When keeping a blog, you inevitably run into a conundrum. When interesting things happen, you don’t have time to blog about them. By the time you get the chance to blog, you’re tired and blogging just seems like so much work (especially when you also have to blog as part of your job anyway). Of course, when nothing interesting is happening you do end up with the time to blog, but nothing to say. So I’m sorry that it’s been a while, and I’m sorry this post is going to be a bit long since a lot has indeed happened. I’ll try not to get so behind again, but let’s be honest: I’m sure I will.
Classes have been going on, of course. We have now finished our first rotation of our kids classes so I get a whole new set of kids for these next three weeks. I already miss my little 9 and 10 year olds, but I still get to see them during snack time even if they aren't in my class anymore. I now have the oldest group (11-12 years old), which is quite a shift. I'm already well on my way to becoming seriously attached to them too.
Last weekend we took a TYO sponsored trip to Hebron, one of the holiest places in the big three monotheistic religions as it is home to the tombs of the patriarchs and matriarchs. Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Leah, and Rebecca are the ones buried there (I think that’s everyone). We visited the site on the Jewish side as it was Friday so only Muslims could go in on the mosque side. It was a beautiful area and very interesting. The brochures we got were especially fascinating as they were part informational part propaganda.
Outside the tomb.
Inside the Jewish side. Such a beautiful ceiling!
Let me explain about the propaganda. In the West Bank there are Israeli settlers that carve out places to live for themselves. There are really two types of settlers: the ones that do it because settlements are subsidized by the Israeli government so they get cheap housing and utilities and the ones that do it for religious reasons. The first group is generally the majority, but in Hebron, a place where settlers live literally on top of Palestinians rather than in their own communities, it’s the second kind. They are there because it is their God given right to have this land. Now I’m all for living near a holy site and all of that, but what I don’t approve of is how they’ve done it. The settlers have pushed Palestinians out of large areas of Hebron. Streets that used to be lined with shops and bustling with people are empty, like a ghost town. In other places there are streets where Palestinians can only walk on one side and not the other. There are also signs talking about how the Arabs stole Hebron from the Jews and how Jews are kept within tiny portions of the city. While some of the facts on these signs are true, they only tell a small fraction of the story. I really wanted a picture of some of these signs, but Tala told us that it was better not to take pictures so as not to attract any attention from IDF soldiers.
One of the empty streets full of closed storefronts.
Enough of the depressing though. One part of our trip to Hebron was amazingly positive. There is a women’s cooperative there where handmade crafts are sold. There were so many beautiful things. I spent a chunk of money there, as did the other interns (the woman at the shop told us we gave them about as much business in our one visit as they usually get in a month). My favorite purchase is a beautiful hand embroidered shawl. Now I have something to wear over a fancy dress on a chilly evening. I also got some presents for people so I won’t tell you everything I got. While we were there, a family actually led us up onto the roof of the building they lived in so we could see a view of the whole city.
This was a little girl that lived in the building where we took pictures of the city. That's bunches of Hebron behind her.
This is the shawl I bought at the coop. It is so amazingly gorgeous.
The day after our visit to Hebron, we had a TYO library day for the neighborhood kids. I won’t talk about that here since us interns wrote a blog post about it that you can read there. It was fun though so check out the blog. There are lots of pictures.
On Sunday last week, we finally got to go on the long-awaited tour of Nablus’ Old City neighborhood. As one of the poorest residential areas of the city, we get many kids from there at the center. There are of course markets and shops, but it is not the best place to live. Leftover signs of violence are everywhere. It was hit hard during the second intifada, and you can still see piles of rubble that used to be buildings and walls are covered in martyr posters and plaques commemorating those that died (and not just in attacks against Israelis but anyone that died, including children). It was definitely an insight into the lives of our kids. We also got to visit a wonderful spice shop, a soap factory (Nablus is famous for soap), and a kanafeh place. Kanafeh is a wonderful sweet dish involving cheese and sugar. Nablus is famous for its kanafeh. I must say that I’ve had kanafeh in only one other place so far, but Nablus’ is so far superior.
A plaque built into the wall commemoration martyrs.
A residential street in the Old City.
The spice shop!
This is what kanafeh looks like. This picture was actually of some kanafeh I had a week later in Taybeh, but it pretty much looks the same. Nablus kanafeh tastes way better though.
This most recent weekend that we just had was also an experience. Thursday night, we decided we had to get out of the center so we went to see The Dark Knight Rises at the Nablus movie theater. They have one screen here, but the movie theater/café really feels like a piece of America in the middle of Nablus. We were all a bit surprised that some of the racier scenes in the movie didn’t get skipped over. Nothing was cut.
Friday was a day of intense laziness. Saturday we ventured out of Nablus to Taybeh near Ramallah. Taybeh is a Christian village here in Palestine and as such it is home to a brewery. This weekend they had an Oktoberfest celebration that we went to. There was live music, traditional dancing, a small craft fair, lots of food, and, of course, beer. It was a really international festival too. We met people from England, France, and the US. There were people from Brazil, Japan, and many other countries as well. It was odd to hear all the English being spoken around me. It was a generally fun day though we had some frustration at the end because our taxi couldn’t get into town to pick us up because of traffic so we walked the entire length of the town to go meet it.
Traditional dancing displayed at the Taybeh festival.
I had to take a picture of this banner. I did not expect to see Japanese in the midst of Palestine. It pretty much says "There is Palestinian beer!" Yup. I also saw several women at the festival in yukata. It was a bit surreal.