Journal in the Holy Land
November, 2001
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The sounds of Zababdeh: 
4:30 AM, Rooster (3 sec.) 
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.) 
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.) 
6:30 AM, sheep 
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.) 
24-7, Electrical generator (5 sec.) 
Night-time, shooting (5 sec.)

11/01/01:  A sheikh and an Orthodox priest are debating about whether Christianity or Islam has more holy days.  The Orthodox priest has a suggestion: "For each holiday we have, I'll pull one hair out of your beard, and vice versa.  Whoever has the lighter beard at the end loses."  The sheikh agrees, and goes first: "Ramadan...'Eid al-Fitir...'Eid al-Adha..." and so on, pulling one hair out of the priest's beard.  When he finishes, the priest's beard appears as full as ever.  So the priest begins: "Christmas...Easter...Epiphany..." and so on, pulling a hair out, one by one.  Then he  grabs the sheikh's beard, yells, "All Saints' Day!" and tugs!  In all of our years in churches, this year is the first year we've heard an All Saints' Day joke.  It was also Abuna Aktham's birthday, and we celebrated with the teachers and a birthday cake.  There was a special Mass for the Christian students during school today, and after school we shared in lunch with Abuna Aktham, the Rosary Sisters of Zababdeh, Abuna Alphonse from Jenin, and the Sisters of St. Anne in Jenin.  We noted that Elizabeth threw off the lovely black and white balance of the photo.

11/02/01:  Marthame headed down to Jerusalem today to lend a hand at St. Andrew's Church of Scotland.  He got in the taxi in the morning to discover that he was the only passenger - the normally full taxi to Qalandiya (north of Jerusalem) was empty.  No passengers.  Even so, the two of them (Marthame and the driver) waited quite a while at the Tayasir checkpoint - now closed with a large arm blocking the road.  After ten minutes, several soldiers lazily walked down to begin to inspect vehicles.  As the two of them checked IDs and contents, another soldier stood on a hilltop and aimed, panning down the row of waiting taxis.  It's an unnerving feeling to spend a few seconds in the sight of an M-16.  After about half an hour, the taxis were let through.  Marthame headed on to both Ramallah and Jerusalem to run errands for the various priests in our region. With the closures, it is really hard for them to get down to their Patriarchates to do the necessary work, so Marthame was able to at least do that for them - a few cassettes for the Anglican priest, assistance checks for the schools in Zababdeh and Nablus, paychecks for Zababdeh and Jenin.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Elizabeth attended the All Souls' Day service at the Latin Church which finished at the village cemetery.  They were kind enough to turn off the neighboring generator (audio - 5 sec.) during the service there. By way of our friends at the Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron, we had gotten word that there was a contingent from Presbyterian Peace Fellowship present in the West Bank and Israel for a few days.  Marthame met up with them and got a chance to talk about our work, as well as joining them on a visit to our friend who works with Rabbis for Human Rights, whom we get little chance to see these days.  His vision of what this place could be is inspiring, but his unflinching analysis of the situation here is dire.  He came here in the late Sixties, inspired by a love of Judaism.  After thirty years here, that love has not faded, but it has become flavored by an awaremenss of what life is like for "the other half" - the Palestinians.  He noted the prevalence of hard-liner opinion in Israel, but also that if he experienced a personal change, why couldn't the nation?  With this note of hope, a good meeting and meal with fellow Presbyterians (a rarity in this part of the world), and having finished a day of errands, Marthame headed off to one of the youth hostels near Damascus Gate to celebrate a friend's birthday party.  Long, long day.

11/03/01:  Elizabeth spent the day puttering around the house and doing chores. In the evening she hung out with a friend at one of Zababdeh's two internet cafes, helping her set up a personal homepage. Then they met up with another good friend and relaxed on her porch, drinking coffee with the family. She showed Elizabeth a book she helped with (as a translator and researcher), called Palestinian Women: Patriarchy and Resistance in the West Bank. She lent us the book, which seems to offer a compelling look into the world of women here - both the hardships and the strengths. We look forward to reading more of it, as it seems to offer healthy criticism of oppressive practices, but also show the ways women here resist them and find their own voices. So much anti-Arab and anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to center on the first issue, without investigating the second (meanwhile conveniently forgetting the huge battles Western women fought - and continue to fight - for equality in the "civilized" West). OK, enough soapboxing.  While Elizabeth capered about with her girlfriends, Marthame headed into the Old City to write his sermon.  As he sat at a rooftop restaurant, he was surrounded by the domes of the Holy Sepulchre and the Haram al-Sharif as well as the spires of the Omar Mosque and the Lutheran Church.  Following the Muslim call to prayer, the Sepulchre bells sounded their cacophony (video - 5 sec.).  There aren't many places like Jerusalem in this world.

