Journal in the Holy Land
September, 2001
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The sounds of Zababdeh: 
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.) 
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.) 
6:30 AM, sheep 
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.) 
24-7, Electrical generator (5 sec.) 
All night long, cow (14 sec.) 
Night-time, shooting (5 sec.)

9/2/01:  This morning we headed to the Orthodox Church as we continue to develop our relationship with each of the churches here.  Orthodox services are long by tradition, and while Marthame did not participate liturgically (Orthodox denominations tend to be hesistant with regard to ecumenical relationships), it was very clear that we were welcomed there.  Some people in the congregation are clearly confused, since Marthame spent much of last year sharing in worship with the Latin Church, but Abuna To'mie has been very pleased with our efforts to reach out.  It will be interesting to see how this relationship will develop.

9/4/01:  Today an email appeal came from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) working in Hebron.  We visited them last December as part of an international delegation.  Since then, the situation has worsened dramatically.  Recently, the UN-Mandated Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) has filed a complaint against the Israeli government, as their delegation has been subject to repeated attacks and harrassment by Hebron settlers, not to mention a slander campaign, targeted at them.  This has left the small CPT team of five Americans and Canadians spread more thinly than before, responding to crisis after crisis.  They have appealed to their friends around the world, and particularly those already here, to lend a few days if they can to help.  Hebron is one of the true extremes of this conflict, and the prospect of going there fills us with some hesitation.  But we are also compelled by the importance of their work and have decided that we will spend a few days there this weekend.

9/6/01:  It's never too late for a graduation party.  Tonight the Benevolence Society of Zababdeh sponsored an event to congratulate the students of Zababdeh who graduated this past Spring from high school and university.  The priests, the mayor, and other regional leaders came for the celebration.  One of the officials from the Palestinian Authority was scheduled to be there, but because of the situation (particularly that of the roads in the area), he wasn't able to come.  Another official came in his stead.  It's an amazing thing for these students, who have perservered in their studies, particularly through such a chaotic time.  Those who received their high school diplomas have successfully completed an impressive level of comprehensive exams, so despite the temporary school closures last year, they were able to finish.  Many are getting ready for university studies, some at the nearby Arab-American University of Jenin and others at Birzeit University near Ramallah or An-Najah National University in Nablus.  The mind boggles at planning for college when you don't know which road to take to get there.  But for a brief moment, there was celebration.

9/7/01:  We grabbed our usual shared taxi towards Ramallah this morning.  When we got to an Israeli checkpoint at Hamra (towards the Jordan Valley and Jericho), we queued up behind several other waiting cars.  The two of us went to speak with the soldier to see what was happening - he spoke no English, and Marthame's Hebrew isn't exactly passable.  After a lot of pointing and approximating language, he told us our taxi could move to the front of the line.  When we arrived to him, he took everyone else's IDs and told us we had to turn around - no one without Jerusalem permits could pass.  We argued for several minutes until one passenger who spoke Hebrew was able to explain the situation - we're not going to Jerusalem, but this is the only road open to get where we want to go.  We passed and our taxi let us out near Ramallah. After another taxi ride, we arrived in Jerusalem and met up with some friends, including journalists who are joining us in Hebron to do a story on CPT.  Sitting outside at a west Jerusalem cafe was a touch unnerving after the spate of terrorist bombings, and the feeling of fear in the air was palpable.  It was there that we read the CPT press release issued last night that two of their team were attacked and beaten by young settler boys as Israeli soldiers watched on and refused to call police.  When the police came, the young boys tried to prevent the police from intervening. We later learned that the police pulled the two women to safety in their car, and said almost apologetically that there was nothing they could do to stop the boys, as they (at least the ones who didn't run away upon their arrival) were under 11 years old.  With fear and trembling, did we say?  We grabbed a taxi and headed down towards Hebron, crossing the now-familiar sight of bulldozed roads and tanks.  We met up with one of the CPTers in bustling H1 (under PA control) and headed into the eerie quiet of H2 (under IDF control), now under its 200th day of curfew (for Palestinians, not Israelis or CPTers) since the beginning of the Intifada almost one year ago.  We went out with one of the team to see the spot where she was attacked last night.  A few young boys (6 or 7 years old) were there, and began to throw a few small stones.  This time, the soldiers at least corralled the youngsters.  As we continued around the city, we were invited in by a woman - we thought for a social call, but apparently the CPTers' red hats are famous, as are their actions of intervention.  We entered to find a young man with his foot bandaged and oozing.  Yesterday, he dropped a pot of hot tea on his foot, but was prevented from going to the hospital by Israeli soldiers  (contradicting not only international law, but also their own explicit military orders).  After a few phone calls to Doctors without Borders, the CPTers were able to get an ambulance close to the home and we accompanied the young man as he walked (hobbled) to it.  This seems to be fairly typical of the work CPT in Hebron does, a lot of prevention and intervention -  substantive long-term peace-building often seems beyond anyone's grasp here.  The extremes of Hebron do little to give hope for reconciliation - as one team member said, "We're impressively ineffective in a full-scale conflict."  We returned to their apartment.  A few weeks ago, their block was surrounded with barbed wire, and the area was declared a "Closed Military Zone."  They have been given verbal permission to enter and leave their apartment, but have been explicitly told not to enter the Arab Market as it sits in this zone.  A while before we came, some settlers had been entering the market (crossing the barbed wire) and threatening the Palestinians who live there and who are under curfew.  One of the CPTers stood watch within the CMZ as soldiers threatened to arrest her.  A 74 year-old nun, she gave them a speech on the meaning of civil disobedience and her willingness to be arrested.  We relaxed for a while in the apartment, when suddenly we heard shouts and cries for help (even in English).  We went out onto their balcony to see smoke pouring from a few doors away.  A handful of us went down into the CMZ to see what had happened.  Apparently some Israeli settlers entered the market and launched a couple of Molotov Cocktails into a Palestinian home.  It narrowly missed the family, and the matriarch sat on the floor weeping and shaking uncontrollably.  The Israeli military and police responded (though they didn't prevent the incident or detain any settlers because of it), and they repeatedly told us to leave the CMZ (though apparently their efforts to do the same to the settlers were ineffective at best).  We left and returned to the apartment after assuring that an ambulance was on the way for the grandmother who was showing signs of shock.  We heard shouts again, as settlers had re-entered the market and threatened the same house.  The children of the family threw stones down from the roof, trying to ward off another attack.  In the background, a Palestinian funeral carried on (video - 22 sec.).  After a bit, Elizabeth headed off with one of the CPTers to spend the night with a family in a nearby neighborhood that has come under attack recently.  Fortunately, the biggest concern that night turned out to be loud snoring.

