Journal in the Holy Land
October, 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.)

10/1/01: It's been a long time since we've had a chance to walk in the hills around Zababdeh. The landscape isn't nearly as stunning now as it is after the rains in the spring, but it's still quite beautiful, and the evening weather this time of year is spectacular. We ran into our shepherd friend as we walked around the hills between Zababdeh and the university. We also took a look at stone ruins that seem to indicate there had once been a village here. There was a large hole (probably a well of some kind) as well as the ruins several stone walls. Given the shape and orientation of one building, our friend told us it was likely that it was a mosque. Nights are getting shorter, so our walk ended up in darkness lit by the full moon. Not a bad way to head home.

10/2/01: Meetings with the English Club are progressing, if slowly. We are trying to encourage the students to develop their own leadership in the club. We're beginning by developing ideas around a school newspaper which would talk about the activities of the club (in English, of course). The students are excited about it. Kids are also rallying around their flag here - something in common between Americans and Palestinians. There's something about the power of that symbol that causes people to gravitate to it when people are killed. It was another beautiful night under the full moon...

10/3/01: One of the English teachers from the Latin School is offering a course in conversational English at the nearby Martyr Naim Khader Center, part of the Palestinian Agricultural Resource Committees (PARC). Naim Khader was a native Zababdehian who was involved with the PLO. In the 1980s, he was killed by Mossad (Israeli secret service) in a car bomb explosion in Belgium where he was the Palestinian ambassador at the time.  The center was named after him and provides post-graduate practical training in agriculture for engineers and scientists. The hope is that the theoretical background they received at university will be enhanced by this training, and that the whole area will benefit from better understanding of agricultural practices. Marthame came to lend a hand with conversational pieces, particularly introducing oneself. After the initial questions (name, age, etc.), the usual questions about politics arrived. We pointed out that the lesson was about introductions, not politics, and proceeded. The students were very eager to practice their English with a native speaker - there's not much opportunity for this in the Northern West Bank.

10/4/01: Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dear Elizabeth, happy birthday to you! Today was Elizabeth's birthday, and she got what she had always wanted - a lovely vacuum cleaner (who says gender roles don't take hold here? - video - 5 sec.). Who'da thought that our first very own vacuum cleaner would be bought in Palestine? We also had a chance to have a small party with ten or so fellow ex-pats, friends from the Arab-American University of Jenin . Certainly topped last year's birthday, where we knew hardly anyone and were simply trying to figure out how to survive in the midst of a new culture, new language, and an Intifada and siege.  Definitely a better birthday. One bummer, though, was that a friend of ours was supposed to visit from Jerusalem. He's from Australia and studying at the Hebrew University as a post-doc. He met the back-up Zababdeh taxi at Qalandiya (between Ramallah and Jerusalem) - the first one couldn't get through. They began the journey back here. The whole time we were communicating by cellphone to make sure things went as smoothly as possible. When he got to the Hamra checkpoint, the Israeli soldiers refused to let him pass - no foreigners or Israelis allowed into the Jenin area. Too dangerous, he was told. He argued, pleaded, begged, said he had important meetings at the University, etc., but all to no avail. Too dangerous. (Oddly, in our experience, it's usually the exact opposite. Foreigners are allowed through, but no Palestinians.) So he got out of the taxi and began walking along the road towards the Jordan Valley road (a good hour away) where he could hitch a ride up north to visit friends or back south towards home. Yeah, that's far safer that heading into Jenin. Fortunately, he made it no problem, we later heard, but he and we were tremendously disappointed and left feeling completely helpless. It's hard to express how such little things add to the daily emotional toll of this place, but when friends can't visit for a weekend (even when they really want to), we begin to understand the isolation that many Palestinians feel a lot of the time. Just makes you mad. Glad to have a party to balance it out.