11/04/01:  Marthame preached at St. Andrew's Church of Scotland in Jerusalem this morning - Pastor Clarence had been called to Cyprus for a meeting of the Church of Scotland's Middle East folks, and Marthame was happy to get the chance to preach again.  The text was Habakkuk's personification of "Vision".  It's a fun text.  Afterwards, he joined several members of the church for lunch, hearing stories about life for Palestinians in West Jerusalem after 1948 (there were some who were not forced/scared away).  One person recounted how they used to have to sneak to church to avoid the Jordanian snipers in the Old City.  Apparently many Jews had been moving into the no man's land established between Jordanian East Jerusalem and Israeli West Jerusalem, in violation of armistice agreements.  The Jordanians didn't take too kindly to this (nor did the former Arab residents of that area who are still not allowed to return).  Back in Zababdeh, Elizabeth went to church at St. Matthew's Anglican Church, and joined friends of ours for a delicious lunch of malfouf - steamed cabbage leaves wrapped around yummy rice and meat filling (malfouf means wrapped and also cabbage, since cabbage leaves wrap over each other on the plant. It also means the meal Elizabeth ate). Elizabeth also tried for the first time a calcium-rich snack this family prepares a few times a year - sesame seeds broken up a bit in the blender and mixed with a little sugar. Interesting and tasty.

11/05/01:  Marthame's return trip was fine, at least as far as these days are concerned.  Both checkpoints were a matter of moments, thankfully - at Hamra, the taxi passed in fifteen minutes.  Taxis waiting on the other side, though, were getting the raw end of the deal - they'd been there for four hours already.  Kind of like commuter traffic jams, and then kinda not...

11/07/01:  Tomorrow the teachers from the school are coming over for a visit, so we spent the entire day after school cleaning aggressively - the new vacuum has been getting quite the workout!  Palestinian homes are usually spotless, a level of cleanliness we are completely unfamiliar with - it'll be a long day of dusting and the like.  Marthame also headed over to the Municipality building - the Baladiyye - to discuss a small-scale project.  A few months ago, we had received a video from France on the implementation of electricity in Zababdeh (in 1969).  Many people have approached us about the video, wanting to see it or have us make copies.  Now, we have made an arrangement so that people can buy copies of the video from the Baladiyye for a small price, and the money will go to a project to help people in Zababdeh.  It won't be too many, but we're hoping the idea of self-funded projects will catch on a bit.

11/08/01:  After school, the teachers (at least some of the female ones) came over for their scheduled visit.  They do this periodically, going to see teachers with new babies or new houses or things like this.  It only took a year for us to get on the invite list.  We seemed to pass the cleaning test, and the hosting ritual (i.e. first bring everyone a glass of juice or cola; then bring the snacks - sunflower seeds are popular; then after a while, bring the coffee and sweets). As usual, some of the teachers helped out with that part, by helping prepare coffee and bring in trays of things, and take out trays of things. But the hit of the visit was showing the documentary on Zababdeh - watching people's reactions as they recognized friends and their (usually deceased) parents and grandparents was tremendous.  They all clamored for copies, so we were glad to point them towards the Baladiyye and the new project.  They didn't embrace it like we hoped (preferring the idea of us making copies for them), but we'll see...One other benefit of these visits is that the visited teacher gets a gift.  Elizabeth received a beautiful Palestinian embroidered shawl (she promised Marthame that he can wear it sometimes).

