Journal in the Land of the Holy One
September, 2002
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The sounds of Zababdeh:
3:00 AM, Rooster (3 sec.)
3:00 AM, Dogs (5 sec.)
4:45 AM, Muslim prayer (40 sec.)
6:00 AM, Church bells (40 sec.)
7:30 AM, National Anthem (40 sec.)
20 hrs./day, Generator (5 sec.)

Sunday, 9/1/02:  Today we reversed our roles of last Sunday - Marthame headed off to the Latin Church of Visitation for worship while Elizabeth caught up on overdue sleep.  Having jumped right back into work, we're plugging along - slowly but surely - but finding ourselves worn out.  It seems that the local fauna are conspiring against us.  When the generator cuts off at 3:00 a.m. (in order to save on petrol, since no one has money to pay the bills), the roosters next door take the silence as a cue that daylight is near.  When they stop, the dogs start in.  And when they stop, the roosters take their place - a mellifluous menagerie.  We're looking forward to a day or two off to catch up.  At church, Deacon Stephen (the man formerly known as Firas) joined in worship leadership as well, fresh off his ordination yesterday.  Today someone told us that while we were celebrating after the ordination, the Israeli military was busy in Tubas with another extrajudicial assassination.  Army helicopters blew up a car carrying a wanted man, killing him and the other two people in the car. The attack also killed a seven year-old girl and a fourteen year-old boy, who were hit by shrapnel as they stood in front of their home. It also injured seven other people, including a seven year-old boy who was in critical condition.  According to the human rights' group LAW, that's 148 killed in such extra-judicial assassinations, including 46 bystanders.  A 2:1 target:"collateral damage" ratio. Unconscionable.  We have many friends in Tubas, both Muslim and Christian - no doubt these two boys were somebody's nephews/cousins/neighbors.

Monday, 9/2/02:  Happy Labor Day - we'd love to get a three-day weekend, especially now.  Then again, we'd settle for a two-day weekend (ours is split between Friday and Sunday).  School continues for us, but not for many in the area.  Reports in Ramallah are that curfews are in effect the entire day (and night) except from 7-9 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. (for school traffic).  Nablus, however, is another story.  There are many college students in Zababdeh who study at An-Najah University. We know several who and should have graduated with their B.A. this past spring, but have been unable to take their final exams or even get to campus because of the constant 24-hour curfews in Nablus for the last few months.  Last week, Nablus opened up for one day - the University told all of the students waiting to finish up to come to Nablus, and that their exams would take place as soon as possible.  They're still there - the curfew was lifted long enough for them to get in, but not to get out (and certainly not to take an exam).  It's frustrating, and not a little bit scary, for their families.  A curfew is in effect in much of Jenin today, but somehow people arrived.  The way things do and don't happen here remain, even after two years, a bit on the baffling side.  One of our teachers in Tubas was near the place where the car was blown up.  "Our  house shook like an earthquake," he told us.  The two children who were killed were his cousins.  "They were on their way to buy ice cream."  We visited with Deacon Stephen and his family today for lunch - it's nice not to have to cook (especially in this heat!).

Tuesday, 9/3/02:  Officially, the curfew in Jenin was supposed to be lifted from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. But when one of our teachers from Jenin left her house this morning with her children, she found Israeli tanks on every corner and 50-60 soldiers milling about.  They waited by the door for a break in the "action", then made a break for the buses.  They made it...Marthame received some visiting British diplomats today whom we had met at William Dalrymple's lecture at Sabeel recently.  They were coming on a tour of the area and wanted to see the school in Zababdeh before heading into Jenin.  Marthame went with them, tagging along, since he knew the roads.  It was pretty bizarre to ride in a diplomatic vehicle with bullet-proof glass.  They first went to visit the Jordanian Civil Hospital recently set up near Jenin Camp - it's a military field hospital, worked out in cooperation with the Israelis and the Palestinians, in order to provide medical services - emergency and otherwise - to residents of Jenin.  Marthame had visited their site in Nablus a few months back.  It's an impressive operation, seeing around 500 patients a day, most of them from surrounding villages.  One of the Jordanian doctors the group met with was a Christian, a member of the Evangelical Free Church of Jordan (we didn't even know there was such a thing!).  The diplomats then headed over to Jenin Camp to visit with folks working on its massive clean-up operation.  It's a $27 million operation, which the UAE is acting as fiscal agent for, while the UN oversees the clean-up itself.  The central area of the camp's destruction is being dug out, and every day they are still finding unexploded devices.  One of the people the group visited with, who has a military background, talked about the battle here from that perspective.  The military part of the Israeli action he had no problem with - cornering the resistance fighters into an area bounded by four main streets was good military strategy.  It was after that, in his view, that the Israeli army broke all rules of combat, bulldozing and collapsing the area, denying emergency services and relief agencies into the area (though allowing a select few Israeli journalists in)...collective punishment.  It was the first time either of us has been back there since May - they've made impressive progress in their work, but they've got a long way to go.  It'll be a while.

Wednesday, 9/4/02:  These days, many people are coming by the school and asking Fr. Aktham for assistance - there is little he can do other than a handout here and there and give them applications to various relief organizations in Jerusalem (and then deliver the papers for them).  One lady came in from Jenin, from the Christian community there, asking for help.  Her daughter is studying at Birzeit University, which has yet to open - and will probably spend the entire year alternating between being open and shut.  As she explained her problem to Marthame, she broke down in tears.  It's a difficult thing to see, particularly because everyone is in the same situation - no work, a lot of fear about the's a terrifying time for a lot of people.  In the evening, we did an interview with the Diocese of Sioux Falls' radio program Catholic Views.  When we first arrived, they brought a group to Zababdeh and have been a great source of strength ever since.  We had done an interview last year (audio - 16 minutes) - this one (audio - 16 minutes) will air this Sunday morning.  We are hoping to encourage someone from there to come and teach in the school next year.