9/8/01:  Saturday is a school day for Palestinians and the Sabbath for Jews.  Such has meant that the trip to and from school has been hairy at times.  The military has orders to allow the children to go to school, even though the curfew is in effect.  We went to a couple of different spots.  Marthame joined one of the CPTers as soldiers  were telling the children that it was forbidden to go a certain way and they must turn back (towards streets blocked with barbed wire).  They then turned their attention to us in our red hats, claiming that we were now in a "Closed Military Zone" and would have to leave.  When we asked to see the military order, they backed off, but it seems like they are beginning to concentrate new efforts to rid the place of all international presence.  Eventually, one soldier arrived and gave permission for the children to go, irking the other soldiers who stood around.  A small victory for education.  We then headed back to the apartment and shared in worship with the CPTers,  singing a few hymns and doing a small Bible study (part of their daily routine, and particularly welcome since we have few opportunities for corporal worship in English).  We stayed in the apartment for a while, as our journalist friend worked on his story with the Team.  Then Marthame and one of the CPTers went to meet a field worker for B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights' group, to give him information about the attack on the two team members.  We met him at the concrete blocks that separate H1 from H2.  It is a bizarre sight to come from one area where there are no people and all of the shops are boarded up (because of the strictly-enforced curfew) and to walk a few feet to where life is bustling and alive.  On our way back through the Old City, a woman stopped us and asked for our help (again, the red hats).  Her nephew had died that morning, a 2 1/2 year old victim of settler violence.  A stun grenade had been thrown into their home, and the fright had so panicked the child that he never recovered.  She needed to head over to another part of the city to fetch a sheikh so that he could perform the final cleaning rituals necessary for the funeral.  We accompanied her, and her fear of the settlers was palpable as we snuck through a graveyard to get to the sheikh's home.  When we met up with the sheikh, he was intrigued to discover that we were Christians and that Marthame is a pastor.  He wanted to practice his English, and apparently saw evangelism as a good way to do so: "I hope that you will study Islam to see that it is a good religion."  "I do see that it is a good religion, but I am a Christian."  "But we hope you will become a Muslim so that you will be in paradise."  (note: such theology is actually contrary to the Koran's teaching)  Marthame's urge was to suggest that the sheikh didn't need an escort anymore.  They made it into the Old City and off to the house.  It was a strange moment to realize that the CPTers had become kind of an escort service, but it seemed a fitting demonstration of how absurd the situation really is that such a task is so needed. Elizabeth headed off with another of the CPTers to the same neighborhood, planning to return for the evening.  When we arrived, shooting broke out between H1 and H2. Our journalist friend saw Israeli soldiers open fire from H2 down a busy street in H1. It was his assessment that this was the start of the evening's firefight, which lasted most of the evening (video - 11 sec. - of the sound).  The statement about CPT's ineffectiveness in a full scale war came to mind, and one surreal scene followed another as gunfire accompanied the CPTer's Chiapas folk music CD (audio - 28 sec.).  Marthame could see where the Israeli fire was hitting in Hebron's Abu Sneineh neighborhood from the CPT balcony.  Elizabeth and two others ended up staying another night in the same neighborhood as last night, as the shooting eventually subsided.