10/5/01: Elizabeth headed south with some of the teachers from the school to the village of Maithalun. There, one of the teachers at the school was having her farewell party - not from the school, but from the village. She was getting married that evening in her husband's village and this was her symbolic farewell from home. This was the first Muslim wedding party either of us has attended. The big party, as is traditional for both Christians and Muslims here, was the previous day. Today, there was a small farewell party for the women to send the bride off with best wishes and gifts. We teachers pooled our shekels and got her a very nice wall tapestry of al-Aqsa Mosque. The marriage itself, we are told, is often a small affair of signing documents only attended by immediate family. Like most parties, this was full of music and dancing ( video - 9 sec.). The room was full of women and children; as we left, we saw where the men were gathered nearby, drinking coffee and chatting. 

10/7/01: Today we worshiped at the Latin Church of Visitation. Many people were out in the hills picking olives, and so attendance was rather slim. No one has invited us to join them this year, but that's because the harvest this year is particularly light. We didn't have a  strong rain last winter, and that has affected the harvest tremendously. The olives are few in number and small in size. Usually there's a good harvest every other year, so this is no different. But given the brutal economic situation, a good harvest would have been helpful to say the least. Today was a special day in the Latin Church - it is Rosary Sunday, particularly important because we have three Rosary Sisters serving in the village and working in the school and parish. After Mass, we headed over to the Orthodox church - today was the fortieth day after the death of a young man from a neighbor's family. He died of cancer only months after being diagnosed at age 25. Obviously, the grieving will go far beyond the forty days. Tonight the air raids started on Kabul and Afghanistan - one of our friends in the States pointed out with great irony that today is Peacemaking Sunday in the Presbyterian Church. Having seen for ourselves the aftermath of the Gulf War in Iraq, we fear what may be in the days ahead for the people of Afghanistan. Reports came on CNN of stadiums full of football fans chanting "USA! USA!" when hearing the bombing had started. And we're confused as to why there're anti-American sentiments in the world?

10/8/01: Our radar for anti-American feelings is on full alert. Marthame had planned to make a bank trip into nearby Jenin today, but given that the bombing had started last night (and that everyone was glued to their TVs watching it), he wanted to be very careful. He asked several people about the wisdom of such a trip - including one person in Jenin. They all said, "no problem" - and apart from the unusually long road to get there (by way of Misilye to the West, Qabatiya to the North, then Jenin to the East), it was remarkably unremarkable in its character. Quiet.

10/9/01: Just a day of hanging out. One of our friends invited Elizabeth to come visit at her falafel restaurant and play some ping-pong. Her English is quite exceptional, and the falafel is pretty good, too! Most of the people who come to the restaurant are teenage boys from her extended family and their friends, but students from the University are helping business a bit. It's still nowhere near the level it was before the Intifada and resulting seige. One of the draws is the ping-pong table (to Marthame's disappointment they removed the foosball one), and we both got in a couple games. Marthame was beaten by one of his ninth grade students - we'll chalk it up to rusty muscle-memory for now (just to make him feel better).

10/10/01: We headed up to the University today to visit friends and also to get a good backdrop for a project we're working on. Marthame's sister is working at First Presbyterian Church of Maitland, near Orlando in Florida. She's working part-time leading their young adult ministry, and continuing as a volunteer for the youth group. She had been asked to prepare a talk on "Living It Out," particularly because of the work we are doing here in Zababdeh. So we put together a short presentation for her to use on Sunday. She'll be showing it on Sunday, and afterwards we'll be doing an on-line chat with the youth (at some hideous hour of the night for us). Should be interesting. Putting the final touches on it before the weekend made for a late night, though!