Thursday, 9/5/02:  Nothing new except the shifting curfews in Jenin.  It seems to change from hour to hour - during the day, Jenin teachers and administrators get updates from friends and families so that they can determine how/when to go home.  The city was closed most of the day, but reopened in time for the buses to get in.  Meanwhile, Zababdeh remains strangely silent.  Back home, melting our brains, we came across the Polish sattelite station and its broadcast of a rap duet featuring Polish rapper Liroy and Ice-T (audio - 5 sec.).  His follow up samples Lionel Richie's "Hello" (audio - 5 sec.).  Where would surrealism be if it weren't for Poland?

Friday, 9/6/02:  At 3:30 we were awoken by a loud bang - could've been anything, really.  A sonic boom (we get a lot of those, but not at 3:30 am), a tank shell (haven't been many around here, but not unheard of - the grinding of tank wheels soon after indicated this might be the case), a dynamiting of a building (never happened here, but plenty of precedent in nearby towns)...The dogs got excited soon after, which excited the roosters, and then - well, 3-4 am is not a restful time (even without explosions).  The story that eventually emerged, as we sorted through the haki fadi (gossip - lit., empty talk) and rumor, was that the Israeli army entered the village about 3:00 and went to one of our neighbor's houses looking for their son - apparently, he was part of the Jenin Camp resistance but escaped.  They then dynamited the lock on the door and stormed the house, taking the son into custody.  In any case, it was loud and jolting for those of us nearby.  Marthame had an early morning anyway (but not that early), joining Father Thomas in Tubas for worship.  Before he was a priest, he was a P.E. teacher in nearby 'Aqaba - he showed off some of his ping-pong skills in the church hall.  For our film project, Marthame joined Fr. Thomas behind the iconostasis, filming all of the ritual that takes place back there.  Orthodox services are notoriously long, and this was no exception.  Staying behind the iconostasis, though, you begin to understand why.  As much of the chanted liturgy is taking place among the congregation, the priest is busy preparing the eucharist.  Marthame had sat behind the iconostasis before in Zababdeh and noted the many details of it: the specific prayers over each element, each liturgical garment, at each icon; the meticulous carving of the eucharistic bread representing the crucifixion, the martyrdoms, the congregational intercessions; the emergence from the "temple" of the chanted/spoken word in epistle, gospel, and homily (audio - 5 sec.).  It is an intricate and elegant ritual, full of symbolism (e.g. the gold piece that stands over the plate which Marthame thought simply a  practical item to hold cloth over the plate without touching the bread is actually a representation of the manger).  As Fr. Thomas put on his liturgical clothing Marthame couldn't help but notice the similarity of his dress to that of a butcher before the slaughter - the sacrifice of the lamb of God re-enacted?  In the midst of this, something of great historic importance happened (which we can't discuss publicly for another 1000 years, but if you drop us an email...).  The buzz in the congregation was about damage to the Greek Orthodox Convent at Jacob's Well due to Israeli fire - damage of the entrance or something.  It's been a long time since we've been able to get down to Nablus with its constant curfew - we hope we can do that soon to reconnect with friends there.  In the evening, the Catholic clergy (three Rosary Sisters, two Deacons, and a priest who was born in Jordan - to be sung to the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas") visited with Fr. Thomas, Marthame boldly representing the Protestant tradition in the ecumenical gathering.

Saturday, 9/7/02:  Today is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year feast, so the curfews around Palestinian cities are extra-tight.  Saturday is a school day here, but Marthame has taken advantage of his class schedule to spend the day working from home.  Unfortunately, no one informed him ahead of time that today was Mass for the students (after two years here, we haven't gotten used to how news travels through the village - however, we have gotten used to the idea that it often doesn't travel to us).  Marthame headed up to the University with Deacon Firas/Stephen to make a copy of his ordination video.  The problem was one of formatting, the camera we're using being American system and video machines here being Middle East system.  In the end, it tok a long time, but thanks to computer technology, he got his copy.  We wandered around the campus a bit, which is getting ready to return to term next Sunday.  Administration and faculty are busy, students are beginning to congregate, and lots and lots of construction is underway.  In the evening, we paid a long overdue visit to our old neighbors, who had moved into a new place six months ago.  Being foreigners, we get a special dispensation when it comes to the local customs.  The father used to work in a hotel in Jerusalem (which has been closed for two years).  His salary at the time was about $700/month, with which he supported his family of five boys.  About a year ago, he began driving a taxi after working some handout jobs around town.  On a good day, that is, a day when Jenin is open, he takes home 50 shekels (about $10).  A month of good days nets him $200-$250, half of which they pay in rent.  Most days aren't good, though - today, for example, his take-home was 8 shekels (less than $2).  How they're surviving, other than by the grace of God, baffles us.  Nevertheless, they treated us to a feast - home-made pickles, cheese pizza (without tomatoes - they're 5 shekels/kg), hummos, babaganoush...Yet another humbling experience of Arab hospitality.