11/09/01:  We headed back down to Jerusalem together this morning - more than two people in the taxi this time.  Both checkpoints were a matter of formality, a pleasant surprise this time.  Among our fellow travelers were Jenin-area Birzeit University students.  Since the incursions last month, the University has been closed and a strict curfew has been enforced on the village.  A fellow summer student of ours tried to visit Birzeit a few weeks ago, and had quite the harrowing experience.  Now, the University has re-opened (though the road remains closed), and students are returning from their unwelcomed break.  We also ran some errands for the priests, something that we can do quite concretely to help out here.  Elizabeth headed off to the Latin Patriarchate to do so and to pick up our official visa papers (our reason for coming this weekend).  One task was to pick up a decision from the Latin court for Abuna Aktham. Here, legal matters pertaining to marriages, divorces, deaths, inheritance and other civil issues are handled by religious courts, and not the government. It is an interesting system, but definitely has its drawbacks.  Marthame headed off to Ramallah to meet with the Anglican Bishop Riah Abu-Assal at the Anglican School there, with its hopeful murals about friendship and peace.  We have met the Bishop a few times briefly here and there, but it was a chance to more formally tell him about what we are doing here in Zababdeh and how we can be of assistance to the Bishopric and the Anglican community here.  As pastoral transitions may be underway, his main concern was the road that leads from Nazareth to Zababdeh (the road the new priest will travel).  However, after the most recent incursions, even that way is now closed.  There is one roadblock that can be skirted, but once the rain starts, such travel is impossible.  We then rendevoused in Jerusalem with friends and had a good round of Scrabble.

11/10/01:  Today being Saturday, all Israeli government offices are closed - thus there was nothing to be done about the visa applications.  We spent the afternoon with journalist friends trying to talk about anything other than the situation, but it's often far more interesting to do so with such people who have a deeper, more intimate, more informed knowledge of what's happening here.  We then spent the night babysitting (i.e. watching t.v. while the baby slept) - it's the least we can do for a free weekend's lodging.

11/11/01:  Today being Sunday we went to worship - at the pagan idol of Israeli bureacracy.  Elizabeth began the process at the Ministry of the Interior while Marthame tried desperately to find the Ministry of Religious Affairs for Christian Communities.  Once finding the office (conveniently tucked into a office complex, between American Express and a furniture store), the staff in charge of being helpful was noticeably absent.  One employee suggested we wait until 10:00.  When 10 came and went, he suggested 11.  After further bellyaching (the only way to force your way through the bureacracy - so we've been told by Israelis, Palestinians, and ex-pats alike), we were told nothing could be done until Wednesday on our applications - the man who knows how to turn on the computer is on vacation.  Frustrating, especially since a return to trip to Zababdeh is now fruitless - we'd go back tomorrow and return on Tuesday, travelling on expired visas and gaining no classes in the meantime.  We drowned our sorrows in that great American past-time: shopping! Particularly nice at the picturesque Bookshop at the American Colony hotel - a little slice of ex-pat heaven - they have books in English (and only in English) - everything you'd want, nothing you wouldn't - from politics to literature and everything in between.  We then headed off to Ramallah to pick up some teaching supplies at Amideast, an NGO started in the 1950s to strengthen understanding between Americans and people of the Middle East and Northern Africa.  While they do good work, today's headlines make it clear that they could use some assistance!

11/12/01:  A quiet day.  Nothing can be done, so we're trying to make the most of it - kind of hard when our visas have already expired, leaving us here somewhat illegally.  Best to stay put in Jerusalem for the time being.  We went to a music shop in West Jerusalem, and were serenaded to the sounds of George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" (audio - 13 sec.) - gets your groove goin'.  We then made a traditional Palestinian meal for our hosts and some other friends of maqlube (literally, "upside-down").  One of our friends talked about his time serving the Israeli Army in Nablus and Gaza  - it was a very difficult time for him, and he remains frustrated by Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories. He and some of his friends have been active with Yesh Gvul, an Israeli group working in support of conscientious objectors, who are usually jailed by the Israeli army for refusing to serve. It's good to be reminded that there's far more variety within any population than we are usually led to believe.

