Journal in the Land of the Holy One
May, 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.)

Thursday, 5/1/03:  We continued our round of visiting today, realizing that we're never going to take care of all the people would should be seeing.  We've touched base with locals, who say that during the feasts, they knock off ten visits a day.  We average about three.  A lot of people came to visit us, though, which was wonderful.  Christian friends from Zababdeh and also from Jenin dropped by in a kind of rotating visitation.  Also stopping by was a friend of a friend who has been spending the last few months with the International Solidarity Movement in and around the West Bank.  A self-described born-again Christian and a former Air Force pilot, this young man had terrifying stories.  Once, when escorting children home from school, an Israeli APC let off machine gun bursts around his head; he said his hearing is still not back to normal.  He's headed towards Rafah in the Gaza strip, where now two ISM volunteers have been killed.  American Rachel Corrie was run over by a bulldozer, Brit Tom Hurndall was shot in the head by a sniper while trying to help a Palestinian woman and her children flee Israeli gunfire.  Needless to say, our friend is anxious.  We spent some time in prayer for his safety and for work such as his to be made irrelevant.  May such irrelevance come soon.

Friday, 5/2/03:  Work continues apace on the Melkite Convent.  Today, Fr. Firas has hired a bulldozer to come and clear away the growth that has smothered the land over the past twenty years of neglect, as well as to even out the land around the church so that he can make it a more welcoming place.  Today, he estimated that eighty trailers of rocks, garbage, dirt, etc. were hauled away.  One of the World Council of Churches volunteers has come by to lend a hand, scraping paint off of the floor of the sanctuary.  The new altar and table of preparation have been installed, too, made of stone from nearby Qabatia.  They are simply elegant.  Fr. Firas plans to pray this Sunday, the first Sunday Mass in that church in over two decades.  The Latin Church, meanwhile, celebrated the arrival of air-conditioning units, which will make the sanctuary bearable (even cool) during the oppressive summer Palestinian days that are on their way.  We could use a unit in our house.  In the evening, we went to visit friends in Qabatia, sitting with them out on their porch overlooking the town.  Over the hill, we could hear the gunfire being let loose in nearby Jenin, something we cannot hear from the seclusion of Zababdeh.  Two vehicles approached over the hill, probably trucks from the area's famous rock quarries.  We decided not to take any chances, in case they were army vehicles, and moved our meal of stuffed squash and rolled grape leaves inside.  School starts tomorrow - it's been a nice break, but it's time to get back to work.

Sunday, 5/4/03:  Today was an historic day in Zababdeh.  For the first time in twenty-three years, the Melkite Church rang its bell on Sunday morning to gather the faithful for worship.  It was a humble beginning.  The Melkite community here consists largely of one extended family - and the families here are very extended.  Many of the children arrived early, interested in the new village curiosity.  The rest of the congregation was made up of immediate family and neighbors.  After watching how the Anglican community has dispersed in a two-year period of neglect, we have a lot of awe for the work before Fr. Firas in regathering the community.  After worship, we went to the Orthodox Church.  Today, the eighth day of the Easter season, is St. Thomas day.  At ordination, Fr. To'mie took the ordained name Fr. Thomas - thus today has special meaning for him personally.  Following worship, we had lunch at his home.  Fr. Aktham, the village mayor, as well as a representative of the Palestinian Legislative Council all came.  Fr. Thomas' wife prepared msakhan, bread with olive oil, onions, sumac, and almonds.  She said she prepared it because of us, knowing how much we like it.  She's right!  They also showed off their two-month old granddaughter.

Monday, 5/5/03:  Marthame had tried to contact the driver who goes from Jalame to Nazareth to no avail, so he made his way towards the checkpoint at the same time he usually comes, hoping to catch him.  Barring that, he hoped to hitch a ride (par for the course here) up to Nazareth once crossing the checkpoint.  Crossing the checkpoint was a breeze.  It was the wait for the ride that took so long - an hour standing by the side of the road in an abandoned concrete bus stop.  There were plenty of cars, but no one wanted to pick him up.  Israel has begun punishing those giving rides to suicide bombers, even if they do so unknowingly - a Christian Arab Israeli taxi driver was one such case recently, though he had no knowledge that he was doing such a thing.  A taxi finally did stop, the driver grilling Marthame more so than the soldiers at the checkpoint.  Tonight's class in Ibillin was on the Swiss Reformation, particularly in Zurich led by Ulrich Zwingli and Conrad Grebel.  Next week is the midterm exam - the students are visibly anxious and would appreciate prayers!