9/9/01:  The plan was to join the CPTers on their Sunday morning worship schedule, where they attend the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, no taxis were going into Jerusalem because of the closures, and we waited for an hour before one finally arrived in H1.  Marthame headed off to St. Andrew's Church of Scotland for worship (their schedule is later) while Elizabeth headed back to Zababdeh for school tomorrow.  Marthame saw some old friends at Jerusalem's Presbyterian Church and met some new ones, sharing in the worship leadership.  All were anxious to hear reports from the northern West Bank and from Hebron, so he joined some friends from the US Consulate for lunch.  As they dined in East Jerusalem,  Elizabeth called to say that the IDF was not letting any cars through at the Hamra checkpoint - apparently there had been several bombings and shootings that day.  She pleaded with the soldiers, one of whom in particular was quite sympathetic, but the position was firm.  The US Consulate could not intervene either, but there was no other road to Zababdeh.  Finally, after three hours, hundreds of hot and tired travellers were permitted to pass.  Marthame, meanwhile, was visiting with another friend studying at the Hebrew University.  In one of the bizarre moments that makes history so interesting, in the 1948 Armistice agreement, the campus of the Hebrew University was an island of Israeli control in the midst of what was then Jordan.  The day was quite clear, and the Dead Sea could be seen from the campus' remarkable ampitheater.  So could several settlements.  Elizabeth finally made it home, exhausted, and Marthame connected with friends in Jerusalem for a little dinner and relaxation in their home.  The question is how he will (or won't) be able to get home tomorrow, particularly if Hamra is closed.

9/10/01:  That question has now been answered.  None of the three drivers who go between Zababdeh and Ramallah are moving.  The main road is shut.  Shut shut.  So Marthame prepared to take the chain of numerous taxis that would wind their way back north (best estimate, 7-8 cars in 5-6 hours).  As he walked out the door, he got a call from Ramallah from a professor at the Arab-American University of Jenin who was headed up there today.  Talk about luck...We met at Qalandiya (between Ramallah and Jerusalem) and headed down to the Jordan Valley.  The first route we tried was at Hamra, where Elizabeth was turned back yesterday.  But no Israeli-plated cars and no foreigners were permitted.  Still no help from the US Consulate, so we headed back up the Jordan Valley and tried coming in through the northern border at Jalame.  We noticed three tanks headed towards the same checkpoint and wondered about their presence.  After a few minutes at the border, we were permitted through and arrived at the University shortly.  It is, simply put, exhausting to deal with this on a regular basis.  Marthame met a couple of the new English teachers, these arriving last week from Scotland.  Their families (like ours, we're sure) wonder about their sanity periodically.  But it has been a long time since any incidents have happened close to Zababdeh.

9/11/01:  We now know what the tanks were about - estimates range between 50 and 60 tanks have surrounded Jenin on all sides, completely sealing it off.  Tank and gun battles raged last night, and the teachers and students from Jenin and Qabatiya stayed at home today.  We both took on some extra classes to help ease the load on the teachers.  Marthame's religion class prayed for the safety of their classmates and friends now trapped.  Today was also the first day (at least it was going to be) of the Zababdeh Latin School's English Club, but no one showed up.  Part of that, no doubt, is because certain students couldn't come to school today, so we'll simply regroup and restrategize.  Late in the afternoon, Elizabeth's mother called and told us to turn on the TV.  We watched in stunned horror as both of the World Trade Center towers collapsed before our eyes.  It felt like the world was melting underneath us.  The usual finger-pointing began, and as blame fell on Palestinians (briefly, thank God), we shuddered in fear.  But to see some Palestinians celebrating in the streets was particularly disheartening to us.  We received many emails asking about this from our friends in the States - one particularly vile in its accusations, but most simply seeking answers as we all are.  Many friends and neighbors came by to bring condolences and to express their own embarrassment at these scenes.  We, at this moment, hope that reason and grace will rule the day over bloodthirst and revenge - especially since the latter brings little reflection or reason.  Getting rest was difficult, and we sent a plea out to our list.  We fell asleep to the deep booms of tank fire hitting Jenin just over the valley.