10/11/01: No teaching on Thursday has given Marthame the chance to develop our ministry (as well as giving him some freedom to move around a bit more). Thursday begins the University's weekend, and a crew of them were headed up to Haifa in the "Mystery Machine" - the nickname for their funky VW Van.  They dropped Marthame off, and he found his way to the Melkite Bishopric to meet with Bishop Boutros Ma'alim. The Bishop is a Palestinian Israeli, and has been in the position for three years. Marthame met with him (and then later shared lunch with him) to talk about the situation for the Melkite church and people of Zababdeh. We hope that we can do something to help the ministry for them here, but the decision rests with him. It was a very good meeting, though, and we will see where it goes from here. He then headed to Nazareth with two pastor friends, one a fellow American Presbyterian who runs The Harbour, a ministry of support for pastors in the Galilee - one of their focuses is English language education. The other pastor is a Palestinian Anglican pastor in Shefa'amer, where we visited last March. They have been good friends for a long time, and Marthame enjoyed spending some time with them. He spent the night with the Presbyterians in Nazareth at The Harbour, and together they talked about what it means to be foreigners doing ministry here in these unprecedented times. Who knows what will happen, but we're all drawing up our contingency plans as much as we can.

10/12/01: One disappointing piece of news we have received of late is that Fr. Hossam, the Anglican priest of Zababdeh and Nablus, will probably be relocated to Nazareth. Every few years priests are moved around, which is - in theory and in practice - a good idea. But we have really enjoyed working with Fr. Hossam, so this transition period will be difficult for us on both a professional and personal level. The priest who will be coming to Zababdeh, Fr. Zahi, is currently working as a chaplain in Nazareth at the Anglican Hospital, so Marthame took advantage of this weekend's timing to meet him this morning. He also should be a joy to work with, but he won't be coming for a while - since he lives in Nazareth with his family, traveling to Zababdeh means crossing into the West Bank according to the permission of the Israeli soldiers. He has two strikes going against him there: he is an Israeli citizen (only settlers and soldiers are allowed inside the West Bank), and he is a Palestinian (soldiers are not famous for their kindness to Palestinians, regardless of citizenship). Marthame told him that he was happy to help in whatever way possible, and Fr. Zahi was clearly grateful. Marthame then caught a couple of shared taxis to meet Elizabeth in Jerusalem - travelling by bus is not recommended these days, and the shared taxis are more comfortable anyway. They also provide an opportunity to meet interesting people - in this case, an African-American from Joliet (IL) who converted to Judaism and is now spending a couple of years living in Tel Aviv. Marthame told him that we live in Jenin - the man responded that he had almost rented a very nice house in Jenin with a swimming pool for a great price, but that there were two checkpoints to pass in and out of to get there. It was only then that Marthame realized he meant "Ganim," one of two nearby settlements, the very existence of which has meant the siege of the entire Jenin region. He estimated that, out of 100 houses there, probably 30 have people in them. The rest are owned, but vacant. We have a three day weekend (Fri to Sun) due to the olive harvest and the Muslim holiday on Sunday (commemorating Mohammed's night-time trip from Mecca to Jerusalem, the reason for the Dome of the Rock), so we took the opportunity to see as much as we could outside Zababdeh. We had gotten an email this morning that there would be English-language worship in Bethlehem tonight at the Christmas Lutheran Church near Manger Square. Redeemer Lutheran Church in Jerusalem has regular English-language worship. Until the last year, those who live in the Bethlehem used to come as well. Because of the difficulty of travel for many people, Redeemer Lutheran has been bringing that worship to Bethlehem. We tagged along with the few but faithful, including a German NGO worker, a Methodist pastor, a Lutheran pastor, an American married to a Palestinian, and an NGO worker who was in Afghanistan last year. He knows the people who are being detained there for proselytizing, and hasn't heard word from them since the bombing of Kabul began. We lifted them up in prayer. We got a chance to sing a lot of hymns (audio - 35 sec.) and to do some Bible study. The passage for Sunday's lectionary is the healing of ten lepers, which is traditionally believed to have taken place in the nearby village of Burqin - we visited there in December with Elizabeth's family. We had dinner with friends in Jerusalem before returning to the youth hostel near Damascus Gate - a surreal scene if there ever was one, with Billy Joel music, Dutch backpackers, a friendly licking kitten (video - 7 sec.), and an air of paralysis.