Tuesday, 5/6/03:  The trip back was without incident as well, except for an exceptionally long wait for the driver in Nazareth.  It turns out that he dropped his phone in a pool of water - thus rendering him unreachable.  Hopefully that won't happen again!  It gave Marthame the chance to visit with friends who work as nurses in the French hospital in Nazareth.  One is from Zababdeh, the other from Nablus, and they both have full permissions (24 hours/day, 7 days/week) to be in Israel due to their work.  Even so, they sometimes face troubles entering the checkpoint at Jalame.  The young man from Nablus, when he goes back home, has a minimum six-hour commute facing him due to road closures and checkpoints.  And that's for about forty-five miles of travel.  We joked that he could work as a nurse in the States and have a shorter commute back home!  In the evening, Marthame went by the Latin Convent to familiarize himself with the editing software that's just arrived.  It's pretty cool.  The village municipality is now interested in a half-hour film on Zababdeh itself, and Fr. Aktham wants some footage shot in time for graduation in June.  It looks like our concern about not having enough to do once school finishes was completely unfounded!

Wednesday, 5/7/03:  The financial situation of the school has reached a critical stage.  Today, students who had not yet paid their tuition were sent home.  It's a staggeringly high figure.  Many families have been receiving scholarships, particularly because of the now non-existent Palestinian economy, and now the school finds itself in financial crisis.  It's clear the administration doesn't want to do this, but have little choice.  We're hoping things'll improve soon.  Elizabeth's seventh graders received care packages today from their pen pals in Maryland.  They opened them with the glee of small children opening Christmas presents, finding goodies like family photos and lip gloss. People don't get much mail here at all (the local system is a good year and a half behind these days), and mail coming from halfway around the world is an exciting event.  Who knew that seventh graders could be so adorable?

Thursday, 5/8/03:  This morning Elizabeth's eighth graders led the morning assembly in English, something the older classes do once or twice a semester. As a last fun project with these students, Elizabeth had them read and write about world leaders who fought injustice.  Kids read two of the best essays (about Mother Theresa and Fr. Oscar Romero) at assembly. Other leaders they're studying include Martin Luther King Jr., Rigoberta Menchu, Malcolm X, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire.  The readings Elizabeth gave them were very challenging, and certainly some students didn't understand much, but it was exciting to see some kids rise to the challenge and stretch themselves, and to see how far they can go.  And to broaden their horizons a bit - people here often think too much of themselves as the only people ever living under oppression or dealing with injustices.  In the evening, we went up to the University to visit with ex-pat friends there.  We met up with them halfway, at the bottom of the hill where the locals have built a little coffee shack for university traffic.  It was a great place to paint, as one of our friends decided.  It also made for a great picture.

Saturday, 5/10/03:  Everywhere you go around town, you find kids eating ice cream.  The weather has really turned to brutal heat during the day, and everyone is seeking relief anyway they can.  Afternoon naps become part of the daily schedule when it's this hot - it's too warm to do anything else.  Those kids that don't have ice cream almost always have a fist full of green hummos, the fresh chick peas which are now in season.  It's a great snack - cheap, sweet and delicious, comes in great "packaging," and when you're done, you can just throw it on the side of the road - the sheep and goats'll get to it eventually!  We got our own take away order of the stuff.

Sunday, 5/11/03:  We worshiped this morning at the Latin Church of Visitation with Fr. Aktham.  After worship and coffee, we went to St. George's Melkite Church to visit with Fr. Firas and his extended family.  There were more people there than last week, and there was a real camaraderie among the gathered.  It still remains difficult to get to the church, funds having run out for the landscaping of the church's grounds.  Things are on the way, though.

Monday, 5/12/03:  Marthame made his weekly way up to Ibillin for his course.  It was the first time in a long time that his ride to Nazareth actually made it into the West Bank, meeting him in the middle of Jalame.  The students were restless tonight - it's their midterm exam, and they had tried to postpone after feeling unprepared.  Marthame had stuck to his guns, much to their displeasure.  We thought such concerns would end after high school, but apparently not.  In Zababdeh, the school had a visit from AmidEast.  The representative was visiting schools in the Jenin area because of a student exchange program, hoping to find eligible high school students to go to the US for a year. The program sounds exciting, and we hope that some of our students may have the opportunity to participate in the program this year or in the future. Also, we discussed the possibility of AmidEast giving some informational workshops in Zababdeh about opportunities to study abroad, college scholarships, language testing, etc. 