9/12/01:  Our lullaby was tank fire.  Our alarm clock (apart from the rooster next door) was the sound of helicopters.  We rushed onto our porch to see a brilliant sunrise, but also to see two Apache helicopters heading South.  We arrived at school to find that the same teachers and students from yesterday were absent, as tanks had now entered Jenin, destroying a police station and several houses.  Even so, Abuna Aktham made a point of remembering the suffering of innocent Americans in the morning prayer as he appealed to our  common humanity and a hope for a "new peace."  All of the teachers - of various religious and political stripes - expressed their concern for our families and their condemnation of what happened in New York and Washington.  To a person.  We also learned that Tubas had been hit earlier in the day, and so teachers and students from there were staying at home.  Slowly, panic began to set in at the school as one by one children were pulled out of school by their brothers and sisters. Something was wrong,  and the children were very nervous.  Word got to us about other attacks and clashes, including the shooting at a school south of Tubas.  School closed at 8:45, and children headed home. We passed the Anglican Clinic to find it full - the wounded from the South were being brought in to this little village place, and doctors and nurses came from neighboring villages to lend a hand.  We offered to help, donate blood or something,  but the clinic doesn't have the facilities for that. Fortunately, most of the people brought in had light wounds, including a young Force 17 soldier we met.  He told us, "Two months ago, a bullet grazed my head.  Today, I was shot in the wrist.  Next time, God willing, it will hit me in the heart."  There was a general sense of emergency and panic, no doubt exacerbated by the images coming from New York and Washington (and the blame being cast upon this part of the world). There is a fear that Israel is taking advantage of world attention upon the States to act with impunity here.  Things quieted down, though, but we are all truly exhausted.  We gathered tonight with a group of Americans and other internationals from the Arab-American University, many of whom were new arrivals.  It was a chance for us to get a little comfort from each other in the swirling of emotions here over the past day.  No doubt some of the locals were confused, as our intention of providing moral support for each other might have resembled a celebration - lively conversation and good food.  But the group's consensus was, given the last 24 hours, that we needed to come together for some kind of release.  We have talked to our families over the past few days, all worried sick about us.  We remain safe - there are benefits to being in a little Palestinian backwater like Zababdeh, and we'll hunker down here for a while.  But we've got bags packed just in case.

9/13/01:  The last two days have been indescribable.  We're both very sad and emotionally exhausted. We've tried to express our feelings by writing, which is hard but healing. In response, we've received around 500 emails in our inbox, most thanking us for our messages, sending best wishes, some encouraging us to come home. On top of all of this, we are subbing for the teachers who cannot come from Jenin and other northern villages.  We have fewer students, too, but the bulk of them come from Zababdeh, so we have combined some of the classes to ease the "burden."  Everyone is pitching in and going above and beyond, but fear for the future is clearly on everyone's mind - as is, "What will America do now?"

9/14/01:  Fridays give us a day off, but it's hard to relax in the current situation. We're  glued to the TV just like everyone else, wondering what will happen next. Except from 2:30 to 5:30, that is. In Zababdeh, they have begun cutting electricity in a conservation mode - everything is so up in the air.  So in the afternoons, the generator is cut off for three hours, and then as well very early in the morning.  It's interesting how that affects the rhythm of life so - usually, we watch the news while we eat.  Now we play cards.  If there's going to be any microwaving, it'll have to be during specific hours.  And printing things for school takes forethought - the power isn't back on until 7:30 am usually, which means we arrive at school as the electricity comes on.  No more last minute preparation.  The nice thing is that it has given us a break from the noise of construction - the entirety of our landlord's income now comes from the building.  He is a pastor of a tent-making church in Bethlehem, but because of the situation he cannot get there anymore.  All homes here end up with an unfinished look, the top floor ready to have another floor added on.  Now we know why.  This also means that, for a while, we will have no water and/or satellite (everything is on the roof), but we'll burn that bridge when we get to it.

9/15/01:  The weekend has brought little change in the situation for roads in our area, and thus has brought little change for our work situation.  Still no teachers or students from Jenin and beyond.

9/16/01:  Today was Sunday with the Latins, the Roman Catholic Church of Visitation.  Last year, we were there most Sundays and got used to the rhythm of things.  This year, because we have changed our schedule to worship with all the churches, we haven't been in worship here in almost a month.  Since then, some things have been changed by Abuna Aktham, particularly in the use of music in worship.  For the better, we must say.  There is also a new sister who has arrived, Sister Alba, who has quite the talent for singing - this has added to the musical aspects of the service in wonderful ways, too.  If only we could understand a little more Arabic...We also met with Abuna Aktham to talk about our work, his first few weeks here, and some calendar bits.  Very relaxing.  As Elizabeth says, though, this place would make a great short story - full of bizarre images, like the Catholic priest putting on a cassette of Barbra Streisand's "Woman in Love."  Truly surreal.