10/13/01: We made our way early this morning to St. Andrew's Church of Scotland in West Jerusalem, one of the few pieces of official Presbyterianism here. We met with the pastor, who has become a good friend - even despite our rare trips to Jerusalem. Our conversation was interesting, touching on the situation and contingency plans, but also on the possibilities for the relationship of our ministry to theirs and the possibility of re-forming (no pun intended) the Presbytery of Jerusalem. We got a quick stop in their Sunbula shop (which sells traditional needlework and other crafts from women's cooperatives and other self-help groups. It's also finally on-line!) before heading off to Ramallah to meet our ride back to Zababdeh (by way of the Galilee). Many years ago, the president of the Arab-American University of Jenin started a learning center for young, gifted science students, and their programs have expanded throughout Gaza and the West Bank. We met up with him at the center in al-Bireh. Our wait at Qalandiya was at least an hour (since we were in a private car, we couldn't walk across and hop in another taxi, as usual). We headed up to the ancient port city of Akka (or Akko or Acre, depending on which language you prefer) which still has a significant Palestinian population within Israel. Because of our wait at Qalandiya we didn't get sufficient time to wander too much around the Old City with its Ottoman era walls, or fully explore the Crusader castle, but we did get a chance to eat fresh seafood overlooking the Mediterranean. We then headed to Nazareth for the night, where we stayed at The Harbour again, getting the chance to meet the director of Nazareth Village, an historical reconstruction of Jesus-era Nazareth. We haven't had the chance to visit it, but from what we've heard it's fantastic. We hope to get the chance soon.

10/14/01: We joined our friends from The Harbour as we headed up north to Shefa'amer for worship. The last time we were there was an evening worship in March, and this was another wonderful chance to be with their community. Marthame assisted in the multi-lingual worship service. Work continues on their fellowship hall - in the meantime, the fellowship ritual means that everyone exits to greet the clergy then re-enters the sanctuary together after a few minutes, moves the pews into a square, and drinks coffee and eats sweets together. The spirit of the congregation is wonderful, and their singing is wonderful - the choir was spread among the congregation today. We rendezvoused with friends from the Arab-American University to head back to Zababdeh. At the Jalame border, we were told by the soldiers that no way would be be allowed to enter Area A, as that was strictly forbidden. After one of us promised we wouldn't enter (fingers may have been crossed), we left. When we reached the Israeli tank along the road, we were stopped again and held for a few minutes while our passports were scrutinized. Finally, we made it back. At times, it seems to be getting harder and harder to enter this area, for no clearly-defined reason. It all just adds to the frustration that even we foreigners feel here. After some technological smoothing over, we chatted with the First Presbyterian Church of Maitland's youth group. It was an interesting experience (if a bit late Zababdeh-time), and it's something we hope to do again.

10/16/01: Abuna Aktham is with the other priests of the Latin Patriarchate for spiritual training in Jordan, which means that Marthame has picked up his religion courses for the week. During break time, there are soccer matches held between the grades in a round-robin tournament. Today, 9th grade played 11th grade (which decimated the English Club - most of our members come from the two classes), with 9th grade winning.  Mabrouk (congratulations). We spent the afternoon visiting with one of the Muslim families of Zababdeh whose daughter teaches religion in the school to the Muslim children. Despite our less than perfect Arabic, we have had quite a few interesting conversations with her and her family. The hit of the visit was, of course, her one year-old nephew, who enjoys dancing with Grandpa ( video - 5 sec.).