Tuesday, 5/13/03:  Elizabeth slept in today, enjoying a one-day holiday from school because of Mohammad's birthday. Meanwhile, Marthame made his way back from Ibillin, waiting in Nazareth for a Federal Express package to be delivered.  A friend of ours from Zababdeh is supposed to be traveling to Chicago for a conference early next week.  As a West Bank Palestinian, though, she is forbidden to travel from Tel Aviv.  The Conference organizers at Fourth Presbyterian Church scrambled to get the tickets changed from Tel Aviv to Amman.  They had to FedEx them to her, but FedEx doesn't deliver to the West Bank - so much for "everywhere in the world." Marthame picked up the tickets before heading back to Zababdeh in the evening.  The news was all about the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia.  We half-expected that traveling would be difficult as a result. Due to some easing of travel restrictions, a number of Arab-Israelis had gone into Jenin this morning to shop.  When they all came out en masse, they were stopped at the border on their way out.  Marthame's ride was one of them, making a morning run into the West Bank as well.  Instead, Marthame grabbed a taxi from Nazareth, which was only willing to go to the border.  The fifty cars lined up on the other side were a good reason not to enter.  Marthame walked in and got home in plenty of time for a scheduled conference call.  The Presbyterian Church (USA) is in the midst of a major assessment and rebuilding of their mission program.  Today, a task force was meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, to talk about ministry in Palestine and Israel.  We were brought in by telephone to be part of that conversation, and they were also interested in hearing from at least one of our local partners.  Fr. Aktham joined us to speak with them about the situation.  We do hope that this conversation yields fruit in both attention and staffing for the region, especially since PCUSA's Palestine-Israel staff will be down to one person when we leave in December. 
Wednesday, 5/14/03:  School is winding down in advance of the exam schedule.  With Marthame's part-time schedule, it was his last day of classes.  It's hard to believe that three years of teaching have come to a close.  Have we really been here that long?  The 12th graders and their parents came by for a meeting this afternoon.  Their Ministry of Education comprehensive exams are on the way, now that they've finished their school comprehensive exams.  Today was a chance to remind them of some study basics (sleep, etc.) and some practicalities for taking the exam (enough pencils, paper, etc.).  It's a nerve-wracking time for them.  We wish them well!

Thursday, 5/15/03:  After school, we rode with the students down to Tubas.  Since we usually do so when there's some kind of chaos on the road - tanks, checkpoints, etc. - the students were obviously concerned.  However, our journey today was social and collegial rather than security-related.  We went to visit and have lunch with one of the Christian families in Tubas.  The laity here is extraordinarily active, impressively taking the initiative on their building, activities, and expansion.  After lunch, Marthame and one of the church's elders worked on the computer, Marthame giving him a tutorial in email and basic web page design.  Now, the Tubas Holy Trinity Orthodox Church has its own internet site!  Meanwhile, Elizabeth played with their four daughters, helping them with their English and enjoying the wonderful view and snapping pictures.  While there we got news that our friend traveling to Chicago has met an obstacle along the way.  She has her ticket, her visa, and her permission to enter Jordan.  Today was her second day to get turned back at the border, though, and it looks like the same thing will happen tomorrow.  The Jordanians have imposed limits on the number of Palestinians allowed in daily, which means a three-month wait to cross.  She told us of masses of people waiting (she mentioned examples, a cancer patient going to Jordan for treatment), sitting, sleeping, waiting at the bridge for an exception so they could pass. Marthame and the Conference organizers worked with the Palestinian Authority offices in Washington, DC, to see if anything could be done in time for tomorrow - the last chance for her to travel.  Let's hope against hope.

