Marthame went to the old Turkish bath for a sauna and massage while Elizabeth set out to go shoe shopping.  It's looking more like a vacation, though we're still getting cellphone text messages from back home.  As one friend wrote, "here is the same nothing happend."  Another tugged at us: "we are good hope u 2, life is normal here but the upnormal thing is not having u with us, we miss u much & looking 4wards 2 c u back soon."  Us 2.

Sunday, 3/23/03:  We heard the church bells ringing - gone are the now familiar calls to prayer, gone since the Turkish invasion in 1974, which divided the island politically and also demographically, with virtually all Christian-Greek-speaking people in the south and the Muslim-Turkish-speaking in the north.  Amid the ringing of bells, we made our way to St. George's Greek Orthodox Church.  The church was large and fully packed.  We wandered up to the balcony where Marthame was the only male present.  The church itself was stark, whitewashed walls and plain stain glass windows contrasted with the brilliant golds of the icons and the burnished brown wood of the iconostasis.  The liturgy was elegant (audio - 23 sec.), though noticeable for its comparative lack of congregational participation.  Zababdeh's Orthodox church may not have the tonal quality of this place, but it does have significant lay involvement.  We have also decided to rent a car for a couple of days.  The company dropped it off this morning at the hotel after church and we headed West, driving on the left side of the road, from the right side of the car.  We realized that other drivers might not understand that the movement of the windshield wipers meant that a turn was immanent, so Marthame made adjustments.  Our first stop was the ancient Crusader castle in Kolossi which afforded amazing panoramas of the surrounding fields.  Next was the old Greco-Roman amphitheater and Byzantine basilica in Episkopi, where battered columns and mosaics struck an impressive form against the brilliant blue sky and deep blue waves.  We eventually made it to the port town of Paphos, now a touristy waterfront area where Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" cut through the chilly seaside winds - or perhaps amplified them.  Tucked back away from the water were some magnificent ancient treasures.  Several old (really old - we think we recall one being from the 1st century BC. Maybe. Or later. Or earlier. Some were older than others. Greek. Roman. You know - old.) houses had been discovered as recently as the 1960s with brilliant mosaic floors.  The scenes were of various Greek and Roman gods and myths  - Theseus, Aphrodite, Dionysius, Scylla - remarkably well-preserved.  Their colors were still quite evident in some cases. Others seemed to be renderings of the family members who commissioned them.  One reminded us of the icons we've seen of John the Baptist, with hair just a bit too wild.  It's easy to see, looking at this place, how the tradition of icons could grow to be so central and strong in the Greek church - replacing Apollo with Elijah and giving a new theological framework could easily do the trick.  We fantasized about our next house and its own central mosaic floor, a map of the world with all the great cities, rivers, and mountain ranges marked out.  We made the drive back to Limassol, hugging the left side of the road, impressed by what we saw today and weary from the fullness of it all.  We also realized an important math error we've been making - instead of the 2:1 currency exchange ratio, we discovered it was actually 1:2.  And not in our favor.  Our $6 hotel became a $24 hotel instantaneously.  Still relatively cheap, but not as cheap as we had been thinking.  It could've been worse: we could've commissioned that mosaic floor...