10/17/01: Yesterday was an extremely long day - about sixteen hours of work, which has left us both a little weary. Between the full school schedule and writing obligations, as well as catching up from a weekend away, we're ready for a little rest. Elizabeth took a walk in the hills with neighbors, where it was very obvious that the weather has changed and winter is on the way. Still no rain yet, but it should be coming soon. In the meantime, the winds have gotten cooler and the clouds have begun to appear. The wanderings brought them to our nearby shepherd friend, whose kids were keen to show off the new baby goats. The baby goats were truly captivating as they jumped around and suckled on our fingers. Expanding the herd is one of the best ways for him to make money. Later on, a friend of ours visited us at home. We had a couple of visitors a few nights ago, and Marthame had casually mentioned that he wanted to get a galabiye , or a dishdashe , the gown worn by men at home here. They're very comfortable, and in the summer they're extremely cool. This friend brought one of his for Marthame as a gift - it's humbling. Be careful what you ask for, right? Our friend explained that he had worn it when he was studying to be a monk and living in Bethlehem, working with the Franciscans at the Milk Grotto. So not only is it an authentic Arabic galabiye, it's also authentically Christian. And it looks good. The news came today about an assassination - this time not of a Palestinian leader, but of an Israeli one. Minister Zeevi (who had just announced his resignation from Sharon's government because it was "too leftist", and who has called for the expulsion of the Palestinians to Mecca as a solution for the problems here) was killed in a hotel in W. Jerusalem. The PFLP has claimed responsibility in response to the assassination of their leader Abu Ali Mustafa. Like many others, our worry was "what will happen tonight?"

10/18/01: Some, but not all, of the students from Jenin and beyond came to school today - Israeli tanks surrounding the city had something to do with it. Word filtered through later in the day that an eleven year old girl had been killed on her way to school by Israeli soldiers who had invaded Jenin. Needless to say, those of us responsible for the safety of students are concerned by such reports. We adjourned school one hour early today to give students enough time to get home. The vice-principal accompanied the bus to Jenin and asked Marthame to go along as an "international presence." The driver steered clear of all roads with tanks and of all places where clashes might be. The children were agitated, especially after we turned around from the fifth dead-end and headed off into the dirt "roads" near Burqin, our last chance to get the kids home. The older kids were clearly worried, but they also took very seriously their job of making their younger siblings feel safe. The younger children pointed out the tanks and the cows with equal excitement. We entered Jenin to find everything completely shut - it was the first time Marthame had seen it like this. The streets of Jenin, even on a Friday, are usually full to bursting and bustling with excitement. Today, it was dead. Worried parents flagged down the bus, grateful that their  children had made it home safely. At one point, we had to drop off some young children at their homes less than 100 yards from Israeli tanks. The adults on the bus all got off to help them feel safer in their shadows. We could also see the destruction from the last incursion into Jenin, and the Palestinians had set up make-shift roadblocks to slow down the tanks should they come further - old car parts, dumpsters, rocks...All in all, it took almost two hours to get there (from one dead-end to another), and an hour to come back - normally a half-hour round-trip. On the road home, outside of Misilye, we saw the burned-out wreckage of a car. Three suspected Palestinian militants had been inside when Israelis assassinated them with Apache helicopters back in June when we were in the States. Everywhere there's a reminder of what the reality of this place is. Marthame stopped for lunch at the vice-principal's home, calling Elizabeth - who by this time was rather worried. She had tried the cellphone, but was told all circuits were busy. Not the most reassuring news at the time. Zeevi's funeral was being broadcast on Israeli TV in the background.

10/19/01:  Today, Friday, is half of our weekend - the other half being Sunday.  That's what happens when the students and teachers are split 50-50 Muslim-Christian.  We were invited for lunch with one of the teachers and her family.  They live in Zababdeh, and she teaches Islam to the Muslim students from grades 4-12.  Elizabeth went early to learn how to cook a new dish, stuffed squash in yogurt sauce.  Marthame arrived at lunchtime, after a busy morning at home, running scientific experiments studying the effects of sleep on a mattress.  We spent the better part of the day there with them.  Her brother, who is married to a woman from Akka, has Israeli citizenship.  Her whole family was in Akka in 1948, but part of them fled and settled in Zababdeh eventually.  The same brother had just had a new son, and so they were splitting up the meat of a goat to deliver to friends and neighbors to share the celebration.  This seems to be an old Muslim custom, like what we saw in Gaza during 'Eid al-Adha last March.  Other news? We had phone access today, after waiting since yesterday for service to be restored. 