Friday, 5/16/03:  No way, no how.  That's the travel word.  This is the absurd part of this place.  All of the paperwork lined up, all of the hustling around she, the organizers, and we have done, and she still can't get across a teeny little trickle of water and get out of this place.  How infuriating.  It used to be that there was something called VIP status, where you could pay $100 and not have to worry about whether or not you were part of the daily quota, but that's been done away with.  The most difficult hurdle, or so we thought, would be the American visa.  Without Jerusalem travel permissions, she couldn't reach the Consulate, but was fortunately able to take care of the paperwork by Aramex from Ramallah.  But this, now.  Ugh. Fortunately, we had plenty on our plate to distract us.  Today is first communion for the Latin Church's third graders and is also graduation for the school's Kindergarten class.  Marthame, Fr. Firas, and Fr. Thomas all joined in the worship service with Fr. Aktham and Boulos Marcuzzo, the Bishop of Nazareth.  He arrived a full hour after church was supposed to start - we assumed it was because of travel hassles, but it turned out that there was miscommunication about the times - a relief.  The St. Anne sisters also came in from Jenin for the service.  The children lined up in their white outfits, looking like little priests and nuns.  They also led parts of the liturgy, reading Scripture, leading the intercessory prayers, and singing hymns.  Two of the children who received were members of the village's Anglican community.  No doubt their parents have gotten tired of waiting for a regular pastoral presence.  Immediately following the Mass, we went down to the Church Hall, which used to be the old school.  The kindergartners entered and sat on their risers, wearing their blue robes and mortar boards.  There were several dances - traditional, folklore, modern - and words of encouragement from Bishop Marcuzzo before the students received their diplomas.  Apparently, Marthame, Fr. Firas, and Fr. Thomas were jealous of all the attention they got.  In the evening, Marthame went by the Latin Convent to work with Deacon Homam and Fr. Aktham on a video project.   We've gotten a wonderful response to the funding of our project, which has allowed us to get started.  It's clearly going to take work, but we're on the way.  At first, we're learning the equipment by making a small video for high school graduation.  The electricity going out didn't help, but that problem was soon over.

Saturday, 5/17/03:  Today was the last day of school.  Elizabeth was busy teaching and handling a number of extra projects - pen pals for the fifth graders, child sponsorship letters - to really spend time reminiscing.  However, her seventh graders led the assembly today, the last day of classes before exam period begins. They wished their fellow students good luck on their exams, and nostalgically said farewell to those who will not return next year.  The news is all about the bombings in Morocco and the Road Map for Peace.  Let's hope that the meeting will bear some fruit - no doubt world fury fueled by the conflict here is related to the news from Morocco.  903

Sunday, 5/18/03:  Last night, Sharon and Abbas met.  Hamas and Jihad have responded with their vote, several bloody suicide bombings in Israel - one in nearby Afula.  Meanwhile, the Israeli military continues its oppressive activities in the West Bank.  We're hoping the Road Map will bring results - people here have heard years of talk; what they need is real movement on the way to a just peace.  We worshiped with the Orthodox church this morning, bringing all of these concerns with us as we prayed.  After the liturgy, we went down to the Melkite church for fellowship.  After worship, the community (it's not big) gathers in the hallway of the parish house for coffee and chat.  There's a good spirit here.  We also had a lunch invitation with the Greek Orthodox priest Fr. Thomas, our neighbor.  We'll definitely miss being fed delicious Arabic dishes by the good people of this town. 

Monday, 5/19/03:  Now that classes are over at the school, Elizabeth could take a Monday and Tuesday to go with Marthame to Ibillin.  We set off around eight in the morning, along the well-beaten track to Jalame.  At the border checkpoint, one of the soldiers asked where we were coming from.  When we said Zababdeh, he asked, "Oh, how is Zababdeh these days?" "It's Fine. Do you know Zababdeh?" "I've heard of it."  "We call it Zababdeh, DC.  Like Washington, DC."  He liked that.  We were soon through and on to meet our ride on the other side, arriving in Nazareth in short order, in time to share some time with fellow Presbyterians who will soon leave Nazareth after nearly a decade here to settle in Scotland.  A friend of theirs was staying with them, and was intrigued by the possibility of visiting Zababdeh. As he told us, "I'm here to listen and learn. Wherever the Spirit leads, I will go."  "How'd you like to go to Zababdeh?"  "Sure," he said.  "You know it's in the West Bank."  One beat, two beats..."OK."  We made plans to return home together tomorrow. After a lovely lunch with other friends, it was soon time to head to Ibillin for class. Elizabeth sat in as Marthame lectured about the Eastern church during the time of the Reformation. Especially interesting was the dialogue that took place between Lutheran Reformers and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch - the Lutherans were seeking the blessing of the Eastern church to defend themselves against Rome.  They didn't get it, but what they did get was a dose of probably the last pure Byzantine theology untouched by the theologies of Western Europe.  After, we spent the night with yet other friends in Shefa'amer, and debated sacramental theology into the wee hours. 