Sunday, 9/8/02:  Thank God for Orthodoxy.  So we said as we rolled out of bed at 9:00 and headed to St. George's 9AM services - rolling admission is par for the course in the Eastern tradition.  It's been a while since we've worshiped at the Anglican Church, but with the priest under constant curfew in Nablus, there's little chance that the congregation'll be able to worship there anytime soon.  It's locked up, and the parishioners are  slowly drifting to the other communities - one church opens, another as good as closed...At St. George's, we found ourselves on the congregation side of the iconostasis.  Watching communion is always wonderful - the children line up (the Orthodox answer to the children's sermon - we'll take the eucharist over puppet shows any day) ready to receive, many of them weren't even able to walk when we first arrived.  After worship, we went to visit with one of our dear friends - her son lives in Chicago and is a friend of ours from our time there.  She had been in Ramallah for a long time with another of her sons, but missed Zababdeh (and couldn't stand the near-constant curfews).  When she came back, she had to cross out of Ramallah at the Qalandia checkpoint, but the soldiers were forbidding her.  Her son argued her way across, but then the soldiers wouldn't let her son help her (she can barely walk, let alone carry/transport luggage).  Finally, he handed his ID to the soldier and said, "I'll get this when I come back."  And so they went.  We sat on her porch and slowly watched the world go by - a favorite Arab past-time.  All we need is a rocking chair.  In the afternoon, as we prepared for school tomorrow, we heard shooting - a strange sound, since the military camp has been abandoned.  We looked out the window to see two Israeli tanks on the road from what used to be the camp, up through what used to be the shooting range, towards the two settlements up over the hills.  They must've come out of Jenin by way of Qabatia.

Monday, 9/9/02:  More curfew in Jenin.  It's supposed to open up between 2 and 6 in the afternoon - we have some business there, but the risk of getting stuck is too high.  It'll have to wait.  One of the teachers who lives on the other side of Jenin has decided to move into Zababdeh in order to keep her job - the hassle of getting to and from home every day is too much (she often ends up spending the night with her sister in Jenin rather than try and get back out of the city).  Marthame spoke with Fr. Hossam to check in.  Not all of Nablus is under curfew (thus Fr. Justinus could come to Tubas last week), but the area around Raffidye - a mostly Christian neighborhood - has been tightly locked down recently.  He has to come to Zababdeh soon for a wedding celebration in the Anglican church, but he's not sure how to get here.  Meanwhile, his new bride (mabrouk!) is waiting for the area to open long enough to take one final and finish her junior year of college.  Planes buzzed overhead today all along the valley between Jenin and Tubas, flying very low - we could see four of them at once (audio - 7 sec.). Ugh.

Tuesday, 9/10/02:  Jenin and Qabatia are cut off from the rest of the area today.  The school buses left Zababdeh to pick up the students, but found all of the roads closed - the road by the "abandoned" military camp, the round-a-bout road by way of Misilye, the "roads" that go between the olive trees...  Calls poured in from various teachers and students and parents about the buses (the villages were open within their "boundaries", but not to outside traffic).  One-tenth of our students and teachers were absent today - a heavy subbing load for a school our size.  We were expecting the year to be like this, but we were also hoping that we would be proven wrong.  Meanwhile, the situation is "quiet" according to the news reports - guess we better re-learn what "quiet" means...Marthame filled in for the English teacher, who eventually managed to walk through the hills and olive orchards from Qabatia to Zababdeh. No one else arrived.  Marthame switched over to subbing for the Arabic teacher (who didn't walk here from the other side of Jenin).  In the evening, Marthame walked around town to do some shopping and get his $2 haircut.  The talk is all about Iraq and what the Bush Administration will do.  Everyone here remembers the Gulf War and the impact on the Palestinian population - full curfew, even in places like Zababdeh, empty stores...after two years of near starvation and strangulation, how much more can the people here take?  We have begun to make our contingency plans - not for fears of safety, or anti-American backlash, but rather from the sense we had last April that there's more that we can do with some freedom to move than locked up in a prison.  Unlike most of the people here, at least we have a choice.  Prayers for our discernment are welcome.

Wednesday, 9/11/02:  The anniversary of 9/11.  All of the channels have been full of programs about the events of the past year - candlelight vigils, documentaries on al-Qaeda and the WTC, statements from politicians and heads of state...Even our little school assembly had a remembrance.  One of the ninth graders wrote and presented his reflections on the events of last year: "Terrorism is evil because it cheapens the value of human life....We must unite in prayer for those who died and for their families."  Later, Elizabeth was interviewed by Free Speech Radio News - as was Fr. Aktham - about September 11th.  The world is joining in mourning once again.  Last year, 9/12 was a terrible day around here, the heaviest Israeli military action in the area to that point - perhaps the world attention being turned to NYC was the reason; who will ever know.  In any case, we expected today to be similar around here - the intense military action in and around Zababdeh yesterday (the tight closure of Qabatia and Jenin, the Israeli surveillance planes slowly circling overhead, the tanks passing by) has everyone nervous.  Even so, everyone arrived today - one of the Jenin teachers arrived at 11:00, though (school begins at 7:30 and finishes at 1:30).  She'll be moving to Zababdeh to rent an apartment soon - ridiculous that a six mile commute necessitates a move.  The teacher from Qabatia who walked here yesterday told us about his travel back home after school.  Even the "road" between the olive trees he took was cut off, which gave him the opportunity to explore a part of Qabatia he had never seen before as he tried to get home.  Even in the midst of the absurdity here, there is optimism for some reason.