10/20/01:  We accompanied the school busses again this afternoon as they took students back to Jenin.  The journey was less lengthy than the last time, because we asked the right people where the road was open.  Palestinian policemen lined the roads, staying away from police stations, which are frequently targeted by the Israeli military. At one point, we were descending towards the main road to Jenin from a dirt hill (the main road had been bulldozed up).  Two Israeli tanks were on the move on the opposite hilltop, sending the children into equal fits of fright and intrigue.  The same could be said for the teachers (us included), though we were less vocal about it.  One teacher expressed her clear frustration with all of this nonsense - she's been patient and waiting for some kind of resolution, but for how long?  We entered Jenin by the main street, formerly the nicest street in the West Bank (apart from the settlers-only bypass roads).  Tree-lined with wide, clean, smooth lanes, it was something noticeable amidst the poorly-paved roads around here.  Now it has been scarred by the deep grooves of tank tracks.  One trench that was dug throught it has been filled in with dirt by the municipality.  A new trench was dug by military bulldozers this time, a most impressively-deep structure.  What little traffic there was re-rooted around it through a side dirt road.  Winter rains will mean stuck cars.  We returned to Zababdeh without incident, thankfully.  The Vice-Principal awarded us with lunch for our efforts - stuffed eggplants in tomato sauce.

10/21/01:  Marthame was supposed to preach this morning at St. Matthew's Anglican Church (can you see where this is going?).  He even got the right lectionary this time - the epistle passage was Paul's letter to the Ephesians in which he says, "Be angry and do not sin."  Somehow appropriate for today.  We got an early call from Fr. Hossam that he would not be coming to church today - Nablus was completely closed.  Even the place where we normally would walk across was closed, and there are soldiers and tanks and shooting and tear gas.  Be angry and do not sin...We headed off to the Orthodox Church instead to worship with them, since there would be no worship at the Anglican Church without a priest - Marthame's Arabic isn't that good.  In the afternoon, we were scheduled to go up to the Arab-American University of Jenin to lend a hand with a conversation class they were holding.  Word filtered down to Zababdeh that the class had been cancelled - the university was on strike due to the sieges and recent rising death toll. We checked around to find out that it wasn't true - the university has a strict no-strike policy.  Also, it turns out, so does the Palestinian Ministry of Education.  When general strikes are called, businesses are supposed to be closed, but schools are supposed to remain open.  The purpose, of course, is that education is vital.  We headed up and, along with a couple other foreigners, talked about ourselves, our religion, and our culture.  We had a lively discussion with the students about the role of women in society - there was as much variety in opinion among the all-male, mostly-Muslim students as you would expect to find in an American classroom.

10/22/01:  Marthame went into Jenin today - not because he wanted to, but because he had to.  Our telephone bill came, albeit extremely late, and we didn't want to face the prospect (once again) of having our phone disconnected for late payment.  The destruction of the latest incursion was evident, almost apocalyptic in its appearance.  He returned back to the school in time for the soccer finals between Grades 9 and 10.  Grade 9 was triumphant, 1-0.  They were ecstatic - a coup for grade 9 to beat all of the high school grades!  After school we headed over to the Na'im Khader Center at the edge of Zababdeh.  Two of our friends from the University wanted to see how they might be able to develop relationships that would help benefit the Center and the University.  It seemed a productive first conversation, and there was much interest in seeing where things might lead together.  As we talked outside, Israeli aircraft flew overhead - their blinking lights barely visible, but the sound unmistakable (video - 5 sec.).  Wonder where they're headed tonight.  We returned home to find an email invitation to Bethlehem tomorrow.  The heads of the Jerusalem churches have planned a solidarity march.  Bethlehem has been under heavy bombardment.  Particularly disturbing to the Christian community is the recent death of several Christians, including a nineteen year old altar boy, shot  as he played with his young nephew at the entrance to the Church of the Nativity.  If we can get there tomorrow, we'll go.