Tuesday, 5/20/03:  We headed out early enough to be sure to catch a shared taxi or bus from Shefa'amer to Nazareth in time to meet our friend and our ride to the border at 8:00. On the way, our driver took us by the shopping mall in Afula, where a 19 year old Palestinian girl from Tubas she blew herself apart, murdering a three: an Israeli Jewish man, a security guard on his first day of work, and an Israeli Arab going to an electrical engineering class. She wounded nearly fifty more. She detonated herself in the mall entrance, having been confronted by the security guard.  Even driving by at a distance, we could clearly see the impact of the explosion on the mall entrance.  At the border checkpoint, the same soldier was there.  He said, "You're going to Zababdeh?"  "Yes.  Zababdeh, DC."  He smiled and said, "Have a nice day."  Israeli checkpoints are like a box of chocolates - you never know whom you're going to get.  We arrived in Zababdeh, trying to connect our guest with folks in town who might be interested in meeting him.  After meeting with Fr. Firas and Fr. Aktham, we connected him with the World Council of Churches team to see what they were doing today.  They were headed to Tubas, the nearby town where the most recent suicide bomber came from, in fact going to her family's home.  Such a visit is tricky business.  On the one hand, you don't want your visit to be seen as approval or solidarity with the action of the bomber (i.e. how does one show compassion for a mourning family but not condone the actions of the deceased?).  And on the other hand, it's an important part of the story to know, important stories to hear.  We opted not to go - it's too easy to be misunderstood.  Our guest, however, decided to go, to get a fuller picture of this place - the bombers, their victims, their families, the Christians, Muslims, and Jews - it's all part of this compelling and disturbing land.  One of the team wrote a reflection on his visit which deals well with such complexities.   Will all that's going on, it seems like a good time to resurrect one of our older pieces, "When There's Nothing Left to Say."  The Presbyterian Church (USA) thought so, putting it on their website.

Wednesday, 5/21/03:  Happy Birthday! Today Marthame turned 33.  His first order of business on his birthday was to accompany our guest back to Jalame, so he could return to Nazareth. In the meantime, Elizabeth went to school to tie up loose ends and help with exams.  In the afternoon, we kept the computer tuned to the internet live feed of ZRadio in Orlando, on which Marthame's sister Alecia made a birthday dedication.  Happy Birthday indeed.

Thursday, 5/22/03:  More exams at school, and afternoon preparations for Marthame's birthday party.  We're combining his birthday party with a farewell fete for the World Council of Churches (WCC) volunteer team, who completed their 3 month stint here and will leave soon.  Time flies.  So at their place we and they and most of the university ex-pats joined together for a pot-luck style bash, with Palestinian pizza, hummus, corn casserole, beef pea curry, olives, shwarma, and of course chocolate cake and fresh strawberries. It was super.  Joining us was also a young Jewish American, fresh from a stint with the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron.  As he said, "I went with CPT because there's no JPT yet."  He's here for a few days to look at the new Peace program at the nearby Arab-American University.  It was a fascinating conversation.  One of the teachers at the University is half-Jewish, and one of the locals from nearby Qabatia told us that his grandmother was Jewish - his grandfather met her while working in Israel.  This place is far more complex that we had ever expected.

Friday, 5/23/03:  As we try to do every Friday, we slept late. We got up in time to join our good friends for a picnic. It was a bit hot, but we did our best to laze in the shade under the olive trees on the top of a nearby hill.  We supped on grilled meat, fresh bread, cucumber and tomato salad, tea, and coffee. It was a nice relaxing time, looking down on Zababdeh, nestled in the golden wheat fields, which wave and rustle in the wind.  In the evening, we and the village clergy went up to the University's coffee shop for a formal farewell to the WCC volunteers.  It is so nice when the priests get together and show friendly ecumenical relations. Contacts for the WCCers were the churches, and the priests were all very pleased to have them here, and to have them encourage them and assist them in their ministry here.  Their presence will be sorely missed - we've gotten used them, and them to us.  The WCC team coming in the summer months is lean, so they won't have anyone in Zababdeh - we're hoping that'll be rectified in a few months, though.  Meanwhile, an article has appeared in the Atlanta paper talking about Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Our ministry was also mentioned in it.