Thursday, 9/12/02:  TGIT (Thank God it's Thursday), our "weekend" arrives tomorrow.  School passed without incident today, everyone arriving and surprising the masses.  Marthame discovered how it is that our school buses still come and go in spite of curfew in Jenin.  There is curfew, under penalty of steep fines (700 shekels - $150) or, depending on the situation, being shot at.  Fortunately, during most days, the streets aren't full with Israeli army tanks or jeeps, so people can slipout in spite of the curfew. And so, our buses enter the city, and if they find a tank or a jeep, they simply find another path to take to pick up the kids.  Schools in Jenin have been closed, but the students in Jenin who study at the our school have been able to come.  We listened to the radio program Elizabeth was interviewed for, but they didn't use any soundbites from her.  However, Fr. Aktham spoke, as did one of Marthame's former students (audio - 3 minutes).  An ad appeared in one of the major Palestinian newspapers the other day announcing a scholarship opportunity in Great Britain.  The number of folks who have come to us asking for help with their cv's is not surprising, but depressing anyway.  Everyone wants an escape.

Friday, 9/13/02:  Today is our intentional sabbath.  The last two years, we haven't done a very good job of  carving out a day set aside for rest and non-working.  We're taking another stab at it, and we were pretty successful (it's only a Commandment, you know!).  We slept in, read Scripture, prayed, and avoided work and the news all day.  Even so, the news intervenes - seven Israeli tanks and APCs churned up the road near the abandoned camp as they headed back towards Jenin from Tubas.  The grinding gears meshed with the Friday calls to prayer in a way that speaks about Palestine (audio - 13 sec.).  Later on, seeing that the road was clear of military traffic, we took a walk in the hills.  It has been a while since we've done that - Sabbath gives us an opportunity to do so.  Even though the land is parched, it has its own elegance and beauty - Texas-like shades of brown and yellow, the various harvest, dust covering the olive branches and giving them a silvery hue.  The church bells chimed 6:00 in the distance.  Elegance.

Saturday, 9/14/02:  Several members of the Orthodox community headed up with Fr. Thomas today to the church in Burqin (to the West of Jenin). Burqin is one of our favorite sites, the purported fourth oldest site of Christian veneration in the world, the believed site of Christ's healing of the Ten Lepers (Luke 17).  For twelve years, Fr. Thomas has shared responsibility for this community with two  other priests - one in Beit Sahour, one in Jerusalem.  For the last two years, neither of them has (or has been able) to come,  leaving Fr. Thomas effectively responsible for three parishes - Zababdeh, Tubas, and Burqin.  Balancing these is a trick, so Zababdeh worships on Sunday, Tubas on Friday, and now Burqin on Saturday.  The place was newly cleaned up for Christmas 2000, but in the past several months local vandals have turned their attention to it - the newly-tiled staircase has been busted up, anti-Israeli (stars of David, comments on Sharon) graffiti has been scrawled across the ground and wall outside the church.  It seems aimed at singling out the minority Christian community here, but the anti-Israeli bit is strange - and not a little bit disturbing.  No doubt that praying on Saturday contributes to it.  Hopefully things will get sorted out. Burqin has always prided  itself on good relations between its majority Muslim and minority Christian populations.  The Byantine liturgy is other-worldly, and the chorus - who play a key role in said liturgy - was largely made up of folks from Zababdeh's congregation who know it inside and out (audio - 10 sec.).  In the afternoon, we heard the bells at the Anglican church ringing out - something we haven't heard in months!  Indeed, Fr. Hossam had arrived from Nablus to perform a scheduled wedding.  He had to take an ambulance to the edge of Nablus and then walk down a steep hill of debris (which used to be a road) to get a taxi on the other side of Nablus.  The curfew there has been going on for three months - not only has he been unable to arrive in Zababdeh to pray, he hasn't even been able to lead worship in Nablus. Unlike the curfew in Jenin, the curfew in Nablus is very tight, and people really cannot go out except for specific liftings of the curfew, which last perhaps a day, usually a few hours. That, or use an ambulance.  Every Sunday, he worships with his wife and the Orthodox family who help take care of the church compound.  Nevertheless, we were able to celebrate - however subdued - a wedding in Zababdeh.  Marthame joined with Fr. Hossam, Fr. Aktham, and Deacon Firas for some conversation and collegiality after the ceremony.  Ecumenism at work.

Sunday, 9/15/02:  Today we headed to St. Matthew's Anglican Church, not knowing when the next time there'd be Sunday worship services there. Marthame assisted Fr. Hossam in the service.  As Fr. Hossam began his homily, he explained to the congregation what the situation was, and why he hadn't been able to come for so very long - Zababdeh culture, like most, is given to a lot of talk, and he wanted to combat a bit of haki fadi (lit. "empty talk", gossip) and explain the situation.  He told them about the situation in Nablus, and how he is unable to lead worship there - all of his time is spent sitting at home or working on hospital administration (traveling to and from work via ambulance).  If there is an emergency visit, he does it - also via ambulance.  At least one time, the Israeli military has held up his ambulance for two hours, making him wait, and forbidding him to use his cellphone to call  his superiors that he might move on his way.  "Frustration" doesn't begin to cover it.  The food prices in Nablus are through the roof for produce that would normally be thrown away, but no one has money anyway. Students have been able to attend  school only a day or two so far this year.  As bad as things are in Zababdeh, they begin to look like paradise to people in Nablus.  All of this in the shadow of a gospel lesson on forgiveness...powerful. After worship, we paid some visits to neighbors.  Some kids showed off their rabbits (which will soon be part of lunch). In the past, we didn't see any rabbits, and this year we've seen many. Our neighbor explained that people have started keeping rabbits because of the economic situation, as rabbits offer a cheaper food source. People here are truly more fortunate that city dwellers, who don't have the space or ability to produce much of their own food. Reports of malnutrition especially among children in Gaza remind us of this. In the afternoon, Marthame headed down to Jenin to take care of some overdue business - the city was open to outside traffic for the first time in weeks.  The place is in ruins, though - bullet holes through pharmacy windows, cars crushed under the wheels of tanks, it's really sad.  We spoke with another friend in the States who commented on how "quiet" it is over here. Yes, cities under house arrest, unemployment, malnutrition, collective strangulation are a quiet death.  About an hour after Marthame left and headed back to Zababdeh, curfew was reimposed.  Many folks who had headed in from Zababdeh to take advantage of an open day got stuck and had to sneak out.  In the evening, we discovered that our telephone had been cut.  Once again, someone else in our building hasn't paid, so we all pay the price.  The Israelis clearly don't have a monopoly on collective punishment.

