St. Mark’s held a meeting with their church to share their stories from Israel, Palestine and Jordan. Below are the notes from Josie Jordan’s presentation…
I experienced hope during our homestay with a Palestinian family in Burqin nestled in the northern region of the West Bank. Burqin is a small town of 6,000 people in the West Bank, see photo above on left. It is blessed with fertile land and is the source of the fair trade olive oil sold at St. Mark’s each fall. Bill and I stayed with the Abbas family in the outskirts of Burqin. The picture on the right is what we saw outside our bedroom window.
The heart of what I want to share with you is the loving, generous, and industrious, nature of this family. Despite living under occupation, they are creating a good life.
Using the following two pictures, I want to introduce this wonderful family. Rimah, in brown headscarf, is the warm, energetic, and loving mom of four daughters, three sons, and two grandchildren. She married at 17 and is now 44. She works the garden, tends the grape arbor, cultivates the olive trees, and runs a budding homestay business. She made us feel welcomed and cherished from her first smile and embrace.
Her husband Amin, in the photo on the right is 53. He arrived home several hours into our visit, after driving a large tour bus, which the family owns, for the previous 12 hours. For those of you who have been on this trip, Amin is like our Moustafa! When Amin arrived, we all clamored on the HUGE bus and he gave us a tour of TINY Burqin.
Malak, in the black headscarf, graduated from Nablus University. Her English is the best in the family and she was adept at using Google translate when we got stuck. She exudes sweetness and calm. She is married…to a security guard for Mahmoud Abbas and she spends the weekends with her family when he is on duty in Ramallah.
Sima, in the blue headscarf, is a senior in high school. She loves sports and encouraged me to activate my facebook account and friend her. I am now “friends” with the whole family.
Wa’d, in the red headscarf, is currently in university and is the quiet one. Yet, over the course of the evening she too giggled with us as we pantomimed our way through conversations.
And Achmed is the youngest, just nine. He is shy and totally beloved by his sisters!
Mohammed is not in this picture. He is 13 and was reserved at first.
The picture above with the three generations…father, son, and granddaughter…is one of my favorites. It shows the abiding love and sweet playfulness that we witnessed all evening and into the next morning among the family members.
Misasma, in the photo to the left, is the oldest and graduated from Nablus University. She has two children, Bisan (4) and Nisma (1) and lives close by with her husband.
After several hours of drinking coffee, and then mint tea, and having a bus tour, we were all feeling more relaxed. The picture to the right captures us feeling much more at ease. Mohammed, the reserved 13 year old, with a red flower in his mouth. The person taking the selfie is Layeth, who grew up next door to the Abbas family. Layeth was an angel for us because he spent a year studying at NYU. His English is excellent and allowed us to have deeper conversations.
Later that night we had a fabulous meal with all of the ingredients coming from the garden. Bill and I fell into bed exhausted, but so full of this family’s generosity of spirit. When we awoke…it was the morning of September 11th.
The difference between the face of Palestine I experienced, and the face of Palestine I see on the news, chastens me. Somehow, Israelis and Americans must be exposed to the face of Palestine we saw through our stay with the Abbas family. There are Palestinians who are creating life-giving hope in the midst of this occupation. Perhaps my role is to see that hope, unseen by so many, and to share it with others.