Monday, 3/24/03:  Determined to make the most of our car rental (now four times what we had originally thought - at least we didn't buy the car!), we awoke "early" and drove north into the Troodos Mountains.  Sounding like a character from The Hobbit, Troodos is the winter skiing center for Cyprus.  That would explain the snow we encountered through the winding mountain roads.  We had hoped to take a couple of nature walks, and had come prepared for cold - but not snow!  We satisfied ourselves with looks over the valley at spectacular turnouts.  We stopped at Panagia Tou Araka church, originally decorated with frescoes in 1192.  Every surface in the church was covered with detailed paintings, and to this day, the colors remain vivid.  It was quite a contrast with the undecorated whitewashed church we attended on Sunday.  The old parish priest ushered us into the church.  "German?"  "American."  "Oh!  Good."  He brought out the guestbook, searching in vain for a pen.  We produced one.  He then pulled out a wad of bills, signaling that we should contribute to it.  "Mister.  Turkey.  Boom Boom! Refugee."  We discerned that his village was destroyed or at least damaged (and surely depopulated of Greeks) in the Turkish occupation of the northern part of the island.  Apparently our donation wasn't enough.  "Mister.  Book.  English.  Icons!  Nine pounds."  Now knowing the currency conversion, we declined.  He lost interest and began splattering water on the stones of the old floor to sweep without raising dust.  We also stopped by a monastery along the way, but were only met by an open, not as astounding church.  It would be nice to come back here in the summertime and take the nature walks and visit some of the other frescoed churches.  Perhaps eleven of them (and the mosaics in Pafos) are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, so you know they've gotta be good.  Messages continue to come from Zababdeh.  The weather's similar to here, "cold and rainning here and life is normal and going on."  We arrived back in Limassol at the offices of the Middle East Council of Churches, meeting up with some of their employees as well as some of the Presbyterian Church's Egypt volunteers who have also been relocated like us to Cyprus for the time being.  We had lunch at a nearby pizza place, hearing about their various ministries, particularly those among the refugee populations coming from the Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.  News of the war and its growing chaos in Iraq was on everyone's mind.  The last communiqué to come to the Middle East Council of Churches' office from Baghdad was that the Chaldean Catholic Patriarchate was damaged during one of the bombardments.  We can't imagine the destruction that'll face Baghdad when troops enter.  Lord have mercy.

Tuesday, 3/25/03:  We're sitting tight today, as most of the island is celebrating Greek Independence Day - there were some parades and most stores were closed.  The fact that this holiday is celebrated so strongly, and the ubiquitous Greek flags flying every day, speak to the nationalist sentiment here. An ingredient of the still-unresolved conflict here is the movement for unity with Greece, apparently still on some people's minds. Today is also Annunciation Day on the Western calendar, when Gabriel came and surprised the young Mary.  We've been sending greetings back to Zababdeh.  The replies, however, were surprising: snow!  It snowed in Zababdeh today for the first time in more than a decade.  Unbelievable.  And we thought our experience yesterday was somehow special.  Unfortunately, it won't be around when we get back - it's already melted.  We've been watching the news with great interest.  Basra, the southern Iraqi city which is the focus of so much attention, was where we (and the members of Basra Presbyterian Church) celebrated Marthame's birthday in 2001.  We've tried to contact our friends throughout Iraq, but haven't heard from any of them.  Reports of water shortages in Basra are particularly fretful.  We also got an adorable note from one of Elizabeth's students that has to be included in the journal: "hi Miss Elizabith,how r u ,I know that u r happy because you r in a very nice land,I want to know about u something,r u live in a house or in a hotel,now we r very sad because u isnt with us ,but we r in curvieu (in jineen)sinc sunday .today is tuesday,miss Areen [the substitute teacher] is nice but sure not like you.the quiz was very easy,hope to see u soon."  So do we.