11/13/01:  A day spent somewhere between Apartheid and the Holocaust. We got word last night about the monthly meeting of the ex-patriate women's club of Jerusalem, largely made up of spouses of NGO and other international workers in the wider Jerusalem area (including Ramallah and Bethlehem).  They met this morning at St. Andrew's, and the speaker was a lawyer for LAW, a Palestinian Human Rights and Environmental organization.  They have been quite clear in documenting and decrying injustices, both those committed by Israelis and Palestinians. Even so, they have been accused of collaboration and bias. LAW has been very involved with building connections with South African leaders who participated in the fight against Apartheid. Our speaker said that after several of them visited here, to a one they agreed that the situation for Palestinians is far worse and more devastating than Apartheid was for black South Africans (it is a sentiment we heard before, last year at the Sabeel conference, listening to South African Imam Farid Esack - audio from Sabeel's website - 30 minutes).  After the talk and chatting with the ladies, we got a call that our paperwork came through from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, so we went to the Latin Patriarchate to pick it up and to have lunch.  Afterwards, we made a trip out to Yad Veshem, the Holocaust Memorial in West Jerusalem.  The importance of this monument cannot be underestimated - foreign dignitaries visit it before - and often instead of - the Wailing Wall.  Even the Jerusalem Post, the right-wing voice box, has said that the Holocaust is the "Civil Religion of Israel."  In many ways, this trip was overdue.  Marthame had been to both Dachau and Auschwitz in the '90's, but neither of us had visited a memorial to the Holocaust since our arrival here.  We were oriented to the place by a volunteer, himself a Holocaust survivor.  The first memorial was that to the 1.5 million children who were killed - a haunting, beautiful place lit up by candles, and reflections of candles in the darkness. Walking into it was like walking into the sky, surrounded by the stars, and hearing the names and ages of the children who were killed. It was very moving.  There were several other monuments as well as an exhaustive museum.  The Holocaust's scale is just so difficult to get your mind around - 6 million Jews killed...While there are many parallels between the Ghettos of Europe and the situation under Israeli Occupation, the parallels break down under the collective weight of the scale of calculated cruelty and annihilation by the Nazi regime. Palestinians are not being sent to gas chambers; they are not being rounded up and sent to work/death camps. Thank God. When discussions focus on the situation of Palestinians in the Territories, they often turn to the Holocaust, the ultimate trump card. It overshadows any other experience of injustice or cruelty. In light of the Holocaust, it can be hard to hear other suffering, especially that caused by Jews. It seems sometimes as if the world is still dumbfounded - struck blind and deaf by that horror - and cannot (or refuses to) see or hear the plight of the Palestinians. Little surprise that Palestinians are not very interested in hearing Jewish tales of persecution. As one Jewish Israeli friend suggested, "perhaps if we acknowledge their suffering they can begin to hear our narrative of suffering."  Hopefully.  We joined a dear friend of ours for dinner in the Old City and complained about our current troubles with the multi-headed hydra named bureacracy.  He is a Jerusalem resident whose wallet (with his ID) was stolen last year.  As he worked to reinstate it, he was stonewalled.  He kicked and screamed until he eventually got a supervisor, at which point it was revealed that his entire file had been "lost".  As bad as things have been for us, at least we still have a file...

11/14/01:  Today was a day of unmitigated disaster.  We had all of the papers in order from the Ministry of Religious Affairs - an extension of Elizabeth's work visa, an extension of Abuna Aktham's clergy visa, and a change of Marthame's status from work visa to clergy visa. We arrived at the Ministry of the Interior and were minutes away from paying the bill and heading out the door when the hideous beast reared one of its ugly heads - Window 3.  Window 3 wanted to know how Marthame was changing visas, how  Marthame "suddenly became a priest", and informed us that it was forbidden to "work" with a clergy visa.  Not knowing that "work" translates to "draw a salary from an Israeli institution," Marthame pointed out that he was clergy and thus, as such, "worked" like any of the priests.  The paper-pusher pounced on the word "work" and then denied Abuna Aktham his visa renewal - "You said he 'works.'  I heard you.  You used the word 'work.'" - then denied Elizabeth hers, because spouses' situations are inestricably linked.  We called the Latin Patriarchate to see if we could find a solution - the priest in charge talked to Mme. Red Tape to no avail.  He then consoled us and promised to write a letter saying Marthame "is not only a priest, but a bishop." We managed to crack a smile. Once the Ministry had the letters, we were told the whole affair could be expedited within a mere two weeks.  Disaster.  We stopped shaking in frustration and anger about four hours afterwards, when we picked up a fresh batch of letters from the Latin Patriarchate (he didn't make Marthame a bishop - could've been problematic for the Atlanta Presbytery).  That may be the one ray of hope for the day, that the Roman Catholic presence here has - in a roundabout way - acknowledged Marthame's ordination.  That's gotta be a first...