Monday, 9/16/02:  Marthame was hoping to head to Jenin again today to take care of our telephone as well as some other business, but was told that Jenin was closed.  When he called the office in Jenin, he expected not to hear an answer, but someone picked up.  Taxis were heading into the outskirts of Jenin, but there was a tight curfew in the middle of the city.  Marthame was able to head up there with the few who wanted to brave the roads and took care of some unfinished business, but - alas - the phones'll have to wait.  Paltel was within the curfew zone.  Several streets away from the taxi stand, dark smoke was rising into the sky.  No one was anxious to venture a guess, or to venture a few blocks away to see the cause.  In the evening, with no telephone to provide us with distractions like the internet, we went out on the town.  People visit here incessantly once the cool of the evening comes, something we are often reluctant to do because of the overwhelming feeling of work left undone.  But we are never disappointed when we do.  As you walk through the streets, everyone invites you in for coffee, tea,'ve never felt so welcome anywhere in your life.  And the views of the village and the fields remind us that, for all of the chaos of this place, we'll miss it when we leave.  Well, OK, this part of it.

Tuesday, 9/17/02:  The talk around town is about the two bombs planted in Palestinian schools in Hebron by Israeli militants - five were injured in one, the other was defused in time.  This is not the first time - the last time it happened in Palestinian schools in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 9/18/02:  The phone has been reconnected!  It turns out we weren't being punished collectively after all - rather, after a dozen phone calls, we learned the true cause.  They thought our phone bill had remained unpaid.  We had paid it at the Zababdeh post office, but the paid invoice hadn't reached the central office.  Six miles away is an impossible journey these days.  In the evening, we visited the new pizza parlor in Zababdeh, aptly named "Pizza Pizza".  Marthame tried to convince the new chef to offer New York and Chicago styles of pizza - for now we'll be happy with Zabdawi (Zababdehite).  The University, and the presence of all of the new students, is providing a surprising economic boost - or, rather, shift - to Zababdeh.  People are opening new restaurants, bookstores, hardware shops.  In a time of massive West Bank unemployment, this income is very welcome.  Not many other places other than Zababdeh are experiencing this.  As we left school we heard about a suicide bombing in Um-al-Fahem, the first one in about six weeks. 

Thursday, 9/19/02:  Another suicide bombing today, this one in Tel Aviv - not good news.  Five more innocents killed, along with a nascent glimmer of optimism among Israelis. During the lull, many were begininng to feel a taste of calm, some reduction in fear and a growth of hope after over a month without any Israelis killed. Palestinians however didn't  have any such lull in the violence: the past month for them brought more than 70 killed, 2/3 of them civilians. "But it's been so quiet," people say.  Indeed.  At least the school continues at full capacity. 

Friday, 9/20/02:  Another Friday, another sabbath. A greatly needed one at that. We slept and slept. And woke up, Elizabeth reading The Red Tent (a great retelling of the story of Dinah, Jacob's only daughter) and knitting, Marthame surfing the internet. And then we ate and slept again. Then we had a few visitors. And we went out visiting families (and playing puppets with their kids). And then we slept.  Even with the news at Arafat's compound (or what remains of it) we didn't turn on the TV.  We need at least one day to decompress from this place from time to time.  Besides, the news always seems like we've heard it before.  "Nothing new under the sun."