Wednesday, 3/26/03:   We're doing our best to make the most of our time here.  This morning we caught the bus up to the capital city, Nicosia.  From the air the area known as the Old City is quite dramatic - eleven spade-shaped spokes surrounding the city.  Having visited Old Cities throughout the Middle East - Jerusalem, Damascus, Nablus - we expected something similar.  On the ground, though, things are much different.  Wide boulevards cut through where stone walls used to stand tall.  The pedestrian area looks more like West Jerusalem than Old Jerusalem.  However, where it still stands, the Venetian-built wall is beautiful.  We visited the Cyprus National Museum, a lovely bite-size piece of ancient island history.  Figurines, vessels for various uses, statues, coins, and mosaics are scattered throughout.  The most striking is a collection of  cross-shaped figures cut from stone, one interestingly wearing a necklace of himself - from around 3500 BC.  If Cyprus had a mascot, he'd be it.  We went into modern Nicosia, just to the south of the city walls, to visit the offices of Sat-7Sat-7 broadcasts programs via satellite to the Christians of the Middle East and northern Africa.  Most of the filming is done in Lebanon and Egypt.  We have seen some of the programming in Zababdeh.  They've just recently begun broadcasting in Farsi in addition to Arabic, and are now looking to begin in the Moroccan dialect of Arabic and in Turkish.  It's a large operation which took a big hit after September 11th.  It's also an important ministry in this part of the world.  After lunch there, we headed back to the Old City towards the Archbishop's Palace to see their collection of icons.  The time of the Turkish control of the northern section of the island - which began in 1974 - has been destructive to the Christian treasures there.  Many churches were simply looted, with icons and mosaics finding their way to antiques dealers in Europe.  Quite a few have been recovered, but quite a few have been permanently lost, too.  There is great resentment of the Turks by the Greek Cypriots.  The cease fire line runs right through the middle of the Old City, the UN patrolling between the two sides.  We walked along the so-called Green Line, where barrels have been propped up and filled with dirt, big signs announcing the demilitarized zone, forbidding photographs.  Here, a house is inhabited and full of life.  There, the windows are gone and sandbags are stacked high.  One neighbor has stayed put, the other has been forced to leave.  War is cruel and arbitrary when it comes to the lives of everyday folks.  We climbed the observation tower to get a look over the city.  On the hills just to the north, the Turks have painted two flags: one of Turkey, the other of Turkish Cyprus.  They are ominous in their presence.  Ancient history and clashes between Greeks and Turks are still very present.  As we caught the bus back to Limassol, we got a message from Fr. Firas.  Construction is continuing on the Melkite Church back home: "alamenum wimdows wil finshe in ten days electric in tw days."

Thursday, 3/27/03:  We spent the day up in the mountains in a small village called Apshia.  An American family who works with the Middle East Council of Churches took pity on us poor Presbyterians and brought us all - those from Palestine, those from Egypt - up to their home for a little relaxation time, a home-cooked meal, and just a general good time.  It was way too cold to swim in their pool, but getting to eat lasagna (for the first time in a long time) was refreshing.  We walked around their lovely little village.  A shepherd even let us play with one of his baby goats for a while.  The view that overlooks the valley on both sides is incredible - to the north, Mount Olympus and a number of small villages dotting the hillside.  To the south, the Mediterranean Sea.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Friday, 3/28/03:  We arrived on an open-ended ticket and needed to nail things down a bit more.  We assumed we could do it by telephone, but the operator was insistent that we visit the Cyprus Airways office and gave us the address.  It was marked on our tourist map, so we walked there.  It had moved.  We took a bus and walked to the new address, but it was the wrong street - there are two main streets called "Makarios" in Limassol.  We wanted the one that didn't include his "Archbishop" title.  Kind of like looking for "Peachtree" in Atlanta.  Long story short, we made it eventually, though the woman at the office insisted we could do everything we needed to by telephone.  Even so, we managed to meet up with the other Presbyterian exiles for a lunch of fish n' chips at our neighborhood English pub.

Saturday, 3/29/03:  The six of us - two from Palestine, four from Egypt - joined a bus tour this morning.  Cyprus is known as the birthplace of Aphrodite, goddess of love, so we had to oblige the Cyprus Aphrodite tour.  The rest of the bus was filled with Brits (this being a former British colony) who looked like veterans of English-language bus tours in former British colonies.  As we traveled the lovely green hills of Cyprus, we heard the recounting of various legends surrounding the goddess of love and beauty.  Two of the stops on our way we had trouble distinguishing when our tour guide talked about them: the birthplace of Aphrodite, and the bathplace of Aphrodite.  With her Greek/British-accented English, it came out: "the bahthplace of Aphrodite."  Ahh, the bahthplace.  The trip was not designed for maximum exposure to anything local, but rather as a scenic views and quaint shopping excursion - eating at restaurants that used "Aphrodite" in their title.  We spent half an hour wandering the streets of Polis, which - from our experience, at least - is a town where everyone sells post cards and tiny statuettes of Aphrodite.  The goddess of love and beauty.  Elizabeth took the opportunity of the long lunch break to wander a hilly nature trail and peer at the flowers, so many of which are the same ones blooming in Zababdeh now.