Saturday, 5/24/03:  This morning Elizabeth proctored her 8th grade exam.  The 8th and 9th graders all sit up in the auditorium, seated well away from any other student taking the same test.  In spite of this, there are still kids, out of desperation or habit - or perhaps the thrill of a challenge - who try to cheat.  So the proctor's job is never easy.  At the end of the two hours, Elizabeth felt confident that little got past her and her colleague.  Once the papers were in, we caught a south-bound shared taxi on our way to Jerusalem.  It was a bit late, but no matter, we piled in and off we went.  In Tubas, the car stopped, and everyone but us got out and went into a little office along the main road.  They all bought official PA permission papers to travel from the King Hussein Bridge into Jordan.  Of course, none of them was going to the bridge.  But, being from the northern West Bank (as marked in their IDs),  they need to have some kind of official paperwork to travel to the southern West Bank, and the bridge permission is apparently the easiest and cheapest option.  It would be like needing special government permission to travel from your home in Wheaton into Chicago, and getting permission to go to Canada to do so. At our first checkpoint, the papers served their purpose, and we proceeded onto the Jordan Valley Road.  Not for long, though.  At another checkpoint, not 30 minutes later, we were stopped.  The soldier asked for IDs and permissions.  He asked the ones with travel permissions for their passports.  Two had their Palestinian passports; three didn't. We were told that those with passports could continue along the Jordan Valley; those without could not.  Splitting up wasn't really an option, there not being any cars to take the other group; plus the driver certainly wanted to get his fare from all of us.  So we all clambered back in the hot minivan, wondering why the three men hadn't brought a passport to back up their "we're traveling over the King Hussein Bridge" story.  If you're gonna lie, lie...  Our car turned off the highway onto backroads; luckily we were past Nablus, so the surface roads and trails could get us to Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah.  From there, we took another shared taxi to Jerusalem, where we walked and walked to St. Andrews guesthouse. After cleaning up and a rest, we went back out to meet our good friend Germana, whom we'd met last spring in Lebanon.  We are very excited that she's here, serving a term with CPT in Hebron.  We had set Damascus Gate as our meeting spot; it was interesting to wait there, amid the hustle and bustle of the market - things almost seemed normal.  Germana came and another friend met us and drove us to the Philadelphia, a lovely outdoor restaurant, where we enjoyed good food and fellowship.  Germana told us how bad things are getting in Hebron, not only for the residents but also now for the CPTers, one of whom has been arrested and is being held in an Israeli prison.  He was arrested for going from H2 (the Israeli military controlled part of town where CPTers live) into H1, the PA controlled part of town.  The team had been told that they must now obey curfew like the Palestinians, and unlike the settlers.  They are also no longer allowed to go on school patrols (in which they accompany students to school during curfew, since they are technically - but often not actually - allowed to attend school during curfew).  And anyone caught going out of H2 will be arrested and deported.  They asked for a written copy of the military order, and were told to fax a request for one.  But they don't have a fax machine, and there are no fax services in H2.  Much of CPT's ministry over the past nine years in Hebron has been helping children get to school and people in need (of medical attention, medicine, food, etc.) during curfews.  Their presence, by invitation of the mayor of Hebron, has helped to reduce at least some of the tensions and the unbelievable oppression facing Palestinians there.  She told us that the closures are now so tight that in order to get out of Hebron, she had to walk through underground tunnels.  Hebron, as usual, defies reason.