Saturday, 9/21/02:  Marthame is taking advantage of no classes on Saturdays to take care of non-school-related business.  Next semester, he expects to be teaching a college-level course in Church History in Ibillin at the newly-opened Mar Elias Theological Institute, so now is intense preparation time.  Meanwhile, at the school, the seniors are busy preparing themselves for college.  Most of them will probably end up at the Arab-American University of Jenin (for convenience more than anything else), though a handful will probably go to Birzeit (near Ramallah), An-Najah (in Nablus), and the Jenin campus of Jerusalem Open University, although it doesn't look promising for any of those institutions to have a regular school year any time soon.  Some might go overseas to continue education, but those who have tried recently have repeatedly found visa troubles.  After 9/11, many Western countries are increasingly unwilling to give visas (student, work, tourist) to Arabs.  And even those with valid visas often face a new process of interrogation, fingerprinting, and profiling at American points of entry.  Marthame is also preparing the Christian students for an application to North Park University in Chicago which provides a scholarship every year for a Palestinian Christian student.  All are eager to succeed - we're eager, too, but there are many of them and only one scholarship. After school we rode the school bus up to Jenin.  We wanted to pay a long-overdue visit to friends from the Christian community there, and the only way to do that these days is to make a weekend out of it.  When we arrived, Jenin was technically under curfew. Curfews can be strict (as we've seen in Hebron and heard about recently in Nablus) or loosely enforced.  Right now in Jenin, there are not enough Israeli soldiers to enforce a strict curfew, so when there are no tanks coming and going, people tentatively go out - to work, to market - always ready to get off the street at the approach of the IDF. The last time we rode the Jenin school bus it was because of tanks on the road, in order to assure an "international presence" for the children.  This year, there are usually tanks around, and our bus drivers take all sorts of circuitous routes to avoid them. Yet, our presence is no longer requested - Ta'wadna - "we are used to it."  People say that a lot these days.  After a thankfully uneventful bus ride into a deserted Jenin, we shared a late lunch and an even later dinner with our friends. In the cool of the evening, we enjoyed chatting with them in their courtyard, complimenting their new garden and fountain (complete with water-spewing dolphins and brass waterwheel) which our host had just finished building. For a place that has known a lot of chaos recently, Jenin seems quiet - periodic shooting, the distant rumble of tanks -  nothing too unusual.

Sunday, 9/22/02:  Not long after our heads hit the pillow, we could hear the regular sounds of war - tanks (audio - 9 sec.), shooting (both Palestinian - audio, 1 sec. - and Israeli - audio, 2 sec.), and - of course - roosters and shooting (audio - 3 sec.).  At about 3:00, we heard announcements over a loud speakers.  We weren't sure what was being said, but later we learned they were telling everyone in two nearby buildings to get out and stand in the street.  We drifted back off to sleep, only to be awoken at 6:00 by a loud thud - the building shook (as did we).  Our friends rushed in to check that the windows in our room were not shattered. Fire was pouring out of a building less than a block away.  We ran upstairs to our host's parents' home to look from their windows.  A tank was slowly moving away - Marthame wanted to take a picture, but this clearly made our hosts nervous.  "They'll see you, and then they'll shoot at us!"  Sometimes reality melds with imagination and fear here.  Not long after, a fire truck arrived, but far too late to save the foundations. They were already buckling after being heated up by the flames.  Explosions continued for a while after (audio - 1 sec.).  We found out later that the man who was building the house (he hadn't finished it) had a son involved in Hamas, wanted by the Israelis.  For this, they destroyed his father's future house by dynamiting the place.  The house next to the target was even more shaken by the blast than we were, the doors being pulled from their hinges and broken glass lay scattered all around.  No one was hurt, as they had been told to leave their homes at 3:00 am. Elizabeth chatted with a few of the women neighbors, who were shaken and tired, busy dealing with tired and shaken kids. A rude awakening for all, especially for a Sunday.  Because of this, and because of the continuing siege on Arafat's compound (and the collective taking to the streets of the Palestinians last night in protest), the city was under a tighter curfew.  Even so, Fr. Alphonse called to see if he should wait for us to start Mass.  We arrived, doubling worship attendance - one difference between here and Zababdeh is the presence of altar girls.  Because of the curfew, it was not a full service, but rather a daily Mass (little music - audio, 5 sec. - and no homily).  The city was barely above a hum as people were managing to move around.  We decided to do some shopping with our hosts, only to find people scrambling to get out of the road (tanks on the way).  We saw one of the school's English teachers reversing rapidly, almost causing several accidents as he hustled to get out of the streets.  Then we heard the tell-tale "rat-a-tat-tat" (translation: "tanks are coming, don't dare get in our way" - audio, 1 sec.) from the nearby garage.  We went back into the church building and headed upstairs. From the second floor we could see the tank, followed by an armored personnel carrer, trailed by a dozen young boys throwing stones.  They didn't do much damage.  And as soon as the procession came, it left, and the streets began to trickle with people.  After some (delayed) shopping, we visited with a family from the congregation whose kids all attend our school.  A week ago, the tell-tale "rat-a-tat-tat" busted through their kids' bedroom window - one of the girls was studying, but fortunately on the other side of the room.  No one was hurt, but everyone was terrified.  This kind of stuff happens daily, and sometimes it seems amazing that so many people remain uninjured here.  Perhaps a moment of grace.  We went back to our hosts' peaceful home and ate and visited until evening came, even managing to celebrate a birthday (audio - 4 sec.).  It was a Jenin weekend in a nutshell - a dynamiting of the neighbor's house, a little prayer, a few tanks, and some birthday cake.  What could make more sense than that?  We're hoping for a quieter night than last night.

Monday, 9/23/02:  We passed a (thankfully) quiet evening.  Early on, some knucklehead nearby fired at a tank, which stopped in the road for a few minutes, but that soon passed.  We joined with the Jenin kids in their morning commute.  Standing in front of the house, we again heard a nearby tank, followed by the firing of a tank shell, machine gunfire, and smoke rising from the hills.  The bus showed up and we headed off, towards the smoke (to pick up some of our kids).  We were the only non-military traffic on the road, with a strictly-enforced curfew in effect until 7:00 (we left  at 6:30), each intersection becoming a potential hazard.  The bus peeked, out, saw no tanks or jeeps, and took the road.  Meanwhile, the kids stood outside waiting for us to arrive and pick them up.  At one point, we did see a tank on the road ahead of us, but it didn't seem to mind us.  The kids are clearly unnerved by this new arrangement, but are persisting.  Two days in Jenin is enough for us right now.  In the evening, we visited with a friend from Zababdeh who works as a nurse at the French Hospital in Nazareth, Israel.  Today was the third day he went to the checkpoint to enter Israel, only to get turned back.  His papers are all in order, everything is legal, and sanctioned by the Israeli government.  He's not breaking any rules, any laws, has no political affiliations, nothing.  And yet he's turned back, and not given any reason as to why.  Tomorrow he's going to try and go an illegal route.  This is the daily stuff that makes no sense and also makes it so difficult to explain this place to people who have never been here (or even to those who have).