Sunday 3/30/03:  Last Sunday, we had attended St. George's Greek Orthodox Church.  This Sunday, we decided to worship in English, a rare treat for us.  We joined up with the other Presbyterian exiles at St. Barnabas' Anglican Church, which is known by its much more quaint (and British) name: Mission to Seafarers.  We were met at the door by children ushering.  The bulletin had emblazoned at the top: Mothering Sunday.  As we read, the children of the Sunday School would be leading the first half of the service, a tribute to mothers.  The second half of the service would be led by the chaplain to the Mission to Seafarers, your standard Anglican eucharist service.  We winced.  Our experience of theme-oriented Sundays was that, while meant with the best of intentions, they end up getting bogged down in secular, sentimentality - a very Hallmark sabbath.  The difficulty is that to state this is to risk attack: "What, you don't respect mothers?  We should respect mothers!  How can you not respect mothers?"  Pastors often have to find that middle ground of how hard to push against these tides.  "Ministry is the art of the possible," a friend of ours has said.  The first half of the service was just as we feared.  It was as though the liturgy were stitched together from all of the overly saccharine forwarded rhyming emails about mothers that we had ever received.  Don't get us wrong - we love mothers (especially our own) and yes, the children were adorable.  But we began to wonder just whom was being worshiped here.  Then the chaplain arrived.  Finally, we thought - a little theology, a little worship of the divine.  But when he presented the tithes and offerings as a token of our love of our mothers, we knew he was an accomplice.  Alas.  Unfortunately, the homily was little more than a call to modern women to turn away from smoking, drinking, and playing rugby like men.  We comforted ourselves with the notion that on most Sundays, God is surely worshiped here.  The church potluck afterwards helped remove some of the bad taste.

Monday, 3/31/03:  We were hoping to leave today, and get back to Zababdeh, but we're still here.  It's hard to be somewhere as beautiful as Cyprus when you don't want to, but we're doing our best to make the best of it.  We are still getting messages from Zababdeh, most of them simply asking when we're coming back.  The school's vice-principal called today, asking if we would have to wait for the end of the war before returning.  We also got a message from one of the young men in the church: "We are in meeting to prepare the holly week and easter we are missing u."  Others send messages that things are the same, though people are growing frustrated with the military action in Iraq, particularly the mounting civilian casualties.  We also got an email from the Presbyterian pastor of Basra, where Marthame celebrated his birthday in 2001.  He is in Amman, but has been able to get word from Basra that the congregation remains well.  As he says, though, it is the people of Iraq who are suffering.  The result of the discovery of oil in Iraq is that the people have "been drinking poisonous results."  Back in Cyprus, we spent another day sightseeing, but chose - rather wisely - to go with our friends from the Middle East Council of Churches rather than those from Aphrodite Tours.  We piled in the van and headed up to the village of Kakopetria (literally, "Rotten Rock"), so named because of the prominent rock under which newly betrothed young lovers would pledge their undying devotion.  One couple was crushed when the rock gave way.  It has now been cemented into place, and the village has been restored into a lovely Cypriot mountain village.  The primary aim is to attract tourists, but it is done in a way that it not as cloying as that of Polis - the bus parking, if there was any, was not immediately obvious.  Little souvenir stores were everywhere (with the typical postcards and prints as well as home-made fruit preserves, honey, liquor, rosewater, etc.), but were scattered among old restored houses and winding, narrow cobblestone streets.  The town sits between the two branches of the rushing river, all the more rushing because of the melting snow (still dusting the mountain tops).  We had a lovely lunch at a nearby inn, waiting for the rain to subside, before winding our way to the village of Omodhos, an equally picturesque, restored village.  We sat in the village square and did a little bit of shopping here and there, watching the folks as they closed up shop.  We knew we were in a different world when one of the shopkeepers left his goods outside the store (usually left there during the day, then brought in at night), wrapping the front of his place with a large tarpaulin.  Apparently theft is not a problem.  We made our way back to Limassol and played cards until late.  We've also rolled our tickets over until Thursday, hoping to return then.

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