Sunday, 5/25/03:  This morning, Marthame preached at St. Andrew's Church of Scotland.  The pastor is out of town, and had arranged with Marthame to fill in.  It was a real treat to worship in English again, and for Marthame to have the opportunity to preach again.  (Even though late the night before he was heard muttering, "Why didn't I think to recycle?")  Elizabeth unfortunately couldn't stay long at coffee hour as she had to get to the Anglican church in Ramallah by 12:30 to ride back to Zababdeh with Fr. Fadi.  Fr. Fadi and his family were driving up for the baptism of his twin nephews (and soon-to-be godchildren), the twin sons of Fr. Firas, the Melkite priest in Zababdeh.  In a little over an hour, Elizabeth managed to get from West Jerusalem to Ramallah, find the church, and enjoy a cool beverage with the family.  The trip was smooth and remarkably uneventfully, taking only a little more than two hours, which gave Elizabeth the chance to clean up and rest before the baptism ceremony at 6:00.  Bearing video camera equipment, Elizabeth arrived at the already-full Melkite church.  Dressed in their best, people waited on wooden benches and plastic chairs, fanning themselves and waiting for the service to begin.  Without delay, Fr. Firas began the distinctly Eastern chanting of prayers which commenced the worship service.  The baptismal liturgy began with the whole congregation turning around and renouncing Satan (get thee behind me).  More people piled into the small sanctuary as the service progressed, and by the time the twin toddlers were being stripped, there wasn't room for more, and some peered in from the windows. Mid-way between the Roman Catholic gentle pouring of water on the forehead and Greek Orthodox repeated, vigorous full naked immersion, this baptism consisted of pouring water over the entire baby, semi-seated in the baptismal font.  Much less of an ordeal than the Greek way, it still prompted plenty of wailing on the part of the babies. Once dried off, they calmed down as oil was anointed on many body parts (mouth to speak God's word, hands to do God's work, etc. etc.).  And then four locks were cut from their hair, in the shape of a cross on their heads.  At the end, people spilled out of the church onto the soon-to-be church courtyard to enjoy celebratory sweets and colas.  Meanwhile, the family were trying to dress the boys in special baptismal suits, white tuxedos complete with tie and cummerbund.  Elizabeth joined the extended family afterward, as they relaxed and had a barbecue. All in all a beautiful joyful affair.  Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Marthame had a different schedule.  He had lunch with several members of St. Andrew's, including two Palestinian women who live in West Jerusalem - the only two left from the pre-'48 Arab population of that area.  Their homes are lovely Arab-style homes, as are the rest of the homes in the neighborhood - the only difference is that there are Arabs living in these two.  Marthame then caught a ride to Tantur, the checkpoint at the entrance to Bethlehem.  From there, it was off to the Nativity Square and the desolate Church of the Nativity, the first time either of us has been there in a long, long time.  Another member of St. Andrew's is a Korean Presbyterian pastor who has been living in Bethlehem for ten years.  He and his family run a kindergarten and the Korean Cultural Center (quite the anomaly in Bethlehem).  They're headed home for the summer, seeming somewhat burned out after passing the last three years in Bethlehem under frequent curfew.  The Center was peppered by Israeli fire, which lessened once he hung the Korean flag out the window.  They've had to close the Kindergarten over the last few years, too, since the economics are such that no one can pay.   He finished off the day by visiting Bishop Timothy at the Orthodox Patriarchate, who is responsible for Tubas, Zababdeh, and Burqin.  They talked about what possible role Western Christians could play in the Middle East.  It's clear he appreciates our presence here.

Monday, 5/26/03:  Today is Elizabeth's second and last exam, with her seventh graders.  As she sat watching them take the test in their classroom, it started to sink in that this was the last time she'd be with them as their teacher.  Even though some of these kids could drive her crazy, she'll miss them all.  It will be hard to say goodbye for real. Marthame met Bishop Timothy for coffee in his little patio.  Marthame loaded down with supplies for Fr. Thomas and made his way to Damascus Gate to try and catch a taxi up to Nazareth.  We had assumed that, since he was already out of the West Bank, it would be easier for him to get from Jerusalem to Nazareth than to go through Zababdeh.  It turned out we couldn't have been more wrong, but for different reasons.  There are no direct routes to Nazareth, all of them passing through Tel Aviv.  At first, there was a two hour wait for the taxi to fill up.  When it didn't, we took off, paying an extra fare.  From Tel Aviv to Nazareth, the taxi found itself stuck - there were three checkpoints along the road passing near the West Bank.  Traffic was inching forward.  Once it inched forward enough, we turned off the road and drove through the olive groves (it felt more like "home" than the highways of Israel usually do.  A quick lunch before he went up to Ibillin.  After tonight, only one more class remains.  Foregoing the commute is enough to bring an expectation of joy.