Tuesday, 9/24/02:  News of the new UN Resolution is welcome, but the stance that the US has taken (abstaining) merely underscores more Palestinian frustration with American policy in the Middle East.  Can't say we disagree with the Palestinians on this point.  Marthame went off in the evening to the school to join in the soccer activities.  It's been a few months, and quite a bit of rust has collected.  At least everyone seemed to notice that he wasn't up to his usual abilities - a silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud.

Friday, 9/27/02:  Our sabbath came once again.  Today is the feast of the raising of the cross (on the Eastern calendar),  celebrating St. Helena's finding of the true cross on her pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, we were unable to attend services.  We had to go to Jenin.  Elizabeth needed some bloodwork done, and the lab at the little Anglican clinic here in Zababdeh isn't outfitted for it.  Jenin is under curfew today, especially since it's Friday, but there was at least one taxi willing to take us.  We didn't wait for it to fill up with passengers, but rather paid for the full load ourselves, and went.  The streets were eerily empty, but fortunately absent of an Israeli military presence enforcing the curfew.  During prayer time, there's usually little activity anyway, but this seemed quieter than normal.  While we waited for results, we walked around town, running into the patriarch of the family we stayed with last week in town.  He was surprised and elated to see us.  The bloodwork came back normal (the only thing normal about today), and we went home.  In the evening, the mosque began to sound, as did the church bells.  Tomorrow marks two years since the beginning of this Intifada so all of the young men in town were out to demonstrate their political affiliations.  Their numbers were buoyed by the presence of the University students in town.  Nothing much to see, just more sloganeering and a few gunshots fired emptily into the air (audio - 4 sec.).  There is a notable lack of energy about the Palestinian defiance these days.  Marthame is reading a book set in the days of the first Intifada, where the Palestinian collective defiance was focused and had a sense that it would yield results.  Now, rather than fierce determination, the tone is more one of anger and fractured hopelessness, a lashing out.  The suicide bombings are the evil face of it, but for the most part, people simply want to live and are not being allowed to do so in a million different ways, both big and small.  The ability of Palestinians to adapt to increasingly difficult situations is both their greatest asset and liability - an asset in that they are able to survive, and a liability in the sense that their desire to survive overwhelms their desire to make a change. For many, it is better to survive today than to risk so much for tomorrow. Why engage in civil disobedience and peaceful demonstration if the price may be your life and still nothing will change? It's easy enough to point to Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. from a safe distance, when it isn't your own life or that of your kids which may be lost. In the 80's, many felt their sacrifices could make a difference, and people rose up, some peacefully and some violently, and many died. Unfortunately, many fewer people now feel their sacrifices can make a difference. A dedicated few still risk everything for justice and peace. And a few turn to revenge and murder, shrouded in the sacrifice of suicide, in the misled belief that these can make a difference. They do make a difference, but not the kind that brings deliverance or justice or peace. How sad to watch, how sad to live, how sad to understand.

Saturday, 9/28/02: Two years ago, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon, flanked by a thousand Israeli troops, strutted onto the Temple Mount/Holy Sanctuary.  From that day, the death toll has continued to rise: more than 1700 Palestinians (with 20,000 injured), more than 600 Israelis (with 4000 injured).  It's sick. And both Israelis and Palestinians are doing the only things they know to do: on this side of the Green Line, defiance is the national past-time.  Even if it's empty, it's still there.  On the other side, militarism reigns.  The school assembly this morning was longer than usual.  Students read speeches and poetry, sharing love of land and the like.  Many wore small kaffiyes, the Palestinian headscarves, draped around their necks. (Red and white is traditionally Bedouin and often symbolizes the PFLP, black and white is the traditional Palestinian style, which has come to symbolize the PLO.)  Thinking back on the last two years, it's difficult to summarize succinctly, except to say that we hope there's very little more down the road.  Watching people die is hideous - watching people die slowly  is gut-wrenching.  It would be too easy to say that those who favor war have never seen it, but it's certainly true to say that those who embrace it without nuance have never lived through it.  And that's dangerous.  It's time to turn swords into ploughshares, and not the other way around.  Which are we doing - personally, nationally, globally?  At break time today, the grades continued their soccer tournament. Each year, as weather permits (that is, without rain - and there won't be some for a while), the different grades match up in a soccer tournament.  Today pitted 7A against 7B (whom Elizabeth teaches).  7B was victorious, pleasing Elizabeth - she attributed it to their English language education this year.  In the early afternoon, the Kindergarten teachers organized a group birthday party for the children who had birthdays in the last month.  On a national day of mourning, it seemed odd to have a celebration, but such are the contradictions that make up life here.  The ones with birthdays were allowed to dance (and each got to blow out candles), but all of the kids got a piece of the cake - something that could be learned by the negotiators and world leaders.