9/17/01:  As we gathered for morning assembly, the students stood for the national anthem and for the Lord's Prayer - as usual - before receiving general instructions for the day from the principal and vice-principal.  As they were waiting, several busses pulled up.  Everyone waited in anticipation to see who was coming off of the busses - would it be the students who have been gone for so long?  Yes - but not all.  The students from Jenin itself came, but not from beyond (meaning Marthame is still subbing for a teacher who lives next to the Green Line, now declared a "military buffer zone").  But there was general excitement as kids were able to catch up with each other for the first time in almost a week.  On the same bus were teachers and students from Qabatiya, who had endured little sleep the previous night - further incursions by the IDF have come into their village, too.  The situation just seems to move from one bad to another worse.  The Jenin bus had to come by yet another bypass route - not the road they took when we first arrived, nor the one through Qabatiya when the siege started, not even the one through Qabatiya and then Misilye when it worsened.  Now it's Burqin, Qabatiya, Misilye.  Over an hour to get from Jenin to Zababdeh - a year ago, it would've been fifteen minutes, tops.

9/18/01:  Today looked to be like yesterday - long roads, almost all teachers and students present.  Marthame started the day subbing again, but the usual teacher arrived.  Ten minutes late, looking a little haggard from the journey, but arrived nonetheless.  The students were ecstatic (Marthame tried not to take this personally, especially since he was ecstatic, too).  There were more incursions into Qabatiya last night, too, so everyone's a little bleary-eyed these days.  The question remains "what's gonna happen?"  The past week has been horrendous for the Palestinians, with numerous incursions and dozens of deaths, mostly in our part of the West Bank.  But even if world attention has turned away, it seems that American governmental pressure has not.  And so Arafat has declared a unilateral cease-fire, and the Israelis have announced no more offensive actions.  We really hope this means good news for our area, but we also wonder what it means for the world as we seem to move closer and closer to the brink of something truly chaotic and horrible.  Lord have mercy.

9/19/01:  Today, everyone made it to school - mostly on time (except for the usual crew of Zababdeh kids who tend to linger a little tardy, no matter the politics of the moment).  Perhaps the cease-fire is having its effect.

9/20/01: After checking to make sure that all of the teachers arrived at school, Marthame (who soes not have classes on Thursday) made his first foray out of Zababdeh in over a week.  Some folks from the Arab-American University of Jenin headed off to Haifa to take care of some business and also to relieve some cabin fever.  First stop was the Baha'i shrine and grounds, which we've visited several times before.  But just like before, the shrine to the Bab was not open to the public.  This time we could peek in, but there was no entering (the tour guide posted at the door said it was because of the many tourists, but we were hard-pressed to find them).  After some big city errands and admiring of the view, we grabbed lunch in the Arab section of town and bought some mangoes (none are getting into Jenin these days).  We then made a tourist pit-stop at Megiddo hill (or, in Hebrew, Har Meggido - Armageddon).  Interesting to visit, but it was a lightning stop.  For thousands of years, the place had been a center for the various civilizations that made this place their resting grounds - from the Canaanites to the Israelites and beyond.  It was then that the writer of Revelation - as it is widely understood - predicted that this would be the place of the final "great battle" (Revelation 16:16).  Now, it's a national park (video - 17 sec.), full of old stones and signs - a million miles away from the destruction in New York and the impending chaos of Afghanistan.  Maybe there's another meaning for Revelation than this.  The main thing to be understood, it seems, is from the layers and layers of archaeological digging done here - kingdoms come and kingdoms go, and the new ones build on the ruins of the old ones.  Politics is not a constant.  Maybe this is the lesson of Armageddon.  We joined together in a game of cribbage with some others from the University - it is nice to have the ex-pat community here.

9/22/01:  After school today, one of the Muslim teachers from the school brought her mother over for a visit.  Last year, she had made friendly overtures, but our pathetic Arabic and her long-forgotten English were a poor ground for conversation.  Apparently, we've improved enough (though not as much as she thinks - she speaks really fast!).  For the last two years, she has been the Islam teacher for the older Muslim students (when Marthame and Abuna Aktham teach Bible to the Christians).  We talked to her about a number of issues - war, of course, is on everyone's lips.  She, like us, yearns for peace.  She, like us, is ashamed of those who use their religion to perpetrate injustices and horrors upon others.  She and her family live in Zababdeh, part of the growing Muslim minority here.  She talked about how she likes Zababdeh more than Jenin and some of the other villages nearby, which have very strict, perhaps provincial views. For example, in some towns, all the women wear long robe-like dresses, and they'd stare at her for wearing her nice, conservative slacks with long jacket.  Refreshing to be reminded very personally of the wide variety in the practice of faith here, particularly as many in the States seem to assume all Muslims are the same.  We turned on the TV today to get the latest news, only to find out that we have no TV.  Normally, this would probably be a good thing, but given the situation, it's imperative to stay abreast of what's happening in the world.  We went on the roof to discover the reason - a new concrete wall now stands in front of our satellite dish, part of the construction.  But the landlord promised to take action soon, so we can keep abreast of the situation.