11/15/01:  We started the day with great anxiety, not really feeling up to another day of fighting and yelling.  We were smiled upon today, and the blessing of Window 2 came to our rescue, in the form of the lovely Nina - she helped us slay the beast, and we danced down the stairs, visas in hand and passports intact!  Marthame packed for the return trip while Elizabeth went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to give thanks for small blessings and light a candle for Zababdeh in the Sepulchre. On the way back, she bought a small cactus and brought it as a gift to the Latin Patriarchate. The word in Arabic for "cactus" and "patience" is the same, so the gift was somehow fitting.  We shared our joy with our friends and their Palestinian housekeeper who lives in East Jerusalem.  When she asked, "how many months did they give you," we realized that the Israeli Ministry of the Interior for Palestinians is a whole other demon.  And that's for people born here...We headed off to Haifa and met up with friends who gave us a ride back to Zababdeh straight across the Green Line through the northern Jalame checkpoint - the roads are indeed closed, except for one "bypass" around a pile of dirt - come winter, that'll be closed.  But we're home.  We celebrated our small victory with Abuna Aktham, who was delighted to finally see his passport again!

11/16/01:  We tried to recover today, and took a walk in the hills to restore our spirits.  It's amazing how little relaxation you can do when doing battle.  Even though we weren't technically "working" last week, it was probably one of the more exhausting seven day periods in our time here.  As we sat in the hills and tried to readjust to life here and to a different kind of "normalcy", a light rain sprinkle came up.  While in the West we may sing "rain, rain, go away," in a desert climate rain is a sign of blessing.  How true for today.

11/17/01:  This afternoon, Marthame went with our friend to visit Zababdeh's old Melkite Church.  It was the first time either of us had been there in a really long time.  And while the church has been closed for over fifteen years now (the last priest - our friend's grandfather - died in 1985 and the Bishop has yet to send a replacement for the community here), the recent few months have seen the greatest decline in the state of the place.  Someone had broken the iron lock on the doors, and it seems that children - and probably adults, too - have taken to using the place as a playground.  There were broken bottles on the ground, old candles had been burned and scarred up the walls, furniture had been torn, windows had been broken.  But damage wasn't limited to the inside of the church.  The grounds of the church (which are quite extensive and sit on the main road) are littered with all kinds of refuse.  Someone has dug a barbeque pit, and one of the neighboring houses has set up their sewage to drain into a barrel buried on the church grounds.  We did rescue some items from there, including the plate and spoon used in Melkite communion.  There something is really sad and staggering about seeing this kind of desacrilizing in person.  Marthame has visited the Bishop to see what the future status of this church might be - now, more than ever, it seems important to make a decision.

11/18/01:  This Sunday we worshiped with the Latin Church of Visitation.  All the women in the church have begun to cover their heads when they come forward to receive the eucharist - this is something we have seen in the Orthodox church, as well as in the Latin church in Birzeit, not to mention the Protestant churches we visited in Iraq. In this culture, it is seen as a sign of respect.  At the same time, Abuna Aktham has also introduced female lay readers.  After worship, a new fellowship tradition has begun.  The men go to drink coffee in the church hall while the women go to do the same at the Convent across the street where the Rosary Sisters of Zababdeh live.  Coffee hour was always something we treasured in the States, and we were a little suprised that folks in Zababdeh didn't also have this special time. The new coffee fellowship doesn't last long (quite surprising for a Semitic culture), but it is a chance to catch up on the goings on around the village.