10/23/01:   We made it.  We left Zababdeh at 6:30.  The first two checkpoints were a cursory check at best.  The third was fairly thorough, but surprisingly quick - only half an hour.  One of the soldiers had scrawled in English on his army jacket, "F*** the world."   Somehow appropriate.  We made it to Jerusalem by 9:00 and headed off to meet up with friends at the Tantur checkpoint.  All of the churches were represented - Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant - as well as a Muslim cleric and several Jewish peace activists.  The major news' folks were there, including ABC, BBC, CNN, Al-Jazeera, as well as print media.  An Israeli soldier was capturing it all on video tape - not sure why.  We entered by the thousands, meeting up with friends from Bethlehem on the other side - they had been pinned down in their houses for the last three or four days.  It was good to see friends, both internationals and students from Zababdeh, and we're sure it was good to be seen!  One of our friends from the Jewish peace camp was there - we asked him about the mood in Israel these days, particularly in the wake of Zeevi's assassination.  He said that, in general, the Israeli people want peace.  But they're not prepared to disassemble the Apartheid regime which now exists in order to do it.  A discouraging time for all.  The procession headed along the main road by Rachel's Tomb (the first time in a year that this road has been open to any but soldiers and Jewish worshippers).  As we walked, a young boy picked up a handful of rocks, ready to throw.  He was scolded by the men in the crowd and he relented - the closest we came to any semblance of violence in the demonstration.  We headed along roads littered with spent live ammunition, the burned out shell of the Paradise Hotel (this time in the midst of renovations after the first Israeli fire hit it a year ago), church bells pealing their welcome as we walked (video - 5 sec.).  By the time we made it to the Church of the Nativity, we were 5000 strong (video - 23 sec.).  At the worship service, leaders of many different churches spoke, including the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Anglican churches - as well as the Muslim cleric.  From there we drove to the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala.  The members of several grieving Christian families were there, and we greeted them.  Among them was the family of Rania, a twenty-two year old  mother of two, buried in her wedding dress.  We also met up with three of our old students from the School in Zababdeh who are studying at the seminary in grade eight this year.  They were thrilled to see us and gave us letters to pass along to their families.  They also impressed us with their additional English skills added this year; their French teacher seems to have improved their French, too.  We also met an Israeli writer whose work we have come to know over the last year. He has been one of the braver voices to come out of the Israeli peace camp - a Russian Jew who immigrated to Israeli in the 1960s, his idea of the solution is: "One Man, One Vote."  It sometimes sounds like a pipedream for this place, but it's probably the only viable solution.  Which means it will be avoided at all costs.  We went from there to Al-Aida Refugee Camp, but didn't stay long - shooting soon broke out, which meant it was time to go home.  We escaped by car through the now-empty streets of Bethlehem and back to Jerusalem.  For some reason, we went to bed early, a little weary from the day perhaps?

10/24/01:  We met up with friends from the Arab-American University of Jenin who had been in Jerusalem for a meeting.  We bummed a ride with them back to Zababdeh. We headed along the Jordan Valley road and then back around through the checkpoint at Jalame.  A good two dozen soldiers were gathered there, but the only check we got was a soldier who bid us "Boker Tov" (good morning) and then waved us on.  We arrived at school to discover that Marthame's face had appeared in the Al-Jazeera (Arabic news) coverage of the Bethlehem demonstration.  Every one, teachers and students alike, had seen it.  They were surprised to know we had gone (we hadn't had time to tell many people), and even more surprised to discover we had already come back.  Marthame headed into Jenin again today, this time to work with a printer there on new letterhead for the school.  He arrived to discover that they were using Macintosh computers - even here they have a corner on the graphics' market!  As school let out, we were met with a demonstration led by University students through the streets of Zababdeh - one of the people killed in Tulkarem today had two cousins who are students here (video - 5 sec.).  No matter how quiet it may be, we're never far away...