9/23/01:  TV is back - well, not all of it, but at least we've got BBC News, our link to the world (we also can get CNN, but we like BBC better, especially for international news).  Marthame preached at St. Matthew's Anglican Church of Zababdeh this morning, with Fr. Hossam translating. The lectionary for today was Luke 16:1-13 - or so Marthame thought.  It is a particularly difficult passage to understand, and there is no agreement among scholars as to the meaning of the story Jesus tells.  Marthame arrived a little before 8:30 with a sub-par sermon (but aren't all sermons, in the end, sub-par?) to discover two things: 1) The service wouldn't begin until 9:00, and 2) The Arabic Anglican Church is on a completely different lectionary calendar!  He grabbed a Bible, did some quick calculations, and ditched the original text in favor of five minutes of prep.  It seemed appropriate to preach on serving a living God when preaching by the seat of one's pants.  Preaching for translation is a different art, though - the time is shorter (to allow for two sermons, essentially), the language is simpler (despite Fr. Hossam's excellent English - translating on the fly is difficult enough), and the phrasing is shorter (because of translation) -  but it's fun.  How Pentecostal!  We then visited with one of the parishioners, an older lady whose English is quite outstanding.  She spent twenty years living in Baghdad (was married in the Presbyterian church there, in fact), before spending ten years in Amman, and then retiring ten years ago to Zababdeh. She's from a family of quite well-learned folks, and she loves living in the simplicity of Zababdeh's village life.  We spent most of the time traveling down memory-lane with her photo collection from living in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Zababdeh, Iraq, and from travels and travellers.  It was especially fun for us to see her photos of sites we visited in Iraq (like Hatra and Babylon) - maybe 50 years after she did. The power was not turned off today, which was something unusual - we think it was because of the wedding this afternoon, which began at 5:00 (about 1/2 hour before the power is usually turned back on).  The wedding, in the Latin Church, was for one of the P.E. teachers in the school, so it was a pleasure to get to celebrate with her.  Marthame assisted in the wedding.  Part of the traditional  ceremony is that the priest leads the bride, groom, best man, and maid of honor around the altar three times (video - 11 sec.).  The party was later on that evening.  As night arrived, we discovered perhaps the electricity compromise - the street lights were cut off, making walking at night in Zababdeh a stumbling adventure.  Arriving at the party was interesting - we were reminded of the many stories from the Bible about weddings.  As children were being kept at bay outside, we thought about the wedding guests waiting to enter (Matthew 22).  As we noticed the table behind the door in the back, we thought of Jesus' advise on choosing seats at a wedding party (Luke 14).  Wedding parties are quite the extravagant affair - the hall of the church was packed. Normally, the party would have been outside, but during the Intifada, celebrations are kept to a minimum, out of respect for the many deaths here; we have been told that in the first Intifada, most people were very strict about this, and there simply were no parties after weddings. Our friend's wedding had already been postponed a week because of the situation.  But finally they got to wed and celebrate. Best guess, maybe a thousand people came (this is quite normal).  Everyone is fed (hummus, pickles, snacky beans, bread, meat and rice and sauce, cola, and beer), and there is (of course) dancing and music.  Families spend a lot of money on parties, and when there is little money here, this is quite a hit to the pocketbook.  As a result, the families usually forgo gifts and simply give each other money.  But these events are an essential part of the rhythm of life here, and still provide people with an outlet to celebrate.  It carried on late into the night - wonder how bleary-eyed kids will be in the morning!