11/22/01:Kul 'am wintum bi-kheir.  On the occasion of every holiday, this greeting (literally, "all year has passed and you are well") is exchanged.  People in the school were confused when we greeted them this way this morning, until we explained that today is 'Eid al-Shukur, Thanksgiving.  They all asked if we were going to eat turkey - amazing what spreads from one culture to the next.  We did, indeed, eat turkey, as well as stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin (well, actually squash, but you'd never know the difference) pie with whipped cream.  There were fourteen of us, the rest of the folks affiliated with the Arab-American University, though not all Americans.  So our Thanksgiving was shared by Canadians, Brits, Scots, and Japanese!  After our meal, there was no football on television.  Instead, we sang songs together.  Marthame accompanied the keyboardist on guitar.  It was a slightly smaller crowd than last year's gathering, and Thanksgiving is always a little harder to be away from home, but it was a wonderful celebration and a good time to stop and reflect and be thankful.  Especially in the midst of the turmoil here, such moments are welcome respite and sanctuary.

11/23/01:  A small group arrived today from Birzeit University.  The students were part of their Palestine and Arabic Studies program, which we had attended this past summer. Together with folks from the University, we went on a whirlwind tour of the area.  After a walk through the fields, we hired a taxi and drove into Jenin to see the sights.  The usual points of interest notwithstanding (the burned out car on the Misilye road, the roadblocks and trenches, the destroyed buildings), our first landmark was the Old City of Jenin.  There is an old, old city of Jenin, which are ruins, but we visited the 100-200 year-old one which has recently been restored (even within the last year).  As a crowd gathered around us, a man took us to see his house in the Old City.  Speaking a near-fluent mixture of German and English, he took us through the old house, which is now used as a basement, and the newer house (at least 100 years old) built on top of it.  It was built in an Arabic style with a domed-roof, thick walls, and rooms centering around a main gathering area.  He pointed out the bench in one room where in the past women would sit so they could eavesdrop on the conversation of the men in the salon.  We all took extensive notes so we knew how to build our next house.  We then headed off to Burqin, a nearby village of about 6000 with a Christian population of around 100. The Christians are all Orthodox, but their priest (who has to try and come from Beit Sahour near Bethlehem) hasn't come in months.  Instead, they've been worshiping regularly at the newly-built Latin Church nearby.  The reason this is worth mentioning is that their parish church, St. George's, is better known as the Church of the Ten Lepers, the fourth oldest church in the world.  We last visited it in December, and this time we were able to understand more of the story that one of the villagers told about the church.  The church is built on the site of a cave which held lepers in the time of Jesus.  As Jesus passed by, the lepers cried out.  Jesus approached the cave, and a hole opened in the side.  That little detail has either survived or originated outside the canonical story (in Luke 17).  Our guide also said that the name "Burqin" comes from this event - the Arabic word for lepers is bursin, which simply evolved into Burqin (although a more likely story, upon looking at the dictionary, is that it has something to do with "lightning" - burqin in Arabic and burqim in Hebrew).  We finished with a lovely pasta (pasta?) dinner back at the University, and a dessert of exquisite knaffe (honey, shredded wheat, and cheese topped with pistachios) procured from Jenin.

11/24/01:  Tomorrow is Christ the King Sunday, which has become a weekend focused around youth events in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.  Tonight there was a Mass for the youth.  Abuna Ra'ed Abusahlia, the Chancellor of the Patriarchate and a native son of Zababdeh, preached on the subject of Living Stones, the members of the church who are in the "Holy Land".  This is an image with which we have become familiar in our time here, to distinguish between the living church and the sights most often visited by pilgrims, the "Dead Stones" or museum pieces of church history.  At one point in the sermon, Abuna Ra'ed was saying, "We are Christians.  We are Arabs." - at which point he was interrupted by one in the congregation who pointed at Marthame.  "Nevermind.  I will give him Palestinian nationality" was his reply.  Of course, this is the same priest who was going to make Marthame a Bishop a few weeks ago...

11/25/01:  Marthame preached this morning at St. Matthew's Anglican Church.  Father Hossam was actually able to make it to Zababdeh this morning from Nablus, though a bit later than usual due to the roads.  He passed by the destroyed car of Abu Hanood, the Hamas leader assassinated by Israel yesterday.  Today, nothing remains of the car's interior.  Instead, it is filled with flowers.  The text for this morning was Matthew 9:18-26, the story of a girl brought to life by Jesus at her funeral and a woman healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment.  For some reason, the Anglican calendar here doesn't include Christ the King in its church calendar.  Marthame made up for that by cooking maqlube (literally, "upside-down") - the idea being that Jesus was not a king in a traditional sense - he did not have riches, he did not have political power, he did not control great armies, and his crown was one of thorns, not gold.  As such a king, he turned the world on its ear - upside-down (video - 35 sec.).  We gathered for dinner with Abuna Ra'ed's extended family - it's not often that he gets to come back to Zababdeh, and his parents (not to mention his little nieces and nephews) were thrilled to get to see him.