Tuesday, 5/27/03:  Elizabeth woke up this morning to the slow mournful death knell, ringing from the Latin church belltower.  It wasn't until she got to school that she learned that the one who passed away was our assistant principal's mother.  This set a sad pall over the school, although exams continued unaffected.  After their meeting (which they have every day during exam period), the teachers walked over to the beit al-azza, the home of the deceased, to pay respects.  This was the first time either of us had made such a visit before a funeral in Zababdeh, as loved ones mourned over the body.  The men sat outside, silently drinking bitter coffee as the women teachers crammed ourselves in the doorway of a small room.  Peering over shoulders, Elizabeth could see two older women sitting on the floor, on either side of their lost loved one, who was laid out on a cushion, dressed in white, with branches of fresh sage placed on her.  In every other available space in the room were others, seated on white plastic chairs.  As they wept, they sang:  first, one would sing something, and the others all together with a kind of  refrain.  One of the teachers told Elizabeth that the "verses" of the song are not standard, but created by the women as they remember their loved one.  She also said that, just as only men go to the burial in the cemetery, only women mourn over the body before the funeral.  We teachers only stayed a respectful few minutes before going to another room to drink a shot of bitter coffee and then leave.  Marthame, meanwhile, was making his way back from Israel with another friend of a friend interested in visiting.  Once in Zababdeh, we stopped by for watermelon with Fr. Thomas and coffee with Fr. Firas.  We could hear tanks and shooting nearby on the main road, but it soon passed.  In the early afternoon we went to the Latin Church courtyard.  Elizabeth sat with women as they gathered outside before the funeral. Marthame joined the village clergy, who walked together from the Latin church to the beit al-azza, and then back again, preceded by acolytes and followed by the pallbearers with the coffin, mourning men, and finally mourning women. The church soon filled after the procession entered. The service is a simple one of witness to the resurrection - there's little singing, no eucharist, and everyone stands for the duration.  The procession then moved onto the cemetery for burial.  Allah yerhamha.  God have mercy on her.

Wednesday, 5/28/03:  After exams today, teachers went to the assistant principal's home again to pay respects.  There were many fewer people, and the women teachers sat in the same room, on plastic chairs brought for our big group - the men sat outside.  We sat in silence for a while, and after the distribution of bitter coffee and dried dates, we all left.  Elizabeth returned to the Latin Church and joined Marthame and Fr. Aktham and Deacon Homam, who were enjoying conversation with two visitors, including one of Marthame's former seminary professors from the University of Chicago. An Anglican-turned-Roman Catholic, Dr. Paul Griffiths now works at the University of Illinois at Chicago, designing an undergraduate program in Catholic Studies. He decided it was important to come to see the situation for himself here, after some campus hostility over the past few years between the school's sizable Jewish and Muslim student populations.  As their car drove away back to Jerusalem, Marthame realized he had forgotten to snap a picture.  Rats.

Thursday, 5/29/03:  Marthame has been working on another video project, this one for the Baladiyye, the village municipality.  They want a simple half-hour video introduction to Zababdeh.  It'll take more time than we have, but it'll be a good way to get familiar with the equipment and to work on the practice of writing scripts and the like.  Marthame spent the day with the mayor, seeing their projects.  In particular, they are working on electricity and sewage, as well as opening a new clinic.  The property laws here are interesting.  The Municipality, as Marthame understood, is allowed to take up to 25% of anyone's land for the common good - such law remains from the time of the British Mandate here.  Marthame was surprised, right to property and compensation being such a fundamental American right.  It's a different world here.

Friday, 5/30/03:  In the evening, we went to visit with a family in town. The oldest son is finishing high school this year and has received a scholarship to attend North Park University in Chicago next year.  Now it's a matter of making sure that all his travel permissions get lined up.  He's currently waiting for the proper paperwork from the US Consulate in East Jerusalem.  Once that arrives, the process can begin for the rest.  In the end, nothing is certain around here.

Saturday, 5/31/03:  The last day of school.  After they finished their exams, students gathered in the playground to celebrate.  As with most causes for celebration here, this involved drums and lots of singing (audio - 8 sec).  It's still hard to believe that it's all over. Perhaps it will sink in at graduation next week.  In the afternoon, we went up to the university to take some footage for the short film about the municipality we've been making. While there, we stopped in at a super art exhibition put on by one of the university ex-pats.  Non-representational art is somewhat counter-cultural here, so it was interesting to see what people had written in the guest book.  The news is full of summits and meetings in Jordan and Egypt.  It's an historic time, and there is new hope that things will come to a close.  However, many question marks remain.  We wait to see the results before we begin rejoicing.  Having been here during the total collapse of Oslo, we remain skeptical that things will turn on the right track.  St. Thomas had it right - at least when it came to politics.  922 emails sent

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