9/24/01:  Word came early this morning that an Israeli settler was shot and killed in the Jordan Valley today - so much for a cease-fire.  Taxi drivers from Zababdeh made shorter round-trips than usual, everything being closed to the South.  Kids who are attending the seminary in Beit Jala who had come for the wedding last night - including the bride's brother - only got as far as Tubas.  After school today (and after the daily nap - usually an electricity-out-time-thing, but no electricity out today), we headed off to visit one of our favorite families in the village.  We haven't been doing much visiting lately, but that sort of thing seems to decrease a bit to a manageable routine once you become familiar and more integrated into the life of the village.  As we sat with their kids and had a little fun by looking with them at their English school books, we heard the familiar (but not recently) sounds of gunfire to and from the IDF camp - so much for a cease-fire.  Light flares went up into the air, but the shooting soon stopped.  On the way home, we were accosted by several kids from the village who insisted that we had to come and take a picture of something - perhaps a home hit in the shooting?  We weren't sure, but we followed anyway.  The mother explained that they had a miracle going in their house.  On Palm Sunday, they had put some flowers up on the wall.  They became dried over the course of five months, but recently had sprouted some new, green growth.  "This is something holy - this is from our God."  It was pretty wild, and we dutifully recorded the miracle.  When lives are so out of control,  things like that seem to offer meaning.  We then heard the sound of airplanes overhead - we assumed they were heading towards Jenin as they often do, but they kept circling overhead.  For about half an hour, they were clearly concentrating on our valley, the one in which Zababdeh - and not much else - rests.  Kinda makes you uneasy.  We then noticed a fire burning in the distance, a big fire.  Since it was night, we couldn't be sure where the fire originated, but it looked like it was coming from the IDF camp, or the boys' school nearby, or perhaps the gas station (there was no sound of explosion, but the fire was pretty high).  Our minds ranged, wondering what it could have been - ignited by one of the flares?  Something the planes did?  Unlikely.  We could also see an army jeep and an APC (armored personnel carrier) moving away from the camp.  Strange things - I'm sure we'll get a full (and perhaps accurate) report tomorrow.

9/25/01:  No clear answer to the question of "what was that?" - several different theories, but the most plausible (and widely accepted) is that one of the light flares the soldiers shot up had come back down, catching something on fire (we're not planning to venture over there any time soon to see what's up).  Marthame tried again with the English club, this time with a modicum of success!  Six students came, talked about potential ideas and projects, and were sent away with their assignments: bring other students who might be interested, bring some more ideas, and decide what projects you'd like to work on.  There's a lot of energy with these six, so we'll see what direction it'll take in the coming months.

9/27/01:  Marthame left early this morning for an adventure to Nablus to run a couple of errands.  He caught a shared taxi in Zababdeh on its way there and shared the ride there with the driver - no other passengers.  No one is traveling much these days, since there's little work and roads are difficult.  So he and the driver chatted the whole way there - a good chance to practice  Arabic and to gather a little more Palestinian folk wisdom.  They found their way by driving between the olive trees and avoiding the donkey section of the commute (which we had encountered a month ago).  Seems the promised opening of closures will have to wait for the end of Yom Kippur and the first anniversary of the Intifada.  Marthame headed up to Rafidiya, now a neighborhood of Nablus but once a majority Christian village in the area.  This is where many of Nablus' Christians live and is also where many of the churches are.  He made a visit to the Greek Melkite Church of St. John the Baptist and a meeting with Abuna Yousef, the parish priest.  Abuna Yousef had been a bank employee professionally, but when a succession of several aged foreign priests had passed through the parish, the Bishop approached him asking him to consider being the priest.  To make a long story short, after about eight years of the bishop's cajoling and his own discernment and study, he became the priest.  He has been there for twenty-one years.  The Melkite tradition is akin to Orthodoxy in its liturgy and theology, but their churches are in communion with Rome and are under the authority of the Pope.  What this means for the local congregations is that their worship is similar to the Orthodox but follows the Roman calendar (which is usually about two weeks earlier).  Also, their priests - like Abuna Yousef - can marry.  A few years back, the church in Rafidiya opened a clinic for the area.  Anyone who is unable to pay receives treatment free of charge.  Marthame was also hoping to talk to him about the Melkite parish in Zababdeh.  Since there is no priest for the parish in Zababdeh, Abuna Yousef is responsible for periodic ritual responsibilities - births, marriages, deaths.  But the status of the church here is unclear - the parish is under the responsibility of the Bishop of Haifa, but Abuna Yousef is under the Bishop of Jerusalem, so Zababdeh falls through the cracks.  Abuna Yousef has written a small book in English and Arabic on Christians in the Nablus area - should be helpful as we try to get a bead on fellow believers in the Northern West Bank.  Marthame then headed over the the Anglican Compound by Nablus' Old City at the Church of St. Philip's.  After chatting with a few of our friends there, he ran into our friend from Holland who works as a nurse in the Anglican hospital of St. Luke's.  She had been away on vacation for a while, so it was good to catch up with her.  After a stop at the British Council (which has a great selection of books and videos to borrow), he then made the long, circuitous journey back, this time by way of Jenin (to the north of Zababdeh) and then back down south.  A long, circuitous day, but productive.  We wrapped up the day with some games with the neighbors and delicious knaffe, Nablus's sweet specialty.