11/26/01:  The English Club is slowly taking shape.  We've scrapped several approaches to the Club, and have now ended up with a simplified newspaper.  Abuna Aktham had asked that the students be interviewed about their hopes, wishes, dreams. The Club took to this with great excitement, and spread out around the school to conduct the interviews.  For the older students, the interviews were done in English, and for the younger ones in Arabic.  We're hopeful that the newspaper will begin to take shape and form - one of the students is ready to put it on-line!  We also got some disturbing news today about travel in this area.  The road which leads north out of the West Bank has been blocked several times with large piles of dirt, and most recently the last open road (which goes by way of the University) had been blocked.  Even so, it was still possible to get around by going throught the fields - when it doesn't rain heavily.  In the last two days, though, the Israeli Army has installed another roadblock, this one a metal arm which extends across the road (and around which impassable trenches have been dug).  This effectively closes the last road leading north out of Zababdeh.  Every basic freedom is limited here, and the blocking of the roads has felt more and more like a slow death, a strangulation.  Looks like buying a car will have to wait...

11/27/01:  Folks at the Arab-American University of Jenin have been talking to the Israeli military authorities about the new roadblock - they have promised to "see what we can do".  This roadblock affects them very directly.  Experiencing this it becomes clear why this place gets politicized so quickly.  Even so, we gathered with a big gang of the AAUJers (the ex-pats who are affiliated with the University) for a birthday celebration (video - 22 sec.) for one of the ex-pats.  It coincided with the time every day when students and faculty gather in the cafeteria to break the Ramadan fast together. We dubbed our party's women in black "Yasser's Angels".  Don't mess with them.

11/28/01:  The English Club seems to be gathering more steam when it's not meeting than when it is.  More and more students have shown interest, and the interviews have been proceeding full speed.  The students who didn't get photographed last time even re-staged their interviews for the benefit of the camera.  We're hoping the newspaper will be ready in time to send for Christmas - n'sha'allah (literally, "God willing", but is often used to mean, "I sure hope so").  Marthame's nursing a cold, so Elizabeth went on a walk with our German neighbors.  They're leaving soon - it was supposed to be today, but all passenger ships from Haifa have been cancelled, and they can't get onto a freighter until next week.  (They have to go that way because they're taking their car, too.) That gives us a little more time to see them before they take off and the ex-pat numbers begin to dwindle a bit.

11/29/01:  The last period of school was a chance for the students and teachers for grades 5-8 to meet together in the school assembly hall.  It was the first time we've seen such a meeting (it's quite possible that they happened last year and we just missed/misunderstood the announcement), and it was interesting.  It was a chance for the students to share some of their complaints about teachers - quite interesting for such a public forum, and it was clearly very difficult for some of them to do so.  But at the same time, the teachers had to sit there and take the criticism.  There was also a sort of formality to the meeting - each class has a student in charge of certain clerical tasks (scheduling exams, cleaning the class, sort of a liaison position), and they read a formal thank you to the teachers for their hard work.  One pleasant surprise was that one of Elizabeth's students read a note - in English - singing Elizabeth's praises.  A nice lift.  We then had lunch with one of our adopted grandparents in the village, after which she and Elizabeth got to plant some bean seeds in her garden.

11/30/01:  Today it rained heavily.  "Winter" and "rain" are the same word in Arabic, and living here makes it clear why.  One unusual thing about the rain in winter is that while it is raining (and just before and after), the weather gets noticeably warmer - the opposite of Chicago's summer rains.  Unfortunately, though, our landlord - who began his renovation plan to add an extra floor a little late - has yet to put a roof over the stairwell.  The result is that it is now raining harder inside than outside - fortunately, not in our apartment - just in the stairwell (video - 12 sec.).  We keep waiting for Noah to show up.