Sunday, 9/29/02:  This morning we worshiped at the Latin Church of Visitation.  It's been almost a month since we've been there on a Sunday morning, having spent one of the past Sundays in Jenin.  When the Melkite Church re-opens (n'sha'allah - God willing), that'll take another Sunday out of our worship schedule.  But it's wonderful to participate in the life of all of these congregations.  We're very fortunate.  Fr. John, one of the priests at the Latin Seminary in Beit Jala, delivered the homily this morning.  He's up in the area checking on the Seminary students who are back in the village this year due to its temporary closure (due to the dangerous situation and the fact that their students from Jordan had so many problems getting visas from the Israeli authorities).  Marthame and Deacon Firas served communion together - Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Melkite all leading worship.  We then went with Fr. Aktham on an archaeological adventure to a small collection of houses called a village just off the main road.  Archaeology having severe political consequences in these parts, we can't say much about it except to say that there were no distinct identifying markings on the artifacts (crosses, stars of David, Arabic calligraphy), making the political ramifications a little less worrisome.  The amount of stuff around here is staggering, though - civilization after civilization have passed through, leaving their mark.  Some times, such artifacts turn out to be Christian from the Byzantine period,  and the Muslim population is aware of this deep history and thus will often contact the nearby priest to come and survey it.  There's also, of course, the hope of financial compensation, as was made clear to us as one of the residents showed his collection of olive oil lamps - some possibly Roman, some Byzantine, some Islamic. We didn't pay the "special price," but were given a couple ancient (and beautiful) glass beads anyway. Returning to Zababdeh, we made good on a lunch invitation.  With our archaeological detour, we were late, and the family had already dined - in fact, some of them were taking their afternoon naps.  That was of little importance, though, and no matter how much we resisted, we were forced to stay and eat - rice, meat, and okra, in a tomato broth.  We don't easily tire of other people cooking for us.  The news was bringing stories of the Israeli pull-back from Arafat's compound at the urging of the White House.  Such things don't do much to demythologize the US' role as power broker here.  We're looking forward to seeing a positive impact on the lives of ordinary people - for that, it seems we'll wait a long time for White House intervention.  We had a few minutes to rest before a friend's wedding in the afternoon.  The wedding was scheduled to begin at 4:00.  Even then, as the sun was beginning to go down, it was stiflingly hot.  In true Arab fashion, the bride arrived at 5.  It was only our second wedding at the Orthodox Church - our first one was two years ago when Fr. Thomas' son was married (which was also the first time we had set foot in the church).  Then, we stood at the back, not knowing what was appropriate.  This time, Marthame took his place with camera up at the front.  Our relationships with the clergy, as well as the excuse of the film project, have given us great access to events in the lives of the community (audio - 11 sec.).  The most striking aspect of Orthodox weddings is the crowns that the bride and groom both wear - it is their coronation day, set in the context of the Biblical history of couples.  Elizabeth went with the older women to the couple's new home.  The groom's mother places a lemon leaf (which doesn't yellow with age) on the wall, a symbol of their eternal love.  The women dance and sing (audio - 13 sec.) in celebration, waiting for the couple to arrive - they join in the dancing soon after.  There is also a lot of ululating and the traditional congratulatory rhyming poems (audio - 6 sec.).  Elizabeth had one sung about her: "Elizabeth, you are very thin.  You are as tall as a giraffe.  Let's go to Nablus and eat knaffe." (in Arabic, it rhymes)  Elizabeth, inspired by being the pink poodle of the evening, sang her own verse: "I like you, ladies.  I like you more than water." (trust us - it rhymes, too)  The party continued at the Latin Church hall, where there was singing and dancing - though not much, as is considered appropriate for a time of national mourning - as well as food for everyone.  The traditional wedding meal is mansaaf, meat and rice with a spiced yogurt sauce.  We don't easily tire of other people cooking for us.

Monday, 9/30/02:  We were hoping that today would be a normal school day, and it seemed like it would be.  As the school bus drivers arrived at the end of the day, though, they told a different story: tanks stood at the entrance to Tubas (to the south) as well as at the old Israeli military camp (to the north), and were turning back all traffic.  The school now has three buses: one to Tubas, one to Jenin, and one to Qabatia.  After some consultation, Marthame and the Vice-Principal accompanied the Jenin bus, expecting to need to negotiate through the  checkpoint.  One older student became nervous, since she had brought a box cutter to school for a Biology project. She showed it, and everyone was very distressed, to Marthame's surprise. Surely a threat on an airplane, the box cutter didn't seem like much to worry about in a schoolgirl's bag.  Marthame took it, assuming the Israeli soldiers would be less likely to bother an American than a Palestinian for possession of a box cutter.  It turned out we worried needlessly, as the military presence had left, though the tell-tale signs of tank tracks and the like were all around.  When the bus arrived in Jenin, the student asked ironically for her box cutter,  "May I have my weapon back, please?"  The Tubas bus passed through the checkpoint without a hitch, but the town soon went under strict curfew.  We'll see if they can make it tomorrow.  In the evening, we went out to the fields to visit our shepherd friend in his tent neighborhood to the East of Zababdeh.  Some Norwegians are in the area volunteering with the Red Crescent Society and tagged along.  As we chatted, drank tea, and watched the sunset, we also gazed at three F-16s flying overhead towards Tubas.  We didn't hear any of the dreaded "booms" we expected, thankfully, but who knows what the night will bring.  For some odd reason, we ended up singing, "Can't Buy Me Love" (soundtrack courtesy of the Beatles - 3 sec.) - perhaps that's what passes for Western folk music.  Our host refused to let us make our way back in the dark alone and guided our footsteps.

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