9/28/01:  The time falls back one hour tonight, so Marthame headed over to the school to change the alarm program (the instructions are in English and German).  He heard music coming from the old school, now the Bishop Carlson Hall. It sounded like a wedding!  He walked in to find Sister Aimee and Abuna Aktham dancing  with the children of the parish to contemporary Arabic Christian music (video - 7 sec.).  Friday morning is a gathering for the children ages 6-10.  They do a Bible story and then have fellowship time together (including dancing, apparently).  Abuna Aktham grinned and made Marthame promise not to send the footage to the Patriarch.  Today also marks the first anniversary of the current Intifada - there is much opinion that there is no longer much of an Intifada ("uprising" or "shaking off"), but there seems to be much political weight to be gained from the term, and so it has stuck as the name of the current struggle.  Fortunately, things have remained quiet here, even today, but we expect the same cannot be said for much of the West Bank and Gaza.

9/29/01:  The Ministry of Education announced that schools would mark the Intifada anniversary in their programs.  But the news, as seems par for the course, was distributed late.  At assembly, there was renewed fervor in the morning singing of the Palestinian Anthem, and a few speeches by teachers and students and Abuna Aktham. One of the emphases was that the most important thing that children can do is to study and to strive for success.  At 12:15, those in the upper grades who didn't have an exam today threw together an impromptu demonstration (video - 7 sec.).  The predominant symbol was that of the PFLP, the People's Front for the Liberation of Palestine, whose leader Israel assassinated about one month ago.  There wasn't a whole lot of organization, and the students seemed happier to get out of school early than to hold to a particular political ideology.  We then went up to the Arab-American University of Jenin, walking by way of the fields instead of the road (providing spectacular views of both Zababdeh and the University).  Having received misinformation about the program times, we arrived as the formal programs were finishing.  But there was an exhibition on the Intifada on display in one of the halls (video - 13 sec.).  It had been put together by the various political parties represented at the University (Hamas, PFLP, Islamic Association, Fatah, etc.), including the "Association of Independent Thinkers" (they just really like irony).  Interesting to see the blending of nationalist and religious rhetoric, especially as our own nation continues to do the same in the wake of September 11th.

9/30/01:  As we continue our moving around from one church to another in Zababdeh this year, our intentional ecumenical ministry, we are learning more - in particular - about St. George's Orthodox Church.  Other people in the village are slowly learning what we are doing and not wondering when they don't see us in church for two or three Sundays.  As  Marthame sat down in the pew, he was motioned up to the chancel by one of the lay leaders.  The service is one of much singing and praying, most of it done by six or seven lay people.  It is very beautiful and mystical - the feel is quite ancient as a result.  The homily was delivered by one of the lay leaders today on the subject of baptism.  There is a real dearth of study of Orthodoxy in American seminaries, so all of our knowledge is coming by way of our experiences here, rather than anything more academic - thus, it is coming slowly, as a process of discovery.  The communion is interesting - as people process forward, Abuna To'mie feeds them a mixture of bread and wine by a spoon.  Even infants receive (despite their kicking and screaming), which is different from both the Latin and Anglican churches here.  Today was also the commemoration of a death - this is done seven and forty days after, as well as after six and twelve months.  As the ceremony finishes, Abuna says, "Allah yerhamhum" (God have mercy on them), to which the congregation responds, "T'eish" (may you live) -  the traditional greeting of mourning.  Then everyone takes a piece from a plateful of sugar that has been decorated with crosses - not sure what the meaning is, but perhaps there's some sense of sharing a common meal that is as sweet as heavenly fellowship.  We've learned that about sixteen Palestinians have been killed in anniversary demonstrations marking the Intifada - and now the Israeli cabinet is giving Arafat 48 hours to implement the cease-fire.  Let's get this straight: the Israeli army has killed 16 and is saying that Arafat needs to snap into action.  Nope, still doesn't make any sense.  After lunch with good friends in town, we headed out to the fields to visit our shepherd friend and his family - it's been a while since we've visited him.  Good to share in Bedouin hospitality.  He had finished a year of university education before the first Intifada interrupted his life and changed his course.  Now he lives as a shepherd in the shadow of the new University here - sadly ironic.  He clearly wants to return to study, and his mind is sharp - he spends all day thinking.  We sat next to their tent under the full moon with him and his family.  As his children fell asleep in the cool night air, we drank tea and ate goat cheese.  In the distance, we could hear the sounds of Zababdeh - the call to prayer, the church bells, the celebratory sounds of a wedding, the electrical generator - it was equal parts reassuring and peaceful.