10/25/01:  Marthame went back into Jenin to deal with the new letterhead.  Nothing to report - travelling by one of the older paths to get from Zababdeh to Jenin, with a detour through the fields.  Brings back memories of the first time we took the Palestinian version of the bypass road...We also got a chance to visit with one of our dear friends here who has been outside of Zababdeh since last Easter.  Her son lives in Chicago, and we met him before we came to Zababdeh.  We have missed her - and her cooking! - dearly.  We had a nice visit as we sat out on her porch and looked over her fruit trees and the rest of Zababdeh.  Neighbors came by to say hello - they had missed her, too.  Visiting is more than just an activity here, it's a way of life.  And her porch gives a great location for people-watching.

10/26/01:  We headed up into the hills with some of the University ex-pats.  The day before, they had gone to scout out the perfect spot, and today we picnicked in it.  We called it our "War Time Picnic."  It was a great chance to not think about any of the stuff that goes wrong from day to day.  We went and returned without incident, the food cooked without interruption (except for the sound of the sheep bells ringing in the nearby hills - audio - 5 sec.), and we relaxed.  Long overdue and well-needed.  We walked back to town by way of our shepherd friend, getting acquainted with the new baby sheep (video - 5 sec.).

10/27/01:  On Thursday, three of Marthame's students had approached him with the idea of leading the morning assembly completely in English.  They did it all - introducing the National Anthem (video - 14 sec.), leading the Lord's Prayer (which grades 9-12 know at least in part) and Scripture reading, as well as adding a little "Do You Know?" section (little trivia points about literature, science, etc.).  They were very, very nervous.  And while very few could understand them (a combination of the sound system, public speaking skills, and English abilities), they did quite well.  Today was also the first day of rain - and how!  Not sure what this will mean for how people get to and from places, since there is a lot of reliance on the dirt roads, but the rain is sorely needed.  Here's irony though: we have no water.  Normally, when we run out of water, we just turn on the pump outside of the house, which refills the roof tanks from the reservoir.  But today, while working on the new addition to our building, the workmen dropped a load of heavy steel supports - right onto the motor.  Water, water, everywhere...

10/28/01:  Once again, we were scheduled to worship at the Anglican Church (no preaching this time, but definitely worship leadership).  Once again, it was impossible for Fr. Hossam to get here.  This time, shots apparently hit very close to the Anglican Church compound in Nablus.  As he worked on his sermon last night, he was pinned down in his study.  We're not sure when we would see him again - nor is it clear exactly how he's supposed to get to his new assignment in Nazareth, depending on when it starts.  So we went to worship at the Latin Church of Visitation - the music is getting better and better there.  Abuna Aktham has worked very hard to add to the sense of worship there.

10/30/01:  "Give us this day our daily bread..."  We have begun a new schedule of getting up early and taking a walk - directly to the bakery to get our fresh bread for the day.  It's not the must strenuous exercise, but the food is healthy, and it gives us a good start to the day.  We'll see how long it lasts.  Today at break the teachers' team played against the 11th grade soccer team.  The students were all dressed and ready - the teachers, well, less so...the goalie was dabbing his sweat away with his tie, and Abuna Aktham loosened his collar to jump in the game.  The final score?  4-4.  Marthame scored a goal.  A completely impartial observer said, "It was the nicest goal I have ever seen - Reynaldo has nothing on you."  He gained some prop points with the high school students for his old (now almost retired) skills.  Now the 10th grade is itching to take on the team.  We'll have to wait for tired muscles to strengthen a bit.  We also got running water in our apartment again - the new water pump motor arrived!  We smell a heck of a lot better now.

10/31/01:   Marthame went into Jenin to get the letterhead exact - hopefully for the last time.  The road was the worst so far, the road from the Arab-American University of Jenin.  Every road is closed, and so every "road" is necessarily a dirt road through the fields.  Since the rain has begun, it won't be long before it's completely impassable.  People are joking that every village is becoming an island, but no one is laughing.  We headed up to the University later on in the afternoon to see a basketball game between the Zababdeh club team and the University club team (video - 5 sec.).  The game, which was supposed to start at 3:00, began at 5:00 - either we were on "Arab time" or Greenwich Mean Time - one of the two.  Unfortunately, the Zababdeh team got creamed.  Better luck next time...